AJ Allmendinger Wins at Brickyard

After 27 years of prestige, the Brickyard 400 is no more. When NASCAR first arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was a true representation of the meteoric rise of stock car racing in America. The inaugural Brickyard in 1994 was won by the hometown kid Jeff Gordon, which only helped grow the popularity of the sport.

The Cup series rolled into Speedway this weekend with a different plan this time around. Instead of the famed 2.5-mile oval, the stars of the premier series took to the infield road course in a special double-header event with the NTT IndyCar series. With three different series racing on the same track, the action was non-stop all weekend long.

Verizon 200 at the Brickyard Box Score

Saturday was a Team Penske sweep after Will Power won the IndyCar race and Austin Cindric captured the checkered flag in the Xfinity Series race. Sunday was all about the Cup series, and it began in the morning when William Byron earned pole position in the No. 24 Chevrolet for Team Hendrick. Chase Briscoe started alongside him on the front row with Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson giving Hendrick three cars in the first two rows.

Collecting as many points as possible as he fights for a playoff spot, Tyler Reddick won the first two stages as the race was moving quickly. That all changed in the final stage with multiple incidents in Turn 6 as cars zipped down Hulman Blvd. After a red flag and a massive cleanup, things finally got moving again as the race ended up going 95 laps.

AJ Allmendinger earned his second Cup victory after a frantic finish in the closing laps of overtime. Briscoe and Denny Hamlin get tangled as they battled for the lead, with Briscoe getting shoved into the grass entering Turn 1. He rejoined the field and found himself in the lead, as NASCAR issued him a penalty.

Hamlin managed to get by Briscoe a few turns later, but the Stewart Haas driver spun Hamlin entering in Turn 10. Both of their days were ruined as they finished 23rd and 26th respectively. Briscoe had a chat with Hamlin on pit road following the race and stated that he did not realize he had been penalized.

The ending was well worth the wait, especially for Allmendinger, who fulfilled a lifelong dream by winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His best Brickyard 400 finish in ten starts was 10th and he also finished 7th in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. This was also the first Cup win for Kaulig Racing.

Ryan Blaney came up one spot short in Penske’s bid for a triple-header weekend sweep for The Captain. Larson and Elliott were just behind him and Matt Dibenedetto rounded out the top five. Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Justin Haley, Cindric, and Ryan Newman all recorded top-ten finishes after starting in the back of the field.

“That was an insane race,” Allmendinger said. “This is unbelievable. In my wildest dreams, I could never imagine how this played out. I just won at Indy!” The 39-year old continued. “It was survival of the fittest. We probably had like an eighth to tenth place car. I sped on pit road. I thought we were going to finish 12th to 15th, and then those restarts were just insane. It’s great when you have a car owner who just says, ‘Go get me trophies.’ He doesn’t care if that thing’s torn up.”

There was concern over whether or not NASCAR should have finished the race without the Turn 6 curbing, after two red flags and millions of dollars in damaged race cars. “There was no indication earlier today there was anything wrong with that curb, so it was a little bit of a surprise for us when during the race it started having issues,” said track president Doug Boles. NASCAR executive vice president of competition Scott Miller agreed with the decision to continue. “This was one of those events that I think we made the right decision for right now. I think we want to have it back again next year on the road course, and we’ll continue to see where we go.”

Only two races remain before the regular season wraps up and the NASCAR Playoffs begin. The series heads north as the next stop on the schedule is the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway next Sunday.

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