Allmendinger takes checkered flag at Indy road race

A controversial accident late in the Brickyard 200 took out race leader Denny Hamlin, opening the door for A.J. Allmendinger to grab his second career victory in NASCAR's top racing circuit.



August 16, 2021 - 8:59 AM

AJ Allmendinger celebrates in Victory Circle after winning the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo by TNS

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — AJ Allmendinger screamed in elation after winning Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Just about everyone else left the world-famous speedway frustrated, angry or bewildered by a bizarre Brickyard 200 finish that involved 16 wrecked cars, two red flags, a spin out of the race leader and a penalty all in the final five laps to help Allmendinger reach victory lane.

The 39-year-old Allmendinger beat Ryan Blaney across the yard of bricks by 0.929 seconds to pick up his second career Cup win in his fourth start of the season. It also was the first win for Kaulig Racing in the team’s seventh start.

“Oh my God, I just won at Indy. Shank I just wanted to be like you,” Allmendinger shouted to the crowd, referencing Michael Shank’s win at the Indianapolis 500. “It was just survival of the fittest.”

Allmendinger’s other victory also came on a road course, Watkins Glen in 2014.

Indianapolis’ 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course certainly proved to be a challenge for everyone on this wild crossover weekend. After watching one IndyCar and two NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers go airborne in the sixth turn Saturday, track officials removed the “turtle” there.

On Sunday, drivers were having trouble with the chicane in the back-to-back fifth and sixth turns. The damaged obstacle, NASCAR officials said, had deteriorated by the end of the race. Whether that was because three consecutive days of practice, qualifying and racing was unclear.

Track workers still attempted to fix it during the race and once pulled a 3-foot metal piece from underneath it.

When pole-winning driver William Byron ran over the curbing with five laps left, it was chaos. His No. 24 car veered off course and eight more drivers quickly followed him, immediately bringing out a yellow and eventually the first red flag.

“It was so weird,” said Byron, who first noticed it when Kyle Larson’s car went over the obstacle ahead of him. “I nailed something and it tore it up.”

This time, the track workers pried it loose and towed it away to the sound of cheering fans. Even Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles pitched in by grabbing a shovel and broom to help clean up in his suit and tie.

When the engines restarted, nobody knew what to expect or how to navigate the altered course. And the next time through the turn, seven more cars were involved in the pileup bringing out another red flag.

NASCAR officials did not report any serious injuries.

“There was some debate about whether to continue and whether to take the other one out,” NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller said. “When we tested there last year, that section was way too fast so we weren’t going to sign up for that, so we keep the other one.”

The drama was just beginning.