News & Media

Allmendinger opts for clean driving over dirty win

April 02, 2012, Mark Aumann,

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Over the past 63 years, more than a few drivers have employed the "bump and run" tactic at Martinsville Speedway: Put the bumper to the left rear fender. Knock the leading car out of the racing groove. Drive by on the inside.

AJ Allmendinger -- two laps and one position away from his first Cup Series victory -- certainly had that option available as he chased Ryan Newman following the final restart of Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500.

"[Newman] did everything clean on the restart. He could have drove me off the race track, and if he would have done that then it's kind of like, 'OK, it's game on.' But he gave me all the chances that I could to go beat him."


But that's not the way Allmendinger drives. He ascribes to racing's version of the Golden Rule: Race the other driver the way he races you.

"That's not the way I want to win a race," Allmendinger said.

"[Newman] did everything clean on the restart. He could have drove me off the race track, and if he would have done that then it's kind of like, 'OK, it's game on.' But he gave me all the chances that I could to go beat him."

That's not to say Allmendinger didn't try everything he could to win. On the restart, Allmendinger took the slimmest of leads over Newman's Chevrolet as the field headed into Turn 1. Allmendinger stuck tenaciously to Newman's outside for the rest of the lap.

But sitting in the preferred inside groove, Newman got the better bite off Turn 2 on the final lap -- and that was all she wrote. Newman pulled away to win by .342 seconds.

"We came off the white [flag] side by side and he rolled [Turns] 1 and 2 really good, and that was it," Allmendinger said. "You race people how they race you. And if he would have just drove into the corner, [run into the] left side of me and got me out of the way, then I would have probably run into him. He didn't do that and he didn't deserve to get wrecked."

Besides, in Allmendinger's mind, a desperation move would have only wrecked both cars. And having seen what happened on the previous restart, Allmendinger was willing to accept second -- his best finish in 158 Cup starts.

So there was little disappointment in his voice in his post-race comments.

"For the way we ran all weekend even if the yellow wouldn't have come out, we would have finished eighth where we were running -- I was going to be happy because we were a top 10 car all day," Allmendinger said. "We worked our way up there and did all the right things. From 27th on, from where we started, we didn't have any fender damage. We were clean. I was going to be happy with that. At the end, you get a little bit lucky on a restart and you have a chance."

Lucky might be an understatement. With cars spinning and crashing in front of him -- as the top three cars took each other out -- Allmendinger took evasive action and drove through the melee with nary a scratch, going from eighth to second in the span of less than a quarter-mile.

"I was just focused on Martin [Truex Jr.] because he had two tires," Allmendinger said. "I knew he was probably going to spin the tires. So I was just trying to get a launch on him.

"I got under him on the restart to make it three wide on the bottom and then I looked up and saw [Clint Bowyer] kind of sideways across the curb. From there on, I just tried to stay as low as possible and went over the top of the curb to try to miss everybody."

Based on how the weekend had gone, Allmendinger's finish was definitely the best thing about the trip to Martinsville. Until crew chief Todd Gordon hit on the right setup following Saturday's qualifying, the No. 22 Dodge struggled to find forward bite on a track where acceleration is so critical.

But the race started off with two long green-flag runs, which played perfectly into Allmendinger's hands. He moved from his 27th starting lineup into the top 20 by Lap 125, then cracked the top 10 by the race's midway point.

From that point on, Allmendinger stayed close enough to take advantage of the misfortune that ruined days for Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Bowyer.

"We were pretty bad all weekend and struggling," Allmendinger said. "Todd Gordon and the guys, they went to work. Ultimately, it's just about trying to learn each other, [and] learn what I need in the race car.

"He made some really good changes overnight, and you know, we had a solid top 10 car. I don't think it was a second place car. ... Ultimately, our new tires were just a little bit tight so that's what got us there on the restart. But all in all, just really proud of the day.

"We had a shot at it. That's all you can ask for."

Watch highlights of the Goody's Fast Relief 500: