A.J. Allmendinger continues to cement his legacy as one of the greatest road racers in NASCAR history. The 41-year-old racer held off a hard-charging William Byron over the closing laps of Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 to score his first win of the 2023 season.
For the California native, this is the third win of his NASCAR Cup Series career. All three have come on three different road courses (Watkins Glen, Indianapolis Road Course, and the Charlotte ROVAL).
As he climbed from the car after a hard-fought win, the tears began to flow for an emotional Allmendinger.
When asked why he was so emotional after this win in particular, Allmendinger responded by saying, “Because you don’t know when you’re going to do it again. I love all of the men and women at Kaulig Racing so much. First of all, hi to my beautiful wife and my new baby boy. I usually give these checkered flags away, but I’m going to have to wrap this [checkered flag] around Aero.”
As he continued to fight the emotions, Allmendinger recalled all of the emotions he has felt personally through the struggles on track in 2023 with Kaulig Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.
“My mom, my dad, all of my family and friends — those people see how much anguish, and how much I put on my shoulders when we’re struggling,” Allmendinger said. “And it just means the world. I hate crying right now, but it’s a freaking Cup race, man. You never know when it’s going to happen again. Let’s go! Come on!”
Allmendinger took the lead for the first time on the day after an aggressive pass of Kyle Busch on Lap 58. Allmendinger would lead the next 13 circuits before he hit pit road to hand the lead to Ryan Blaney, who stayed up front until he pitted six laps later.
The driver of the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 regained the lead under caution on Lap 77. He would lead the final 33 laps uninterrupted.
Busch, who entered the day as the final spot in the 12-driver Playoff Grid, needed a win to advance to the Playoffs Round of 8. He didn’t quite get there, but the driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet went down swinging as he led six laps on his path to a third-place finish.
Ty Gibbs came home in fourth, and Joey Logano wrapped up the day in fifth.
Tyler Reddick, who won the opening Stage of the race, and probably had the best car in the field, secured his berth into the Round of 8 of the Playoffs with a sixth-place finish.
Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, and Ross Chastain rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.
While Chastain came home with a decent top-10 finish, despite a bevy of issues throughout the race, it wasn’t enough as he was one of the four drivers that were eliminated from Playoff contention. Chastain was 12 points shy of advancing.
Joining Busch and Chastain on the outside of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at the end of Sunday’s race were Bubba Wallace and Brad Keselowski.
Wallace finished second in the opening Stage of the race, and had great speed all race long. However, as he was attempting to rebound from a Stage Point strategy call which placed him deep in the field, Wallace was spun by Austin Cindric, who was clipped by Daniel Suarez late in the race.
The contact sent Wallace back to 32nd. The driver of the No. 23 Toyota would rebound to finish 16th, but he needed quite a bit more if he wanted to advance.
The eight drivers who will continue to battle for the NASCAR Cup Series championship are William Byron, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, and Martin Truex Jr.