For AJ Allmendinger, it’s another case of “what could have been” for him at Sonoma Sunday afternoon.
The road course ace had everything going his way through the first stage of the Toyota / Save Mart 350, yet he ended up in the garage and out of the race by Lap 35.
The engine in the No. 47 Chevrolet blew after Allmendinger missed a shift. The dejected JTG Daugherty driver took the blame over the radio as his car trailed smoke and eventually came to a stop past the start/finish line. Taking his time climbing out, Allmendinger was clearly upset as he first shook his head and then put his head down before making his way to the ambulance.
“Me,” an upset Allmendinger said of what led to the issue. “I haven’t missed a shift on a road course in 10 years. It was just me. I was trying to be so patient and so smooth. It was unexpected. It’s on me. I let everybody down here.
“I just can’t thank Kroger and ClickList enough, and my guys. The car was good. I don’t know if it was a race-winning car. We needed a little work on the long run, but it’s just all on me. I don’t know what else to say. I just let everybody down.”
Qualifying fifth, Allmendinger quickly moved within the top three in stage one. When Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick went with the strategy play before the conclusion of the stage, Allmendinger inherited the race lead. He won the stage, his first of the season.
Pitting under the subsequent caution, Allmendinger restarted outside the top 15 and was making up ground when the engine let go.
Allmendinger is always considered one of the drivers to watch on road courses, but Sonoma has repeatedly bitten him. The latest disappointment means Allmendinger still does not have a top-five finish at the track with just one pole and 65 laps led in 10 Cup races.