AJ Allmendinger survives chaos, carnage to win NASCAR Cup race on IMS road course

INDIANPOLIS — A new era was ushered in at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when AJ Allmendinger took the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series' first race on the road course that no one will forget.

Allmendinger, a former open-wheel driver who ran his lone Indianapolis 500 in 2013, had his chance to win that race dashed when he was forced to pit late with a loose seat belt. On Sunday, however, the 39-year-old, in a one-off Cup entry for Kaulig Racing, survived the carnage of the final laps to avenge his misfortune eight years earlier and win the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.

Chaos in the final laps and overtime led to the opportunity for Allmendinger to take the race win. He was in third place when leaders Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe tangled following the second overtime restart, and Allmendinger took the lead for good when Briscoe was penalized for driving through the grass shortly before he spun out Hamlin as they raced for the lead.

Allmendinger then held off Ryan Blaney on the white flag lap to score his second Cup Series victory in 375 career starts. His first career win came on the road course at Watkins Glen in 2014.

"We just won at Indy!" he shouted on the front stretch after doing celebratory donuts.

"I mean, this is unbelievable," Allmendinger continued. "In my wildest dreams I could never imagine the way that just played out."

— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 15, 2021

While Allmendinger has only raced in four Cup Series events in 2021 — all on road courses — he has found success with a fifth-place finish at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and seventh-place finish on the Daytona International Speedway road course.

Allmendinger is running full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season, where he has two victories. He won the pole for Saturday's Xfinity race and finished second to Austin Cindric

Points leader Kyle Larson finished third, followed by Chase Elliott and Matt DiBenedetto.

Allmendinger thought his race was over after a pit road speeding penalty. He was too fast entering pit road for his stop on Lap 33 and had to start the final stage of the race from the rear of the field. He described Sunday's race as "survival of the fittest."

"We probably had like an eighth-, 10th-place car, sped on pit road. I thought we were going to finish 12th to 15th, and then those restarts were just insane," he said. "It's great when you have a car owner that just says, 'Go get me trophies.' He doesn't care if that thing is torn up."

Those restarts came about after what can only be described as extraordinary happenings. The curb at Turn 6 started coming up from the edge of the track surface. NASCAR removed one of the sausage curbs in that section of the track at the conclusion of the Xfinity race Saturday. When the Cup cars took the green flag, a different curb started to become a problem.

A splitter was caught under the curb early in the race, which required marshals to take sledgehammers to it during the stage breaks. 

Unfortunately, the curb could not handle the rigorous abuse from the Cup cars and gave way during a late race restart, which led to multiple contenders losing control of their cars coming through the section.

NASCAR threw a red flag for track repairs to remove the Turn 6 curbing and after over 19 minutes of track repairs and nine caution laps for other track cleanup work, the race resumed again with Allmendinger in seventh position.

However, another multi-car incident required another red flag period with Allmendinger now in third behind Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe.

Turn 1 became calamity corner on the ensuing restart as Briscoe, who won NASCAR's first race on the IMS road course when the Xfinity Series raced there in 2020, and Hamlin touched, sending Briscoe off into the grass where his No. 14 Ford bypassed Turn 2. Briscoe rejoined behind Hamlin and then the pair had contact again, sending Hamlin spinning off into the grass between Turn 9 and Turn 10.

Briscoe had to stop his car on track as a penalty for shortcutting the track and did so in the runoff after Turn 12. Allmendinger then claimed the lead coming to the white flag and would not be beat as he won by 0.929 seconds over Blaney.

"At that point in time, I was going for the win," Briscoe said on the NBC broadcast. "I wanted to beat him fair and square. I've never wrecked anybody on purpose in my life."

Hamlin accepted that it was not intentional but said that Briscoe should have had better awareness.

"It's obvious that if you cut the race track and you're in the lead, you're gonna have a penalty," Hamlin said. "I don't think he did it malicious, but it was just bad judgement."

Hamlin finished 23rd and Briscoe 26th.

Larson led a race-high 28 laps before getting shuffled back on the first overtime restart. He rebounded on the second to claim his 13th top-five — including five wins — this season. Larson won the Knoxville Nationals sprint car race Saturday night and only slept for a few hours before the green flag Sunday.

Contributing: Christopher DeHarde, Special for the Indianapolis Star

Verizon 200 at the Brickyard results

Sunday from the 2.44-mile road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

1. (8) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 95 laps, 0 points.

2. (16) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 95, 35.

3. (4) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 95, 36.

4. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 95, 35.

5. (15) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 95, 38.

6. (20) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 95, 31.

7. (28) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 95, 37.

8. (29) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 95, 0.

9. (13) Austin Cindric, Ford, 95, 0.

10. (32) Ryan Newman, Ford, 95, 27.

11. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Chevrolet, 95, 37.

12. (19) Chris Buescher, Ford, 95, 25.

13. (27) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 95, 24.

14. (25) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 95, 23.

15. (6) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 95, 22.

16. (26) Corey Lajoie, Chevrolet, 95, 25.

17. (24) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 95, 20.

18. (36) Josh Bilicki, Ford, 95, 19.

19. (18) Aric Almirola, Ford, 95, 18.

20. (21) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 95, 17.

21. (11) Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 95, 36.

22. (38) Quin Houff, Chevrolet, 95, 15.

23. (14) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 95, 14.

24. (31) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 95, 18.

25. (10) Cole Custer, Ford, 94, 12.

26. (2) Chase Briscoe, Ford, garage, 94, 13.

27. (40) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 94, 0.

28. (39) Garrett Smithley, Ford, 94, 0.

29. (9) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 93, 8.

30. (12) Michael McDowell, Ford, accident, 88, 16.

31. (23) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 88, 23.

32. (34) James Davison, Chevrolet, accident, 80, 5.

33. (1) William Byron, Chevrolet, accident, 77, 4.

34. (7) Joey Logano, Ford, accident, 77, 3.

35. (30) Ryan Preece, Chevrolet, accident, 77, 16.

36. (17) Christopher Bell, Toyota, accident, 77, 1.

37. (5) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, accident, 77, 1.

38. (33) Anthony Alfredo, Ford, suspension, 68, 1.

39. (35) Andy Lally, Ford, reargear, 55, 0.

40. (37) Cody Ware, Ford, accident, 46, 0.