Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe

How Allmendinger's tearful win response sent a reminder to NASCAR

OPINION: The third Cup victory of A.J. Allmendinger’s lengthy NASCAR career on Sunday was met by an emotional response, which he explained was triggered by the knowledge that “you don’t know when you’re going to do it again”. It was a welcome reminder of how individual wins can often be overshadowed by their greater significance in the championship picture

AJ Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, Celsius Chevrolet Camaro

AJ Allmendinger, Kaulig Racing, Celsius Chevrolet Camaro

Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images

A.J. Allmendinger’s victory at the Charlotte Roval didn’t shake up the NASCAR Cup playoffs or help him in a quest to win a series championship, but it did provide something far more lasting.

The 41-year-old pulled off a flawless final stage, fought through five restarts in the final 31 laps and held the series’ top driver right now – William Byron – at bay to earn his first win of the 2023 season and just the third in his 15-year NASCAR career.

The victory didn’t advance Allmendinger to the next round of the playoffs – he didn’t qualify for the 16-driver field – and didn’t on its own alter the complexion of this year’s championship battle. What the Kaulig Racing driver’s win did – or more accurately what his raw, joyous, tearful response to the victory did – was serve as an important reminder how difficult this series is and what it means for drivers who don’t enjoy success on a regular basis to snatch that opportunity.

Sunday’s race for the most part wasn’t a nail-biter and passing was hard to come by, but five cautions in the final stage did provide some fireworks which ended with a one-on-one cat-and-mouse chase in the final laps between Allmendinger and Byron. Whatever one thought of the racing Sunday itself, however, felt dwarfed by the emotion which overwhelmed Allmendinger the moment he took the checkered flag.

He screamed over his team radio and could be heard crying throughout his cool down lap. He was still in tears when conducting a post-race interview on the frontstretch with NBC Sports. Before driving off to Victory Lane, he instead climbed through the crossover gate and spent several minutes celebrating with the fans in the grandstands – most of whom were wearing merchandise promoting other drivers.

It was captivating and riveting and real. And it was sorely needed.

With the system NASCAR uses now to determine its series champions, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the points drivers accumulate or whether they win and automatically advance to the next round. A win seems almost just a piece of a much larger puzzle, one that only gets finished at the season finale at Phoenix. For one race at least, Allmendinger provided us a glimpse back to another time in NASCAR when each race seemed like a special event in and off itself.

Allmendinger was overcome with emotion after winning his first Cup race since the 2021 Indianapolis road course

Allmendinger was overcome with emotion after winning his first Cup race since the 2021 Indianapolis road course

Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images

Don’t get me wrong. Winning, I’m sure, has always been special to those drivers and their teams who get to enjoy it. In the last 20 years, though, what comes with winning NASCAR races has changed. There are more benefits that last well after the winner’s trophy is presented.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But there was something refreshingly sincere and special in Allmendinger’s reaction to his win on Sunday – an element that perhaps hasn’t been lost but overlooked in our focus on championships and how drivers win them.

Although some talented drivers and teams may make it appear so, winning Cup races is no easy task. While it’s easy to see in their results why teams like Hendrick Motorsports, Penske and RFK Racing pour millions of dollars and hours of sweat into doing this, Allmendinger’s win reminds us why everyone else takes to the track every weekend as well.

"I spent many years not even come close to winning. You’re never going to see me get out of the car, do the ‘Yay,’ and walk away" AJ Allmendinger

“I think you see my emotion, and that’s real. It’s raw. I don’t want to be crying on TV, but it comes down to that’s how much I care,” Allmendinger explained. “You know, I hope fans respect that.

“You don’t have to be a fan of mine, but I hope you respect how much I care. The thing I hate most is watching somebody win a race and it’s because they win too much and they get out of the car, and they’re like, ‘Yay,’ and they go, ‘Next.’

“Like okay, that’s how you know you win too much. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to be like that. I spent many years not even come close to winning. You’re never going to see me get out of the car, do the ‘Yay,’ and walk away.”

There seems little chance of that and hopefully so. So, thank you A.J. for reminding us why drivers do what they do, why their families sometimes sacrifice everything to help them do it and why millions of fans still turn in to watch them try.

Allmendinger said repeatedly that winning was special because you never know if it will happen again. That is true. It’s also true the rest of us may never see someone enjoy and appreciate it as much.

Allmendinger sent a timely reminder to observers about the value of winning for those who get to experience victory lane less often

Allmendinger sent a timely reminder to observers about the value of winning for those who get to experience victory lane less often

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

Be part of Autosport community

Join the conversation

Related video

Previous article Larson successfully navigates "conservative" NASCAR Roval run
Next article Larson passes ROP to move one step closer to Indy 500 shot

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe