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NSCS: Amazing Race Leads AJ Allmendinger to First Career Win.

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — When the checkered flag finally flew at Watkins Glen International – after two lengthy red flags halted the race – it was A.J. Allmendinger in victory lane for the first time in his 9 year-career in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. How he got there was down-right amazing

“Obviously it goes without saying how important it is to this race team, said Allmendinger. “ To be able to share it with Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad (Daugherty) and everyone but at the full No.47 race team, everyone at the track, back at the shop. To be able to share it together, to me that’s what it is all about.”

The win for the JTG-Daugherty team, launches them into the Chase for the Championship for the first time in the teams history. Co-owner and ESPN broadcaster Brad Daugherty would express how special this win is for him, his driver, and their small team.

“We feel like we should’ve won this year at Sonoma, had a dominate car, got wrecked late in the race,” said Daugherty. “To come here today and not have to back into it with a rain-delay or a caution, we had to race for it. That’s as good as it gets for a team our size. We have quality people, A.J. is a wonderful race car driver and we are in the Chase which is huge for our company.”

Although the day ended with jubilant celebration, it started with shocking and tragic news from the Canandaigua Motorsports Park. Local Sprint Car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. was killed after an accident involving NSCS regular Tony Stewart after an on-track crash.

Regan Smith would substitute for Stewart who opted to sit out the day’s event. Smith’s first NSCS start of 2014 would not go smoothly after being involved in a lap-83 crash, which relegated him to a 37th-place-finish.

Three of the biggest key drivers to watch for throughout the day had major issues that kept them from battling for the win.

Kyle Busch – defending Watkins Glen winner – had a number of run-offs early, leading to a shoving match between he and Martin Truex, Jr which caused major damage to the front left corner. He finished in the 40th position which continued his rough luck of races.

Pole-sitter and four-time Watkins Glen winner Jeff Gordon, lost power during the race and fell four laps down. After leading 29 laps, he finished 34th right ahead of Brad Keselowski in 35th who spent a lot of time in the garage with a broken frame.

After the opening 50 laps – which included a hard single-car crash by Cole Whitt who lost his rear brakes and slammed head-on into the turn one wall – a terrible crash ensued between Leavine Family Racing driver Michael McDowell and Ryan Newman.

After Newman made contact with Kyle Larson and Greg Biffle, he lost control of his No.31 Chevrolet and careened into the tire barrier exiting turn six. In an attempt to avoid, McDowell clipped the rear of Newman’s car causing the rear housing to rip off the car. A viscous hit into the guard rail – which created an approximate eight-foot hole – caused a long red flag which needed major repairs. Both drivers were released from the infield care center.

A great duel between Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose and Kurt Busch began to spark after the red flag was lifted.

“It’s what we come to the track for is to put on a good show,” said Kurt Busch. “I love when you’ve positioned yourself to out-duel somebody at the end of the race, whether it’s a short track, road course, an intermediate track.”

Busch went on to credit the fantastic Watkins Glen finishes to what leads to stellar attendance records.

“Its why I think we’re near sellout crowd the last three years here at Watkins Glen. It puts on a tremendous show and that’s what NASCAR is all about.”

The trio, along with Carl Edwards, had one of the most exciting races for a win we have seen in a long time as they beat and banged up the “Esses” and put everything on the line for the victory.

Ambrose was in the same boat of Allmendinger as a win is absolutely necessary to earn a Chase berth. Coming home in the second spot after the Nationwide Series win on Saturday, Ambrose is now in tough territory and running out of time to bring the No.9 Ford to Chase glory.

“ Yeah just tight racing,” said Ambrose. “We’re running on worn-out tires, racing for a lot, and you just do whatever you can to try to get the lead and rattle the dice cage. I just finished the closest race of my life. I haven’t thought about points, ill have to look at that on Monday. We’ve got to obviously score points but we need to focus on winning.”

There was a number of honorable mentions that I found among the top-25 finishers.

Kyle Larson grabbed a fourth-place-finish after being outside the top-10 throughout the race. Danica Patrick bounced back after a dreadful Friday and crash damage to finish in the 21st position.

Casey Mears, driving for Germain Racing, overcame a spin to finish 15th and Justin Allagier started from the rear and grabbed a 17th place. After scoring his first top-20 finish of the year last week at Pocono Raceway, David Ragan got another one coming home in 19th spot.

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About Zach Catanzareti

Zach Catanzareti serves as a Contributing Writer in the NASCAR department for Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@zachracing) for the latest NASCAR updates. A native of Easton, Pennsylvania, he also follows IndyCar and Formula 1.

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