AJ Allmendinger celebrated his best Sprint Cup series to date, finishing second at Martinsville after surviving chaos in the closing laps.
The Penske driver was in the shadows of his team-mate Brad Keselowski for most of the race at the half-mile track, but was able to avoid getting involved in the multi-car incident that unfolded after the penultimate restart, moving up from ninth all the way up to second.
Having started his day ill, requiring a visit to the track's infield care center, Allmendinger drove a solid race and saw his persistence rewarded with his best ever finish in the Sprint Cup series.
"I think maybe I need to go to the nurse's office every week and take a shot," Allmendinger joked. "I didn't feel very good this morning, but you know these guys work hard, everybody on the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, they deserve to run up front, they're used to running up front.
"I'm trying my butt off, trying everything I can to get these guys up front. (crew chief) Todd Gordon and all these guys, the Penske organization, they're behind me. It feels good to have an organisation behind you even when you feel like you're struggling a little bit. This is a great race.
"I don't know if we had a second-place car, but with the way these races play out, you know, I feel like you've got to put yourself in position. We weren't very good all weekend and Todd Gordon kept working hard and all the guys on the team and ultimately got the car better. It was definitely a top-10 car.
"We were actually better in a really long run."
Allmendinger admitted he didn't have anything for eventual race winner Ryan Newman in the final short sprint to the finish and praised his rival for racing him clean as he tried to remain in contention running side-by-side with the Stewart-Haas driver for most of the last two laps.
"I knew it was going to be tough to get around him on the outside, but he ran me clean," he said. "He didn't run me up the racetrack. He ran me as clean as could be. I thank him for that and congratulate him on that. Hopefully, this gives us some confidence going into the off-weekend."
"I'm obviously excited about the second-place finish, but happy the way we ran all day. We had a solid top-10 car all day. We had a really good car on the long run. In the short run, we were just too tight. Once we got going and everybody's rear tires started going off, we were actually pretty good."
Allmendinger, winner earlier this year in the 24 Hours of Daytona, still ranks 20th in the Cup standings despite his strong finish on Sunday.
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