|SOURCE: Rubbin's Racin' Forums|
The finish was Allmendinger’s first of the season and his first in a Cup Series race since October 11, 2008 during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte, 203 races ago. That night, Allmendinger was making his first and only start for Michael Waltrip Racing when his #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota was taken out in a single-car crash entering Turn 3 on Lap 54.
At the time of that finish, Allmendinger had just been released from Team Red Bull, the start-up two-car team that gave him his break into NASCAR the previous season. His next start of 2008 came the following week at Martinsville, where he replaced another struggling rookie, Patrick Carpentier, in Gillett-Evernham Motorsports’ #10 Dodges. With just one finish worse than 16th in his final five starts that year, he stayed with the team when it merged with Petty Enterprises to form what is today known as Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM). By 2010, he was driving Petty’s iconic #43, a ride he held through 2011, scoring three Top Fives and eighteen top-ten finishes.
The July race at Daytona brings mixed feelings to the California driver. It was prior to this event, two years ago, where he was suspended following a drug test, ultimately costing him his new ride with Penske Racing in the #22 Shell / Pennzoil Dodge. But Penske stayed with Allmendinger, affording him an IndyCar Series ride with which he led several laps in the Indianapolis 500, and a Nationwide Series entry that he took to his first two NASCAR wins at Road America and Mid-Ohio. With these performances, plus some spirited runs in Phoenix Racing’s #51 in the Cup Series, Allmendinger moved to another single-car operation at midseason: the #47 of JTG-Daugherty Racing.
After developing as a Michael Waltrip Racing satellite team since 2009, JTG acquired a new technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing for 2014, making the move from Toyota to Chevrolet. With Allmendinger returning to full-time competition in Cup, both driver and team have become one of the season’s biggest surprises. He came to Daytona 22nd in points with three top-ten finishes and a season-best of 5th at Talladega. He had the dominant car at Sonoma two weeks ago, leading a race-high 35 laps before a late crash left him 37th. Following a 22nd the next week at Kentucky, Allmendinger was looking for a turnaround.
In Thursday’s only practice session, Allmendinger timed in 12th, and in the first and only round of qualifying, he secured the 24th starting spot with a speed of 198.015 mph. The same persistent rain that shortened both sessions pushed Saturday’s race to Sunday, setting the stage for the first daytime Coke Zero 400 since 1997.
At the start of Saturday’s race, where David Gilliland, Reed Sorenson, Landon Cassill, and Bobby Labonte led the field to the green for four different underfunded teams, Michael Waltrip fell to the back on the first lap. Back in the #66 Toyota, but this time running a car fielded by Joe Nemechek and Jay Robinson’s co-owned Identity Ventures Racing instead of his own equipment, Waltrip stayed in the back until disaster struck seconds before the competition caution on Lap 20.
Locked in a tight battle for 3rd coming off Turn 4, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. lost control of his #17 Cargill Ford, saved it, then tangled with Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon as both tried to check-up. Stenhouse and Stewart spun into traffic, triggering a sixteen-car wreck that gobbled-up several of the leaders. Running near the back of the pack at the time, Allmendinger lost control entering the tri-oval, where the wet grass ripped the splitter from his Chevrolet. Allmendinger’s position on track and inability to slide across the finish line dropped him to last. And, when his car could not be repaired, he retained the last-place finish.
The remaining members of the Bottom Five were also involved in the Lap 20 wreck.
Allmendinger’s involvement prevented 42nd-place Jimmie Johnson from scoring his first-ever Cup Series last-place finish - both their cars were the only ones unable to return to the track following the Lap 20 wreck. Stenhouse didn’t return to the track until Lap 97, moments before an even larger 26-car wreck dwindled the field to almost nothing on Lap 99, leaving his #17 41st. Rounding out the Bottom Five were Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick, who climbed from 40th and 42nd, respectively.
Sunday also marked the first Cup Series win for Aric Almirola in his 125th career start. Thirteen races after his most recent last-place finish at Fontana, Almirola gave the famous #43 its first win since 1999 and its first since the team became Richard Petty Motorsports in 2009.
*This is the first Cup Series last-place finish for the #47 since last June at Sonoma, when Bobby Labonte’s Kingsford Toyota lost the engine on the opening lap of the Toyota / Save Mart 350.
*It’s the first last-place finish for the #47 in a Cup race at Daytona since October 17, 1998, when the late Billy Standridge also fell out after 19 laps of the 400-miler when his #47 TeamFansCanRace.com lost the engine.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #47-A.J. Allmendinger / 19 laps / crash
42) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 20 laps / crash
41) #17-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. / 37 laps / running
40) #14-Tony Stewart / 45 laps / running / led 3 laps
39) #4-Kevin Harvick / 46 laps / running
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Dave Blaney (2)
2nd) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, Travis Kvapil, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
2nd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-NEMCO-JRR Motorsports, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota (6)