Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Late Race Pit Road Penalty Hampers Allmendinger’s Quest for Sonoma Win

By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor

Heading into Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway, one driver at the top of everyone’s list of potential winners was AJ Allmendinger, who has run exceptionally well on the 12-turn California road course over the years only to have lost the race for one reason or another.

With a second place start, Allmendinger looked to be in prime position to make the most of the race in an effort to score his first win at the track and moved into the lead over polesitter Carl Edwards just nine laps into the race.

Allmendinger was able to keep his No. 47 car out front for 16 laps before handing off the lead during a round of green flag pit stops. Staying inside the top-five for the majority of the remaining laps, he was able to make it back to the lead three more times for an additional four laps at the front of the field, bringing his laps led total to 20.

Coming down pit road as the leader under caution at lap 88, Allmendinger’s team would lose control of the rear tire as it came off of the car during their pit stop, causing it to roll just outside of the pit box to draw a penalty from NASCAR.

The uncontrolled tire penalty would drop Allmendinger to the tail end of the longest line on the restart, which sent him all the way back to 33rd, ending his shot at his first win of the season and first win at Sonoma.

Despite the penalty, Allmendinger drove his heart out over the remaining laps of the race, making his way to 14th by the finish, marking his best finish since an eighth place run at Kansas last month.

“Randall Burnett (crew chief) and all the guys Brain Burns, Tony Palmer, all my guys they did a great job.  We weren’t very good. We were pretty junkie on Friday.  They worked hard to get this thing as good as it could be.  Such a strange race. At one point you think the tires go off and then you find something and manage them again.  I thought whatever it was, 25 to go, we were coming.  So in the end just a bad pit stop and let the tire get away and penalty.  That took away our chance to win the race. Overall, I thought the Ralph’s/Kingsford Chevy was pretty good.  It was for sure a top three, top four car.  We just need to be up there at the end and we weren’t,” said Allmendinger.

“It’s racing.  You know you are not guaranteed anything until the checkered flag.  It is part of life we win and lose as a team.  We have to get our stuff straight if we actually want to be a Chase team and consider ourselves a Chase team.  Another fast race car that is all I can ask for.”

Heading to Daytona, Allmendinger finds himself 18th in points, 20 points out of the 16th and final Chase spot.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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