Allmendinger Makes History with Wild Win in Verizon 200 at the Brickyard

AJ Allmendinger wins the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard. [Media Credit: Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones]

AJ Allmendinger wins the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard. [Media Credit: Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones]

INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021) – AJ Allmendinger fulfilled a lifelong dream of his versatile racing career by standing on Victory Podium as a race winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, prevailing in a wild finish to the inaugural Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday.

Allmendinger, from Los Gatos, California, earned his second career NASCAR Cup Series victory – and first since 2014 – by driving the No. 16 Hyperice Chevrolet for lower-budget Kaulig Racing to victory by .929 of a second over Ryan Blaney in the No. 12 Menards/Knauf Ford. Kyle Larson finished third in the No. 5 Chevrolet.

Reigning Cup Series champion Chase Elliott finished fourth in the No. 9 Hooters Chevrolet, with Matt DiBenedetto fifth in the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford.

The race went to a second overtime, running 95 laps – 13 more than the scheduled distance – due to a wild scramble for victory in the first Cup Series race on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course at IMS after the Brickyard 400 took place from 1994-2020 on the 2.5-mile oval.

Allmendinger, 39, rose through the racing ranks in open-wheel competition before shifting to NASCAR in 2007, also competing in sports cars. His best finish in 10 Brickyard 400 starts was 10th, in 2008 and 2017. He also finished seventh in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 in his only start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” driving for Penske Racing.

“That was an insane race,” Allmendinger said. “This is unbelievable. In my wildest dreams, I could never imagine how this played out. The Hyperice Chevy was so good. We had to fight hard. I just won at Indy!”

Allmendinger’s unexpected win was the culmination of a wild finish after it appeared Cup Series points leader Larson would waltz to victory.

Larson led Elliott by 4.302 seconds on Lap 74 of the 82 scheduled laps when a caution period started due to debris in Turn 6. Larson, Elliott, pole sitter William Byron, Kyle Busch and many other leading drivers decided to pit for fresh tires for the dash to the checkered.

Meanwhile, Hamlin led a group of drivers who decided to stay on track and gain position, as they had pitted later than the cars that opted for service. Hamlin took the lead, followed by Kurt Busch, DiBenedetto and Chase Briscoe. Larson was the first of the drivers who pitted in the restart order, running fifth.

On the restart on Lap 77, Hamlin and Briscoe then started a spirited battle for the lead that continued until nearly the checkered flag. They were side-by-side at the Yard of Bricks start-finish line at the end of the first lap after the restart and also in Turn 1 on the next lap, with Hamlin inching ahead in Turn 1.

Then the complexion of the race changed on Lap 78, when 10 drivers were involved in an incident after hitting the curb exiting Turn 6, with Joey Logano in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford and Ryan Preece in the No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet making heavy contact with the tire barrier. Both drivers were unhurt.

The red flag flew for repairs to the track and tire barrier, followed by an extended caution period due to track cleanup after James Davison’s No. 15 Tilson Chevrolet car dumped fluid between Turns 1 through 4.

When the race resumed in overtime on Lap 90, Hamlin led Larson and Briscoe to the green flag. Larson took an outside line into Turn 1 but was nudged from behind by Kurt Busch, dropping him to seventh.

Later on that lap, Michael McDowell launched over the curb that prevents short-cutting of Turn 6, and his No. 34 spun upon landing, hit by the No. 3 Dow MobilityScience Chevrolet of Austin Dillon and triggering another chain-reaction crash involving seven cars, triggering another caution and a second overtime.

The second overtime started on Lap 94, with Hamlin on the inside lane in the lead and Briscoe on the outside lane in second. Hamlin took the lead into Turn 1, and Briscoe was forced to miss Turn 2 and drive through the grass in his No. 14 Performance Racing School Food after contact from DiBenedetto.

Briscoe rejoined the track and was side by side with leader Hamlin, who then pulled ahead while expecting Briscoe to be penalized for cutting the track. Briscoe then bumped the rear of Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in Turn 10, sending Hamlin into the grass and out of the lead.

“They told me he had a penalty right away, and to me it’s obvious if you cut the racetrack and you end up in the lead, you’re going to have a penalty,” Hamlin said. “Lack of awareness (by Briscoe) and to race me for a lap. He went right into the back of me. You can’t race that way. I don’t think he did it malicious, but it was just bad judgement.”

Said Indiana native Briscoe: “He’s upset. I would have been, too. I don’t think he realized I didn’t even know I had a penalty until we got to Turn 10. Denny’s been in my situation, when you’re trying to go for your first win.

“I felt like that was my best opportunity to win the race if I could get under him there. I knew AJ was going to be quick, either way, and I had older tires, so I had to try to get going when I could. I’m sorry I ruined his day – that was never my intention.”

Briscoe’s lead only lasted two turns, as he overshot Turn 12, running wide. That opened the door for Allmendinger, who powered to the lead and never wavered over the final lap of the two-lap overtime for the biggest win of his career. It was the first time Allmendinger led all race, with the 13th lead change of the day.

“It was survival of the fittest,” Allmendinger said. “We probably had like an eighth- to 10th-place car. I sped on pit road. I thought we were going to finish 12th to 15th, and then those restarts were just insane.

“It’s great when you have a car owner who just says, ‘Go get me trophies.’ He doesn’t care if that thing’s torn up. We just won at Indy – what’s up? Let’s go!”

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