Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A.J. Allmendinger plays playoff spoiler at Charlotte Roval

Although he missed the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, A.J. Allmendinger was not going to let an opportunity to crash the party slip by. While playoff contenders made last-ditch efforts to qualify for the Round of 8, Allmendinger held off William Byron in the final ten laps to win at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Allmendinger had dominated the Roval in the Xfinity Series, scoring four consecutive victories in as many starts from 2019 to 2022. His prowess translated to the top level as he led a race-high forty-six laps including the final thirty-three to seal the win.

After Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out the caution for his car catching fire on lap 98, Allmendinger restarted opposite Kyle Busch for a ten-lap sprint. Busch, who was below the cut line and needed a win to advance, spun his tyres at the green flag and quickly fell back. Byron attempted to chase down Allmendinger but was unable to make a pass.

The win was Allmendinger’s third and second in the Cup Series with Kaulig Racing after conquering the Indianapolis road course in 2021. All three of his Cup triumphs were on road courses (the first was at Watkins Glen in 2014), a quirk previously only achieved by Dan Gurney who notched all five of his wins at the now-defunct Riverside International Raceway.

“I knew William was probably going to the next round. He’s going to be aggressive but maybe not desperate-aggressive,” explained Allmendinger. “That was kind of what was playing in my head on who I was racing around.

“At the end of the day, for me, it’s about if I give everything I have, I make no mistakes and William gets around me and beats me, yeah, it sucks, but I go home and I look in the mirror and say, ‘Yep, better team, better driver beat me that day.’ The one thing I did not want to do was be that guy that made a mistake and let him by me. This is what we all want, to be put in those pressure cooker moments, and these guys know. I struggle to believe in myself every day. It’s an ugly place sometimes. I always say I have the best life possible, and that’s why I’m miserable every day because it’s wake up, what the hell are you going to do to be better today.

“It’s ugly sometimes, but it’s the way I am. I won’t ever change. Those are the moments that I dream of, of knowing, hey, you got the best of the best in the world behind you, it’s on you to not let them by.”

Byron had already locked into the Round of 8 via his Texas win, as was Talladega winner Ryan Blaney who finished twelfth. Despite finishing third, Busch was eliminated after retiring at Texas and a dismal day at Talladega.

Also knocked out after the Round of 12 were Ross Chastain, Brad Keselowski, and Bubba Wallace. Keselowski struggled to an eighteenth following a pass-through penalty for missing the frontstretch chicane and not stopping, while Chastain was tenth; both entered Charlotte in holes due to Talladega crashes. Wallace had impressed with a third from the pole at Texas but found himself in trouble after a poor Talladega race; despite qualifying fourth at Charlotte, he was spun by Daniel Suárez on lap 86 and was unable to recover.

Six cautions for incidents were called, breaking a trend of relatively clean road races. The two most recent road course events at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen had just two and one yellow flag, respectively, while Sonoma also featured a pair. Although COTA and Chicago had significantly more yellows with eight apiece, the cleaner two-race stretch prompted NASCAR to bring back road course stage cautions starting at the Roval.

Besides Stenhouse, three fellow retirements were for crashes. Denny Hamlin spun and broke the toe link, Erik Jones retired after spinning and was impacted by Michael McDowell on lap 79, and Andy Lally got hit from behind five laps later. Although he placed last, Hamlin still advances to the next round.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 6 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 109 Running
2 14 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
3 5 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 109 Running
4 10 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 109 Running
5 7 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 109 Running
6 1 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 109 Running
7 20 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 109 Running
8 16 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
9 8 9 Chase Elliott^ Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
10 12 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 109 Running
11 18 41 Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 109 Running
12 17 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 109 Running
13 36 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
14 15 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 109 Running
15 2 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 109 Running
16 4 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 109 Running
17 24 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
18 19 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 109 Running
19 22 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 109 Running
20 11 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 109 Running
21 21 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 109 Running
22 25 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 109 Running
23 32 51 Todd Gilliland Rick Ware Racing Ford 109 Running
24 31 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 109 Running
25 29 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 109 Running
26 28 78 Josh Bilicki* Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
27 33 62 Austin Hill* Beard Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
28 30 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 109 Running
29 26 42 Mike Rockenfeller Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 109 Running
30 34 38 Zane Smith* Front Row Motorsports Ford 109 Running
31 37 77 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 109 Running
32 13 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 109 Running
33 3 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 109 Running
34 27 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 96 Electrical
35 35 15 Andy Lally* Rick Ware Racing Ford 84 Accident
36 23 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 79 Accident
37 9 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 76 DVP
Bold – Currently in playoffs
^ – Currently in owner playoffs
Underline – Eliminated from playoffs
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points
\