A Special Feeling For All

AJ Allmendinger, Brad Daugherty

JTG Daugherty co-owner Brad Daugherty celebrates with AJ Allmendinger in Victory Late at Watkins Glen International. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jodi Geschickter’s voice quivered, husband Tad beamed and fellow co-owner Brad Daugherty, whose NBA career was curtailed by injuries that limited his running, made his 7-foot body move in ways it hadn’t in years to rush to Victory Lane.

They celebrated JTG Daugherty Racing’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup win Sunday at Watkins Glen International, while AJ Allmendinger reveled in redemption. Together, they showed what a small team can do even in NASCAR’s big series.     

Two years after he was released by Team Penske for failing a drug test - Allmendinger said the result was from an accidental ingestion of Adderall - Alllmendinger was in Victory Lane in NASCAR’s top series for the first time.

But even before that failed drug test, Allmendinger faced daunting challenges.

“I have went through hell in this series, absolute hell, whether it was missing 19 races my first year, ... thinking about what am I doing here, to feeling like I had it figured out and to lose my job with Red Bull and to be so close a couple of times with the (No.) 43,’‘he said. “Then, obviously to go through what I went through (at Penske) and just to go through hell and back, and to know that this was my dream; that I've worked so hard for over the last eight years... to win a race here.’’

Kurt Busch, who traveled his own path of redemption after parting ways with Team Penske after the 2011 season, could empathize with Allmendinger.

“He's put himself through all those mental challenges, and (Sunday) he persevered,’’ Busch said. “He didn't break down and he brought home a victory, so we're all very proud of him.’’

Daugherty bubbled with excitement afterward, praising how Allmendinger won.

“We didn't back into it,’’ Daugherty said. “It wasn't a rain delay, it wasn't a caution. He got up on the wheel and beat a guy who I think is possibly the best road racer on the planet.’’

That would be Marcos Ambrose, who has dominated at Watkins Glen in recent years. After winning Saturday’s Nationwide race there, Ambrose was set on a weekend sweep.

But Allmendinger used a quick burst on the final restart, withstood Ambrose’s attempts to get him loose and even muscled Ambrose around a few corners to keep the lead.

“I wasn’t going to let Marcos take this from me,’’ Allmendinger said.

And took JTG Daugherty, a single-car team, to a place it had long dreamed about in Cup.              

Before Sunday, the team’s last top-five finish had been a fifth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway this season. Before that? It was a fourth-place finish in the 2011 Daytona 500 with Bobby Labonte.

“This win has been a long time coming,’’ Jodi Geschickter said. “We've been in the sport for 20 years, and it's flown by, but you take it a week at a time and you hope and you pray that this is the week. There's so many variables, and I try to explain that to some of the younger guys in the sport. You always have to be on your game, you always have to be prepared and be in a position to win.’’

They showed they could do it Sunday, earning the team a spot in the Chase.

“When you're a smaller race team and you tell people, man, we should have won that race, ‑ and you haven't had the success - they discard you,’’ Daugherty said. “They say, yeah, you're just dreaming.’’

Yet, its best to keep dreaming.

“We always talk about sometimes the sling and a stone and great faith is enough to slay the giant,’’ Tad Geschickter said.

It was Sunday. The result was a celebration unlike any for the driver, his co-owners and their team.

               

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