Watkins Glen Rear View Mirror

AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger celebates his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)


There was a good chance Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 was going to come down to a battle involving Marcos Ambrose. After all, he won Saturday’s Nationwide Series race and has a pair of Cup victories at the Glen on his resume.

Sure enough, when the race boiled down to the final two laps, there was the road racing ace right in the middle of things once again.

But so was AJ Allmendinger.

And when the dust settled, there were Allmendinger and the little JTG Daugherty Racing team celebrating one of the most popular victories in recent NASCAR history.

It capped one of the strangest days of not this season but any other, a race that was on pace to end in record time only to be slowed by red flags and ending more toward the five-hour mark.

But it was worth the wait.

It wasn’t just the final pair of circuits that got the blood flowing, but generally the racing on display most afternoon. Side-by-side racing, contact, high emotions and drama punctuated the 90 laps around the twisting road circuit with a jam-packed crowd enjoying every wild and crazy moment.

Everyone loves a Cinderella story and NASCAR, Watkins Glen and Allmendinger delivered on Sunday.

I’ll bet the jubilation continues even after the clock strikes Midnight. 

  • Sunday’s race was run under somber conditions after the tragedy involving Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race Saturday night. For the second year in a row, a sprint car race caused Stewart to miss racing at The Glen after his broken leg last year racing at Southern Iowa Speedway. The latest incident may have some far reaching ramifications in the future over a variety of areas, but for now the most important thing to remember is that a life was lost and respect to all parties should be first and foremost in everyone’s mind.
  • The complexion of Sunday’s race changed significantly with issues for Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski. The two have been part of the story at the Glen in recent years including Busch winning last season and Keselowski riding three straight second-place finishes into the weekend. But Busch was knocked from contention near halfway when he suffered damage trying to make a pass around Martin Truex Jr., and Keselowski suffered through an equally frustrating day that also involved body damage. Just like that two pre-race favorites to contend were non-factors.
  • The term “road course ringer” has been part of the NASCAR lexicon since Watkins Glen and Sonoma were added to the schedule. Although there was a time when specialists with experience in other road racing disciplines were brought in by team owners looking to run well at the two tracks, it’s all but disappeared these days. Sure there was Boris Said in Sunday’s field, albeit with an under-funded team, but for the most part Sprint Cup drivers have elevated their road racing game enough to keep the “ringers” from getting the call. That along with double-file restarts may be the two main reasons why NASCAR road racing has undergone a renaissance in recent years.

 The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.


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