“It was survival of the fittest”, AJ Almendinger
AJ Almendinger doesn’t come up as a race winner. At least not at the Cup Series level. Nonetheless, the California native got his second Cup win on a dramatic finish to NASCAR’s first visit to the Indianapolis Road Course.
Better Safe than Sorry
William Byron took the pole for the Cup’s maiden race at the road course. All cars cleared turns one and two despite going four-wide through the first couple of corners. Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin. They all made moves in the middle of the pack as Chase Briscoe fought Byron for the early lead.
Martin Truex Jr. was the first one to come on to the pits. Unfortunately for him, it was much earlier than expected as a tire rub forced him to get some bodywork done at lap five. Grass proved to be a problem for some near the end of the stage as the leaders got it stuck on their grills and began to overheat.
Leaders pitted two laps before the end of the stage and left Michael McDowell and Tyler Reddick to fight for the Playoff point. Reddick came on top. He and the rest of the top ten would have to stop for fuel and start the second stage from the back of the field.
Different Stage, Same Winner
The leaders cycled through for the start of the second stage. Briscoe dropped to the fourth spot due to ECU problems, nonetheless, the front of the field was pretty much intact. Brad Keselowski took the lead but turned into a sitting duck quite quickly as the rest of the leaders caught up to him.
Chase Elliott took the lead off Brad K halfway through the first lap of the second stage. The second of the Penske cars only went backwards from that point on. It was more of a moving traffic cone than a race car, to be frank.
Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto got tangled up and got off the track halfway through the stage. They rejoined the track with, let’s say, the finesse of a lumberjack and avoided a black flag thanks to nothing but luck.
We then had a Déjà vu as the race leaders went in again on the final laps of the stage and handed the lead to cars at the back. Reddick took the second stage and another Playoff point. This was good for him as he needed all he could get.
It wouldn’t be a road course race without some chaos and that was to come on the final stage.
Wrecks and Road Works
Have you ever heard of a curb coming off? No? Well, it can happen when you got 36, 3.3 tons cars going over it at high speeds. Polesitter Byron lifted off the ground as quickly as the curb. That was followed by Joey Logano hitting the tire wall hard and Daniel Suarez completely destroying his 99 Chevy. Thankfully, everyone walked away unharmed. Take a look at the massive incident:
Race resumed after a red flag and some repairs. Whatever was left of the turn 6 curb was removed, or at least so we thought until cars went through it again. Bubba Wallace, Austin Dillon, Truex Jr., and Cole Custer saw the end of their race thanks to yet another bump. The race moved to overtime and AJ Almendinger was, surprisingly, battling for the lead.
Leader Briscoe held his ground for a lap and a half until locking up off the oval section to hand out the lead to the 16 Camaro. After coming in second a day before at the Xfinity Series, AJ Almendinger crossed the finish line to get his second Cup Series win.
Almendinger’s first win came at another road course race: The 2014 Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen
What’s Next for NASCAR?
America’s top racing series will make its way to Michigan International Speedway for the FireKeepers Casino 400 with only three races left before the end of the regular season.
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