Allmendinger wins race at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio – AJ Allmendinger was so close to he could almost envision coasting through his final lap and capturing the checkered flag Saturday.
Then, elsewhere on the course, a car spun out and the subsequent yellow flag meant the pack would have to restart behind the pace car in a two-lap sprint to the finish.
But after leading 73 of the 94 laps, he survived that last, late challenge to win the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
In a way, I feel like Im playing with house money because I never expected to be back here at this level, said Allmendinger, making another major step back after his suspension a year ago for failing a random drug test. Im just taking it all in and having fun with it.
Allmendinger improved his record to 2 for 2 this year in the Nationwide Series, adding a victory to the one he picked up for Penske Racing in his only previous start at Road America.
He credited his crew, his sponsors and particularly team owner Roger Penske, who stood by him in his darkest hours and gave him work.
Its Rogers world and Im living in it, Allmendinger said. Ill go back and Ill celebrate this and enjoy it. And definitely take it all in as its happening. But I dont let it dictate my life anymore, which I used to.
Pole-winner Michael McDowell was second, with Ohioan Sam Hornish Jr. third, Max Papis fourth and Brian Vickers fifth. Hornish took over the season points lead.
Since Im out here running for a championship, I feel like a lot of times Im taking a little bit more than I give, Hornish said.