ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – When A.J. Allmendiner was suspended by NASCAR for failing a random drug test in 2012, most believed his racing career was all but over.
As it turns out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Allmendinger sat on the pole and then muscled his way to victory in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Johnsonville Sausages 200 at Road America, surviving a chaos filled race to score his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory.
“I’m trying not to be a big baby and cry on TV,” an exhausted Allmendinger said from victory lane.
While Allmendinger led a race-high 29 laps in Penske Racing’s No. 22 Ford, the victory was far from easy.
Allmendinger found himself in the race lead with 13 laps left when an accident involving Kyle Larson and Brendan Gaughan forced NASCAR officials to wave the caution flag. The field returned to racing with 11 laps left and as Allmendinger raced into turn three Billy Johnson shoved Allmendinger out of the way to take the lead.
The caution flag waved again on lap 40 for debris from a large sign that was resting on the track at the start/finish, giving Allmendinger the chance to close the gap on Johnson and the rest of the leaders.
The green flag waved again with eight laps left and Allmendinger quickly moved from fourth to third on the restart. Using a run on the outside of second-place Justin Allgaier, Allmendinger got to the bumper of Johnson entering turn five and muscled him into the grass.
That gave the lead to Allgaier, but only for a moment. One lap later Allmendinger made the move to retake the lead, battling around Allgaier between turns five and six.
Allmendinger didn’t give up the lead again, but he had to survive three more caution periods before getting to celebrate his first NASCAR victory.