Allmendinger storms to historic Cup victory in the inaugural Indianapolis Road Course event

In a race highlighted with two red flag periods, late chaos and a number of top contenders being taken out of contention, AJ Allmendinger survived the carnage and stole the lead prior to the final lap to win the inaugural Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday, August 15.

The victory, which marked the first NASCAR Cup Series event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, was the first for Kaulig Racing and the second for Allmendinger in NASCAR’s premier series.

Qualifying occurred on Sunday, August 15, and William Byron achieved his second NASCAR Cup Series pole of the year with a pole-winning speed at 100.044 mph. Joining him on the front row was Chase Briscoe, a rookie Cup competitor who won last year’s Xfinity Indy road course event.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Byron pulled away from Briscoe and the field entering the first turn and leading through the first four turns. Through Turns 5 and 6, the infield backstretch, the left-hand turn in Turn 7, a series of turns through Turns 8, 9 and 10, and the final round of turns from 11 to 14, Byron rolled back to the frontstretch and led the first lap by half a second over Briscoe, with Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. running in the top five.

The following lap and with the field continuing to jostle for positions, Briscoe took over the lead after passing Byron in Turn 7.

Another two laps later, Truex pitted under green to have a tire rub and potential damage addressed on his car.

By the fifth lap, Briscoe was leading by half a second over Byron while Hendrick Motorsports’ Elliott and Larson continued to run in third and fourth. Daniel Suarez was up in fifth followed by AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Michael McDowell and Cole Custer. By then, Tyler Reddick was in 11th ahead of Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin. Austin Cindric, winner of Saturday’s Xfinity event at Indianapolis, was in 16th in front of Austin Dillon, Christopher Bell, Kurt Busch and Corey LaJoie. Alex Bowman was in 22nd in front of Aric Almirola, Bubba Wallace and Kevin Harvick. Brad Keselowski was mired back in 28th, Ryan Newman was in 21st and Truex was in 39th.

Not long after, Cindric spun in Turn 1 after over-braking the turn, but the race proceeded under green.

Through the first 10 laps of the event, Briscoe’s No. 14 High Point Ford Mustang continued to lead by nearly half a second over Byron’s No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE. By then, Aric Almirola pitted to have a tire rub and damage assessed to his car following an earlier on-track contact with Corey LaJoie.

A few laps later, names like Logano, Ross Chastain, Custer, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, DiBenedetto, Christopher Bell, Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Harvick, Bubba Wallace, LaJoie and Ryan Newman pitted under green. Shortly after, the leaders led by Briscoe pitted. 

Back on the track, Tyler Reddick, who has not yet pitted, emerged as the leader after overtaking Michael McDowell in Turn 12. Despite being pressured by McDowell for a full lap around the 14-turn circuit, Reddick was able to cycle back to the start/finish line and claim the first stage victory on Lap 15 along with his second stage victory of this year’s Cup season. McDowell settled in second followed by Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Ryan Preece, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Haley, Briscoe and Elliott.

Under the stage break, some led by Reddick pitted while the rest led by Keselowski and Briscoe remained on the track. Then, disaster struck for Briscoe, who was penalized and forced to surrender a handful of spots for failing to maintain cautious pace under the stage break.

The second stage started on Lap 19 with Keselowski and Elliott starting on the front row. At the start, Keselowski maintained the lead through the first four turns while Byron mounted a charge to the runner-up spot over teammate Elliott. In Turn 7, Byron attempted to overtake Keselowski for the lead, but he was stuck on the outside lane, which allowed Keselowski to remain as the leader. Soon after, Elliott made his way into the runner-up spot in Turn 12. 

When the field returned to the start/finish line and the frontstretch, Elliott peaked and overtook Keselowski for the lead. Through the infield backstretch, Byron dropped all the way back to ninth after he fell off the pace.

Through Lap 22 and while the field continued to jostle for positions, Elliott was leading by more than a second over Logano while Larson, Kyle Busch and Cole Custer were in the top five. Byron was in sixth while Briscoe and Keselowski battled for seventh. Suarez and Blaney were in the top 10 ahead of Allmendinger, Hamlin and the field.

In Turn 12, Bell and DiBenedetto made contact against one another when DiBenedetto slipped into the grass and Bell, who also slipped, made contact with him through the turn. The following lap, Chastain spun in Turn 1 while battling Hamlin for position. In the midst of the on-track chaos, Kurt Busch pitted under green.

By Lap 25, Elliott extended his advantage to nearly two seconds over teammate Larson while Logano, Kyle Busch and Custer continued to run in the top five. By then, Byron and Briscoe were up in sixth and seventh while Keselowski, who had fallen back to 18th, pitted under green after making contact with the wall in Turn 11 and sustaining significant damage to the rear of his No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang. Soon after, Logano spun and went off course in Turn 7 after he ran into the rear of Larson’s No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE as he dropped from third to 10th.

Through the first 30 laps of the event, Elliott continued to lead by more than a second over teammate Larson while Kyle Busch, Custer and Byron were in the top five. Briscoe continued to run in sixth followed by Allmendinger, Hamlin, Suarez and Blaney. By then, Keselowski was in 39th and three laps behind the leaders while Kurt Busch was in 36th.

The following lap, names like Cindric, Suarez, Briscoe, Truex, Blaney, Logano, Bowman, Bell, Byron, Wallace, Harvick, McDowell, Chris Buescher, Almirola and Newman pitted under green. Soon after, the leader Elliott pitted along with teammate Larson, Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Allmendinger.

Back on the track, Richard Childress Racing’s Reddick and Austin Dillon were running first and second. Both continued to remain on the track as they started the final lap of the second stage. When the second stage concluded on Lap 35, Reddick was able to grab his third stage victory of the season along with crucial stage points in his quest to make this year’s Playoffs. Teammate Austin Dillon settled in second followed by Ryan Preece, Stenhouse, DiBenedetto, Justin Haley, LaJoie, Andy Lally, Larson and Elliott.

Under the stage break, some led by Reddick pitted while the rest led by teammates Larson and Elliott remained on the track.

With 43 laps remaining, the final stage commenced. At the start and with the field fanning out to multiple lanes through the frontstretch, Larson took off with the lead ahead of teammates Elliott and Byron. Briscoe managed to carve his way to fourth ahead of Kyle Busch and the field. Behind, Almirola and Stenhouse spun through the infield backstretch.

Shortly after, the caution flew due to debris — a radiator pan and splitter — being reported across a curb in Turn 6. Under caution, few like Almirola, Stenhouse and Keselowski pitted while the rest led by Larson remained on the track.

When the race restarted with 39 laps remaining, Larson maintained the lead over teammates Elliott and Byron approaching the first turn while the field fanned out to multiple lanes. Through the infield backstretch, Ryan Newman went off course and lost a bevy of spots as he also sustained rear-end damage. 

Through the frontstretch on the following lap, Hamlin and Logano nearly made contact as Hamlin made a bold three-wide move, but slipped while battling Logano and Cole Custer. At the front, Larson continued to lead by eight-tenths of a second over teammates Byron and Elliott while Kyle Busch and Briscoe continued to pursue.

With 35 laps remaining, Larson remained as the leader by more than a second over teammate Byron and more than two seconds over his other teammate, Elliott. Truex was up in fourth followed by teammate Kyle Busch while Briscoe, Logano, Custer, Hamlin and Bell were in the top 10. By then, Bowman, Bubba Wallace and Austin Cindric were in the top 15 along with Blaney and Harvick. Kurt Busch was in 16th ahead of teammate Ross Chastain, Allmendinger was back in 20th, Reddick was in 22nd and Austin Dillon was in 26th. Keselowski, who was back on the lead lap, was in 34th behind Garrett Smithley.

Nearing the final 30 laps of the event, Cindric pitted after being spun by Kurt Busch in Turn 7. In addition, Briscoe pitted under green after he flat-spotted a tire. Soon after, Daniel Suarez also pitted.

A few laps later, names like Elliott, Truex, Bell, Blaney, Harvick and Chastain pitted. Not long after, names like Larson, Kyle Busch, Byron, Logano, Custer, Bowman, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, LaJoie, Josh Bilicki and James Davison also pitted under green.

Back on the track, Hamlin was leading by nearly 13 seconds over Bubba Wallace while Kurt Busch, Allmendinger and Reddick were in the top five. Larson, Elliott, Byron, Kyle Busch and Truex were back from 11th to 15th.

Not long after, Hamlin locked up his tires and went off the course in Turn 12, though he continued to lead by a large margin over Kurt Busch and Wallace.

With 20 laps remaining, Hamlin surrendered the lead to Matt DiBenedetto to pit. By then, names like Kurt Busch, Wallace, Buescher, Allmendinger, Stenhouse, Haley, Reddick and Preece had also pitted. 

A lap later, Larson cycled back into the lead after he overtook DiBenedetto in Turn 4. 

With 15 laps remaining, Larson was leading by more than five seconds over teammate Elliott with his other teammate, Byron, trailing by nearly eight seconds. DiBenedetto, who has yet to pit, was in fourth ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Truex, Kyle Busch and Hamlin. By then, Briscoe, who was running in the top 15, pitted.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Larson remained as the leader by more than four seconds over teammate Elliott and nearly nine seconds over teammate Byron while Truex, Kyle Busch and Hamlin were running fourth to sixth. Then, the caution flew due to debris reported in Turn 6. At the time of caution, DiBenedetto pitted.

Under caution, a majority of the field led by Larson pitted while the rest, including Hamlin, Kurt Busch, DiBenedetto and Briscoe, remained on the track. During the pit stops, Elliott dropped out of the top five and all the way back to 16th due to his car falling off the jack.

With six laps remaining, the race restarted under green as Hamlin and Kurt Busch filled in the front row. At the start, the field fanned out to multiple lanes through the frontstretch as Hamlin remained as the leader ahead of Briscoe through the first four turns.

Through Turns 5 and 6, Truex spun and made contact into the tire barriers after getting bumped by teammate Bell just past the curb, but the race remained under green.

The following lap, the battle for the lead intensified as Hamlin was being pressured by Briscoe for the top spot. While Briscoe gained a run through the frontstretch and the first turn, Hamlin fought back and retained the lead through the following five turns. The battle between Hamlin and Briscoe allowed Larson to close in on the two leaders.

Then, the caution flew for a multi-car wreck that started when Byron, who ran over the curbs in Turns 5 and 6 and destroyed his splitter, slipped sideways and wrecked along with Kyle Busch and Logano, who made hard head-on contact into the tire barriers. In the ensuing chaos, a number of competitors, including Preece, Reddick, Buescher, Bell, Suarez, Davison, Haley and Harvick, wrecked. In addition, Corey LaJoie caught major air after running over the curbs. The carnage forced NASCAR to display the red flag for minutes to give the on-track safety personnel and crew to clear the carnage.

More than 19 minutes later, the red flag was lifted and the field proceeded under caution. During the caution period, the race was sent into overtime.

Following an extensive caution period, the first overtime attempt occurred as Hamlin and Larson filled in on the front row. At the start, Hamlin jumped ahead with the lead as the field fanned out to multiple lanes. Entering the first turn, Larson received a shove from Kurt Busch and was shuffled out of the top five. 

While Hamlin and Briscoe battled for the lead, the caution returned due to a multi-car wreck that involved Cole Custer, Austin Dillon, McDowell, Reddick, Chastain, LaJoie and Truex. Not long after, the race was red-flagged for four minutes before the field proceeded under caution.

When the track was cleared, the race resumed for a second overtime attempt. At the start, Hamlin pulled ahead with the lead while Briscoe got forced off the course entering the first turn. Despite getting into the grass in Turn 1, Briscoe came back on the racing surface with the lead until Hamlin took it back through the infield backstretch. Behind, Ryan Newman ran over the curbs while Keselowski spun.

Back at the front, Briscoe, who continued to battle Hamlin for the lead, was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for driving off the course. Despite the penalty call, Briscoe continued to battle Hamlin for the lead. Then in Turns 9 and 10, Briscoe ran into the rear bumper of Hamlin, sending Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry around. With Hamlin out of contention, Briscoe continued to lead until he locked up the tires in Turn 12 and went off the course. In the midst of the chaos, AJ Allmendinger, driving Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Hyperice Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE stormed to the lead.

When the final lap started, Allmendinger was leading by nearly four-tenths of a second over Blaney while Larson, Elliott and DiBenedetto were in the top five. By then, Briscoe pitted and was parked on pit road to serve his penalty.

For one final rodeo around the 14-turn road course, Allmendinger, who rebounded from a speeding penalty during the race, was able to stabilize his advantage and extend his advantage to nearly a second over runner-up Blaney as he came back around and streaked across the finish line in first place to grab the biggest victory of his racing career. 

In addition to winning the first Cup event on Indy’s road course layout, Allmendinger became the 16th competitor to win a stock car event at the Brickyard as he earned his second Cup career victory in his fourth start of this season and first since winning his first Cup race at Watkins Glen International in August 2014. Allmendinger’s Indy victory made him the 134th different competitor to achieve multiple Cup wins, though he is ineligible for this year’s Cup Playoffs since he is competing in the series on a part-time basis but full time in the Xfinity Series.

In addition, Kaulig Racing achieved its first victory in the Cup Series in its seventh appearance since making its debut in 2020. The team, which competes on a full-time basis in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Allmendinger, is set to field two cars in the 2022 Cup season.

“Oh my god,” Allmendinger said on NBC. “I was so mad yesterday. I wanted to win so bad [in the Xfinity event at Indy]. This is unbelievable. In my wildest dreams, [I] could never have imagined the way that just played out. We had to fight hard…Oh my god. We just won at Indy. It was just survival of the fittest. We probably had like an eighth-, 10th-place car. I sped on pit road, I thought we were gonna finish 12th or 15th. And then, those restarts were just insane. It’s great when you have a car owner that just says go get me trophies. He doesn’t care if that thing’s torn up. We just won at Indy! What’s up?! Thank you, everybody, for coming out! Let’s go!”

Following the event and their on-track incident, Hamlin and Briscoe, both of whom finished 23rd and 26th, met and exchanged words on pit road. The contact between both eliminated Hamlin’s hopes of grabbing his first victory of the season and locking himself in the Playoffs along with Briscoe, who was within sight of his first Cup career victory.

“I agree [the contact]’s not on purpose, but my team told me that [Briscoe] had a penalty right away and to me, it’s obvious if you cut to the racetrack and if you end up in the lead, you’re gonna have a penalty,” Hamlin said. “Lack of awareness and then, I just said, ‘Race me for a lap.’ He went right in the back of me. You can’t race that way. I don’t think he did it malicious. I’ve raced with him for a year now. He’s not that kind of person, but it’s just a bad judgement…I thought we were probably in good shape there, but this just turns everything upside down.”

“Obviously, [Hamlin]’s upset,” Briscoe said. “I would’ve been, too. He just came down there and asked what I was doing. I don’t think he realized that I didn’t even know I had a penalty until we got to Turn 10…Denny’s been in my situation, where you’re trying to go for your first win. He asked why I didn’t wait. Well, I felt like that was my best opportunity to win the race if I could get under him there…I had to try to get going all I could. I’m sorry that it ruined his day. That was never my intention. I get why he’s upset. Like I said, I would’ve been, too. I didn’t know I had a penalty until I got to Turn 10. As far as I knew, at that moment in time, I was going for the win. That’s what I’m paid to do and that’s what I was trying to do.”

Blaney came home in the runner-up spot followed by Larson, who won the Knoxville Nationals on Saturday and has taken sole possession of the regular-season points lead. Elliott rallied from his late pit road miscue to finish fourth while Matt DiBenedetto rounded out the top five.

Kurt Busch rebounded for a sixth-place effort followed by Erik Jones, Justin Haley, Austin Cindric and Newman. 

Bubba Wallace settled in 13th ahead of Harvick and Truex, Kyle Busch fell back to 20th ahead of Reddick and Keselowski ended his long day in 24th. 

There were 13 lead changes for 11 different leaders. The race featured six cautions for 23 laps. 

With two races remaining until the 2021 Cup Playoffs commences, Kyle Larson leads the regular-season standings by 22 points over Denny Hamlin. Currently, 13 competitors (Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, William Byron, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell) have clinched Playoff spots based on winning at least once throughout the regular season. Despite finishing 23rd and having a potential first victory slip away, Denny Hamlin clinched his spot for the Playoffs based on points. As a result, Kevin Harvick and Tyler Reddick occupy the final two spots to the Playoffs on points, with Reddick ahead by 28 points over teammate Austin Dillon, 145 over Matt DiBenedetto, 146 over Chris Buescher, 176 over Ross Chastain, 187 over Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 202 over Bubba Wallace, 242 over Chase Briscoe and 258 over Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones.

Results.

1. AJ Allmendinger, two laps led

2. Ryan Blaney

3. Kyle Larson, 28 laps led

4. Chase Elliott, 14 laps led

5. Matt DiBenedetto, one lap led

6. Kurt Busch

7. Erik Jones

8. Justin Haley

9. Austin Cindric

10. Ryan Newman

11. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

12. Chris Buescher

13. Bubba Wallace

14. Kevin Harvick

15. Martin Truex Jr.

16. Corey LaJoie

17. Alex Bowman

18. Josh Bilicki

19. Aric Almirola

20. Kyle Busch

21. Tyler Reddick, six laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner

22. Quin Houff

23. Denny Hamlin, 27 laps led

24. Brad Keselowski, two laps led

25. Cole Custer

26. Chase Briscoe – OUT, Parked, 12 laps led

27. Timmy Hill, one lap down

28. Garrett Smithley, one lap down

29. Ross Chastain, two laps down

30. Michael McDowell – OUT, Accident

31. Austin Dillon – OUT, Accident

32. James Davison – OUT, Accident

33. William Byron – OUT, Accident

34. Joey Logano – OUT, Accident

35. Ryan Preece – OUT, Accident

36. Christopher Bell – OUT, Accident

37. Daniel Suarez – OUT, Accident

38. Anthony Alfredo – OUT, Suspension

39. Andy Lally – OUT, Rear gear

40. Cody Ware – OUT, Accident

With the regular-season stretch nearing its completion and the start of the Playoffs looming, the NASCAR Cup Series will be making its annual visit to Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, August 22. The event is scheduled to occur at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

Andrew Kim
An avid motorsports enthusiast from California with aspirations of working in any form of communications, PR or digital/social media in motorsports.

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