September 21, 2023

Allmendinger satisfied with third after racing in the rain

AJ Allmendinger would have liked a chance to win Sunday night’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but was happy to take a third-place finish when NASCAR deemed the race official when inclement weather hit.

“We’ve all tried to race against the rain,” Allmendinger said, “and on a track like this, like last year’s Daytona, it’s hard to let ourselves risk a sudden rain shower. the back, and you run 190 wide open, and there’s nothing you’re going to do.

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“One lap I said to them, ‘It’s not raining.’ Then the next round, it would start sprinkling and then for a few rounds, it would taper off a bit and then it would keep building up. Obviously you look at the radar and you know it’s coming. I’d love to give it another chance, but I’m also glad (NASCAR) didn’t force us to do a lap or two before the rain really hits.”

It was never in dispute that rain or lightning would interrupt the Quaker State 400. Allmendinger landed on the right side of strategy as the No. 16 Kaulig Racing team kept him on track at the end of stage two, leading him to lead the race.

Allmendinger was one of 10 drivers to stay out and led for six laps. But his lead under the green flag, when the race resumed with 96 laps to go, was short-lived. William Byron took first place with 94 laps to go.

“I think I could have kept track position, it was just trying to lead the race that was the hardest part,” said Allmendinger. “We just had a little too much resistance in the car. We came (here) knowing it was going to be slippery and worked on handling, so once I got into the lead it was hard to defend because they could make big runs on me.

“I could easily run second or third, so it wasn’t like I was going to defend them for five laps and win the race. I should time it right on the back and go for the win.

Due to the approaching weather, Allmendinger felt it was a race to the halfway point from the start. At the halfway point, the movements through the field became more daring as the drivers tried to position themselves for when a weather-related caution might come. As lap 130 (the halfway point) came and went, Allmendinger said from then on, everyone raced like the next lap could be the last.

“Sometimes I’d rather watch it than be in it, but it’s the nature of the beast of this race,” Allmendinger said of entering an intense race. “That’s why I always say I absolutely hate them with all the passion in my life, but I’m still going to try to stuff a ball and go for the win because I hate to lose any more.

“The car I had today made it a bit fun because I didn’t have to hold my breath and be on the edge. My car was stable and I could make movements. There are just moves at times where you just hold your breath and hope to get through the rest of the turn.

Sunday was Allmendinger’s third top-10 finish in four weeks. After a rocky start to the season, Allmendinger and his team are finding their footing.

“I think we’re getting better and better,” he said. “The last six, seven races have been better. Last week kind of hurt, we just completely missed it in Chicago and never had the speed all weekend. Not even to win the race, but to be in the top five, top seven, which is where I think we should be at those tracks anyway. So we hurt ourselves trying to get some points back. But we’ll get there.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are nowhere near the top of the league or even close to it, we still have a lot to build. But from where we actually were after Richmond and Darlington compared to where we are now, it’s a huge gain, and that credit goes to all the men and women at Kaulig Racing for their hard work, because we were pretty bad at the time.

Story originally appeared on Racer

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