Saturday, October 16, 2021

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Allmendinger’s road to Road America win

To say that AJ Allmendinger has had a long road back to a seat in a NASCAR racecar for Penske Racing would be an understatement.

About this time one year ago, Allmendinger failed a drug test issued by NASCAR.

The rest, they say, is history. Some history Allmendinger would surely like to forget.

His weekend at Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisc.) not only proved to be a reminder to Allmendinger, but also a moment of putting the past behind him and moving forward.

After winning the pole prior to Saturday’s Johnsonville Sausages 200, Allmendinger was one of many pre-race favorites in a field filled with drivers from diverse backgrounds tackling the 4-mile road course.

From the start of the race, Allmendinger showed his pole was no fluke as he led the opening six-laps of the race before a slip in turn-five dropped him back to third.

Up until the 30-lap mark, Allmendinger seemed to be conserving his Penske Racing Ford for the end of the race, knowing he had a car that would be wheeled into victory lane.

A win the Los Gatos, Calif. native desperately wanted.

When push came to shove, Allmendinger charged to the lead once on lap 34 only to lose the top-spot just five laps later when contact from Billy Johnson forced him off the track.

Restarting fourth, Allmendinger quickly made his way to the back-bumper of Johnson, forced him off the racing line and retook the lead on the lap 44 of 50-scheduled laps.

Through a slew of late-race caution flags which included two green-white-checkered finishes, Allmendinger withstood multiple challenges from Justin Allgaier and Brian Vickers to win Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Road America.

“They weren’t fun,” Allmendinger said after the race about all of the late-race restarts. “I had a lot of thoughts in my head about how bad that (stunk) having to do that. But it’s part of the rules.”

The win wasn’t only the first Nationwide Series win of Allmendinger’s career, but it was his first in NASCAR.
But, maybe more importantly, he was finally able to repay the man that gave him his second chance; Roger Penske.
“It’s just meant the world to me,” Allmendinger said. “This was the only way I could repay him. I was trying so hard out there – and, at times, probably over-trying.”

Allmendinger’s NASCAR action has been mixed in-between select INDYCAR races, including the Indianapolis 500 where he posted an impressive seventh-place finish for Penske.
“He’s got so much going on in his life. But he just kept checking up on me,” Allmendinger said of Penske.

“I didn’t expect anything from it. It was just nice to have a friend, somebody that I could bounce ideas off of.”

Former Penske Racing teammate and third-place finisher on Saturday, Parker Kligerman, expressed that he was proud of Allmedinger for his resiliency
“Once you’ve lost it all, I think you see a lot of times, you come back and you’re better at what you do. I think we’re seeing that right now with AJ,” Kligerman said.
Nationwide Series points leader, Regan Smith, finished 32nd and now holds a 28-point lead in the championship standings over Allgaier.
Johnsonville Sausages 200 Unofficial Results 
  1. AJ Allmendinger
  2. Justin Allagier
  3. Parker Kligerman
  4. Owen Kelly
  5. Sam Hornish Jr.
  6. Brian Vickers
  7. Kyle Larson
  8. Cole Whitt
  9. Elliott Sadler
  10. Austin Dillon
  11. Brendan Gaughan
  12. Johnny O’Connell
  13. Mike Wallace
  14. James Buescher
  15. Billy Johnson
  16. Travis Pastrana
  17. Max Papis
  18. Kenny Habul
  19. Stanton Barrett
  20. Brian Scott
  21. Nelson Piquet Jr.
  22. Kevin O’Connell
  23. Jeremy Clements
  24. Alex Bowman
  25. Dexter Stacey
  26. Jeffery Earnhardt
  27. Eric McClure
  28. John Young
  29. Andrew Ranger
  30. Trevor Bayne
  31. Kyle Kelly
  32. Regan Smith
  33. Mike Bliss
  34. Michael McDowell
  35. Michael Annett
  36. Derek White
  37. Reed Sorenson
  38. Tony Raines
  39. Landon Cassill
  40. Jeff Green

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