After having so many near wins and a ton of bad luck throughout his first 200 NASCAR starts, A.J. Allmendinger‘s 201st seemed to be the lucky charm.
Allmendinger has been through more than most NASCAR drivers over the course of the past seven years since entering the sport, and now he finally has a victory to his name. Returning to a Penske Racing car for the first time since being suspended for using Adderall last year, he even kissed the ESPN camera during his post-race interview to thank Roger Penske for giving him a second chance this year. Allmendinger dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America, as he led 29 of the 55 laps and conserved just enough fuel to lock up his first career victory in stock car racing.
Allmendinger’s win didn’t come easy by any means. He had to hold off Owen Kelly, Billy Johnson and Justin Allgaier, among a few other drivers, who were all capable of taking the lead throughout the day. Allgaier had the lead late in the race and would have won if there weren’t any green-white-checkereds, but there were two vital ones.
Throughout the day, there were plenty of wrecks. Pit strategy came into play right as the green flag dropped. Several teams decided to call their drivers down to pit road after the first lap, creating the three stop strategy while others had two stop strategies. Michael McDowell, who was fighting for the lead early on, ended up having mechanical issues on lap five, which brought out the first caution of the day, ruining his hopes of a strong run.
Points leader Regan Smith was in trouble several times throughout the race. Smith was involved in several wrecks including one on the last lap which put him back into the 32nd position. Allgaier was able to move past Sam Hornish Jr. for second place in points as Hornish finished fifth. Parker Kligerman had another impressive finish as he finished third at Road America.
Cole Whitt had an impressive eighth place finish in just his fourth race of the year. Brendan Gaughan had a respectable 11th place finish in a fourth Richard Childress Racing car. Mike Wallace took his underfunded JD Motorsports car home to a 13th place finish. James Buescher had a top-15 run after struggling throughout the weekend. Stunt man Stanton Barrett also had a good run, finishing 19th with Rick Ware Racing.
After the race, Max Papis slapped Johnson in the helmet after the two collided several times throughout the race. Papis didn’t have a car capable of winning the race, but he was in position for a top-10 until Johnson got into him late in the going. He later apologized for slapping him because he didn’t want the fans to see that side of him. It just shows that road course racing gets the tempers going.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR.