AJ Allmendinger placed himself in contention for another road course victory on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway but was taken out of it by his over-the-wall pit crew.
Allmendinger overcame an ill-handling car for much of the weekend to qualify second on Friday and spent much of the race inside the top 5. He was running fifth under caution after a pit stop on lap 89 when his team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire.
The infraction sent Allmendinger to the back of the field for the final restart with 19 laps to go and he could only recover to a 14th-place finish.
“Randall Burnett (crew chief) and all the guys – Brain Burns, Tony Palmer – everyone did a great job,” Allmendinger said. “We weren’t very good this weekend. We were pretty junky on Friday. They worked hard to get this thing as good as it could be. It was such a strange race because at one point you would think the tires are falling off and then you would find something and manage them again.
“So in the end, it was just a bad pit stop that let the tire get away and a penalty. That took away our chance to win. Overall, I thought the Ralph’s Kingsford Chevy was pretty good. It was for sure a top three or top four car. We just needed to be up there at the end and we weren’t.”
Allmendinger is considered a road course specialist and a is a former Sprint Cup winner at Watkins Glen. Driving for mid-level JTG Daugherty Racing, this and The Glen are considered Allmendinger’s best chances to get to Victory Lane and earn a playoff berth.
But unlike previous seasons, this wasn’t a win-or-else scenario as Allmendinger entered the race 19th in the championship standings. The top-15 actually gained him a spot in the standings but Tony Stewart’s victory also means he will likely have to crack the top-15 in order to make the Chase without a victory.
Despite a sarcastic ‘good job, guys’ over the radio after the penalty, Allmendinger expressed no ill-feelings towards his team.
“It’s racing,” he said. “You know you are not guaranteed anything until the checkered flag. It’s part of life. We win as a team and lose as a team. We have to get our stuff straight if we actually want to be a Chase team and consider ourselves a Chase team.
“Another fast racecar that is all I can ask for.”