AJ Allmendinger holds off Marcos Ambrose to win at Watkins Glen for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
JTG Daugherty team celebrates, but sends thoughts and prayers to family, Stewart RELATED: Complete coverage of Tony Stewart incident WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- The theatrics and fireworks of NASCAR's brand of road-course racing was omnipresent as usual at Watkins Glen International , but so was an underlying solemn tone of remembrance after the events of the night before. While AJ Allmendinger celebrated his first Sprint Cup Series victory in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen and the sealing of his postseason fate, a strong portion of his thoughts were clearly devoted to Kevin Ward Jr., the 20-year-old victim of a sprint-car incident involving Tony Stewart . "I think it's one of those things that you look back at and it's a tough time for everybody," said Allmendinger . "I said on TV after the race, this NASCAR community, as a whole we're a family, and when anything like that happens, it's something that you don't just kind of erase and you forget about. And all of our thoughts and prayers, and it may not seem like it, or I wish there was more to do, but it goes to the Ward family and what happened. It also goes to Tony because it's not like he's sitting there and forgetting about it. It's a tough scenario. "You just try to come together. That's all you can do. You try to be thankful every day for the things that we have, the things that we're able to share together, and you also know that there's a lot less fortunate out there and there's a lot of disasters, whether it's in racing or not. You just try to keep that in perspective and always have your thoughts and prayers and do whatever you can to help out and be better with it." Ward was declared dead on arrival at a local hospital Saturday night after he was struck while on foot by Stewart's sprint car during a 25-lap main event for the touring Empire Super Sprints series at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, a half-mile dirt track on the Ontario County Fairgrounds. The county sheriff's office continue to investigate the incident and said Sunday that no criminal charges are pending. Stewart was absent at the track Sunday with NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Regan Smith replacing him in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet. Several of Stewart's fellow Sprint Cup drivers declined comment on the incident, with some saying details were too sparse to make an informed statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Ward family," said third-place finisher Kurt Busch, a first-year teammate to Stewart at the Stewart-Haas operation. "It was a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody involved. It's a tough situation for the motorsports world. I'm not at liberty really to speak anymore of it." While the mood of Allmendinger's JTG Daugherty team was buoyant after that operation's first win in NASCAR's premier series, the organization's brass was quick to temper their joy in light of the recent events. "Obviously just a catastrophic evening last evening," said team co-owner Brad Daugherty, also an ESPN analyst. "Our sympathies go out to the family that lost the young man. And it's been a difficult day for the Stewart‑Haas organization. We all recognize that and we all feel like we're all family because we travel 36 weeks out of the year it seems like 100 years together. Our hearts go out to Tony, but specifically out to the family. "It's a tremendous loss, and I thought that Stewart‑Haas and Tony and those guys did the right thing by showing the appropriate respect to the situation as well as the family ‑‑ more importantly to the family by not racing today. We'll see what unfolds of that, but our thoughts and prayers go out to that family." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
AJ Allmendinger talks about the impact of a Sprint Cup Series win at Watkins Glen and his personal journey.
Salutes former team as he continues quest to make the Chase RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Third-place finisher Kurt Busch had a front-row seat as AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose beat and banged for a victory on Sunday at Watkins Glen International and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. When asked what strategy Ambrose should have employed in the final laps of the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, Busch said, "He should have wrecked Allmendinger ." Sounding like "The Intimidator from Down Under," Ambrose said, "I tried to rattle his cage and couldn't shake him. We raced fair and square to the end there. It was a tough couple laps but it was fair. We were both giving it to each other pretty hard. No harm, no foul. We just came up a little short." Ambrose had too much respect for his competitor, the No. 47 team and racing in general to spin and win. The Australian driver spent two full seasons with Allmendinger's JTG Daugherty Racing before moving to his current team, Richard Petty Motorsports , in 2011. "They are good friends over there," Ambrose said. "I drove for those guys a long time, and I was never able to seal the deal with a win for them. I am pleased that they were able to get a win, and I am thrilled for AJ too, that is a big win." Ambrose led 19 circuits from Lap 33 through Lap 51 and never fell below second place over the final 20 laps, running side-by-side with Allmendinger down the stretch. With four laps to go, Ambrose and Allmendinger were within .003 seconds of each other at the start/finish line. The turning point for Ambrose came on the sixth and final yellow flag at Lap 88 when Denny Hamlin spun into the barrels at the entrance to pit road. The race to the field being frozen under caution was on and Allmendinger won it. "I can't remember much of it, but I know there was a lot of door banging going on and a lot of corners where we were side by side," Ambrose said. "I got my tires really hot during that and slid coming off Turn 11 after I got the lead and he got it back before the caution dropped. "That was probably the difference between winning and losing. If I could have had the lead when the caution came out I probably would have had the advantage on the restart and probably would have been able to fend him off. That is just racing. That is what it is all about. You try to take a couple chances, and I am just pleased we got through the esses side by side without wrecking the whole field. It could have easily happened." On Saturday, Ambrose earned his fourth NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Watkins Glen with a Richard Petty Motorsports research and development team. On Sunday, he liked his chances of completing the first weekend sweep at the facility with his full-time No. 9 Sprint Cup team, which used a precious test at the Glen to get a win and join the No. 43 team and Aric Almirola in the Chase. "I am just really proud of my Stanley team," Ambrose said. "We put a lot of effort into this race and really tried to win it. We won yesterday and came up one short today." With four races to go until the Chase, his focus remains on winning his way into NASCAR's playoffs, but he's also aware of his points situation heading into Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. "Man, I just finished the closest race of my life," Ambrose said. "I haven't thought about points or anything. I will look at it Monday. "We are decent in the championship position. I think we are 16th or something. We need to score points, but we really need to focus on winning." Ambrose is indeed 16th in points, 50 markers behind Clint Bowyer, who holds the last provisional spot on points. But the win was the thing for Ambrose, who enjoyed rubbing and racing with Allmendinger , just not as much as he did when he and Brad Keselowski slam-danced their way to the start/finish line in 2012. Was Sunday's run was as exciting as that epic dash to the checkered flag two years ago? "Not for me personally," Ambrose said. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
An ecstatic AJ Allmendinger reacts to winning his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen.
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