Allmendinger Secures Another Victory at The Roval, Shakes Up NASCAR Playoffs

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Allmendinger Secures Another Victory at The Roval, Shakes Up NASCAR Playoffs

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CONCORD, N.C. — AJ Allmendinger may not be in contention for a NASCAR championship, but he understood the high stakes for Kyle Busch in Sunday’s playoff elimination race at The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Busch’s entire season depended on winning the race to avoid elimination.

Recognizing the significance of Busch’s predicament, Allmendinger, who led the race for Kaulig Racing, chose not to relinquish his track position, even though he wasn’t part of the championship field. Back in the Cup Series full-time for the first time since 2018, Allmendinger led for 46 laps to secure his first victory in NASCAR’s top series since Indianapolis in 2021.

I knew Kyle had to win. I kept looking up at the board to see where he was in terms of points,” Allmendinger explained. “Kyle has been a tremendous supporter throughout my entire career. I knew he was going to race hard. I understood what he was racing for.

Overwhelmed with emotion, Allmendinger, who became a father just a month ago, was in tears as he received the checkered flag.

“It’s because you never know when you’ll experience this again,” said the 41-year-old, who turns 42 in December. Typically, he gives the checkered flag to a fan, but this time, he intended to keep the flag from Sunday’s race for his newborn son.

That drive was quite possibly the defining moment of my career, he reflected later.

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Following his victory, Allmendinger made his way into the stands to take selfies with ecstatic fans who were chanting his name. This marked the third Cup Series win for Allmendinger, a seasoned driver with 16 Cup seasons under his belt. However, he had taken a hiatus from NASCAR’s top series in 2019 and 2020 for mental health reasons.

Kaulig Racing gradually enticed him back, starting with five Cup races in 2021 and ultimately leading to a full season in the current year, which marks Kaulig’s second season in the elite division.

With tears in his eyes, Allmendinger stated, “I’m not a fan of crying right now, but it’s a Cup race, man. You never know when this will happen again. This is why you do it. It’s the only reason you do it. You fight through all the challenges, the hard work, the dedication. It’s only our second year in the Cup Series.

Allmendinger had previously won four consecutive Xfinity Series races on the hybrid road course/oval. However, he didn’t participate in Saturday’s race for Kaulig because he had already exhausted his allotted five starts in the second-tier series. While he won twice this year in the Xfinity Series, it remains uncertain whether he will continue in the Cup Series or return to Xfinity racing next season.

Regardless, his victory played a crucial role in the playoff elimination of Kyle Busch, the two-time series champion who needed a win on Sunday to advance to the round of eight. Despite Busch’s valiant efforts, including a third-place finish, he fell short of securing a spot in the next round. However, Busch remained optimistic and expressed his intention to compete for wins in each of the final four races, embracing the role of a potential spoiler.

I would love to be the spoiler. That would be fun, Busch remarked. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ll keep building.

Additional casualties in the playoffs included Ross Chastain, the runner-up from last year’s championship, as well as the 2012 champion Brad Keselowski and Bubba Wallace. Wallace, who marked his 30th birthday on the day of the race, concluded his maiden playoff appearance in the round of 12 while being observed by Michael Jordan, co-owner of 23XI Racing, from Wallace’s pit stand.

Wallace reflected, saying, “Many didn’t expect us to make it this far, but we proved them wrong. We also silenced the doubters in the garage who didn’t think the No. 23 could perform well in a road course race. We must continue to improve. I don’t believe we’re a race-winning team yet, but we’ve made significant progress compared to where we were just a few races ago.”

The race day turned out to be particularly challenging for Chevrolet, with both fan-favorite Chastain from Trackhouse Racing and the resurgent Busch facing elimination. Busch had recorded three wins in his debut season with Richard Childress Racing, providing a substantial boost to the organization, which last secured a championship in 1994 with the late Dale Earnhardt.

Busch acknowledged the responsibility, stating, “It’s my first year at RCR, and it means a lot to me that Richard and the Chevy team had faith in me. Making it this far is significant. The onus is on me to reach the next round, so I need to step up.

Keselowski’s performance resulted in the exit of a Ford team, while Toyota’s championship hopes were dashed with Wallace’s elimination.

PROGRESSING FORWARD

The remaining eight drivers in the championship race are spearheaded by William Byron and Ryan Blaney, both of whom secured victories in the three-race round of 12, earning automatic berths in the next trio of races.

Denny Hamlin, driving a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, successfully advanced, as did Tyler Reddick, who is part of the 23XI Racing team co-owned by Hamlin and Michael Jordan. Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr., the regular season champion, also progressed alongside Hamlin to ensure three Gibbs cars in the next round.

Kyle Larson, representing Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet, displayed remarkable resilience by finishing 13th after crashing during Saturday’s practice session. Hendrick Motorsports, situated just a mile from the speedway, worked tirelessly through the night to prepare a backup car for Sunday’s morning inspection.

Ford’s representatives in the next round include Ryan Blaney from Team Penske and Chris Buescher from RFK Racing, even though Keselowski from RFK Racing didn’t advance. This means that Ford still has one driver competing for the championship.

Denny Hamlin had already secured his spot in the round of eight earlier in the race through stage points, rendering his last-place finish on Sunday inconsequential.

We’ve already shifted our focus to Vegas, and we’ll see what we can do there,” Hamlin remarked. “I’m feeling really optimistic about the next three weeks.

UPCOMING

The round of eight in NASCAR’s playoffs kicks off next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Joey Logano is the defending race winner, and William Byron secured his first win of the season at Las Vegas in March.

Reference:

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/motor/2023/10/08/aj-allmendinger-wins-again-at-the-roval-in-nascar-playoffs-spoiler/71114919007/

https://www.pennlive.com/sports/2023/10/dinger-wins-again-at-the-roval-in-nascar-playoffs-spoiler.html

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