AJ Allmendinger knows that Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen is his best (and maybe only) chance to win a race and make the Cup Series playoffs.
He also knows that the guys who have won 16 of the first 21 races of the season — Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — will be fast again this weekend. And they’ve all won races at Watkins Glen before. They’ll probably be the guys to beat (again) on Sunday.
“I’ve come here and put a lot of pressure on myself,” Allmendinger said. “We all know what the ultimate goal is when we show up here. I think over the past couple of years it’s gotten a little bit more difficult. I think the field is spread out more. This year, we’ve seen the three fastest guys are usually the three fastest guys every weekend. It doesn’t matter what track we go to, unfortunately they’re good everywhere. I think there’s more of a difference I can make here as a driver, but I don’t see why it’s not going to be those three again that are going to be the fastest cars. As a whole, in the series, we’ve got to catch up to them.”
“So, I just come here and do my best and try to get everything I can out of it. And whatever that holds, I think sometimes people look at it like if we don’t win, it’s a full disappointment of the weekend, but we come here and we run Top 5 all weekend and you get a Top 5 finish, that’s still tough to do and that’s still a good day. So, if there’s a chance to win, we’ll take the chance. And if not, we’ll just get the best that we can and for me, just get everything I can out of the weekend.”
Allmendinger won the 2014 race at Watkins Glen. It’s his only Cup Series win and got him into the inaugural version of NASCAR’s win-and-in playoff format. At 23rd in the points standings and over 150 points out of the playoffs on points, Allmendinger has to win to make the playoffs for a second time.
It has to be a mental struggle for a driver who excels at road course racing like Allmendinger not to push himself too far at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. He’s not afraid to admit that he’s put too much pressure on himself at times and he also admitted Friday that he’s still thinking about what happened at Sonoma.
He had a fast car in the early stages of the race but his engine blew up because he missed a shift.
“I’m not over it yet and it was pretty simple,” Allmendinger said. “I missed a shift. That was it. Bad mistake. And something I’ve never really done before. And, yeah, it’s still on my mind, for sure.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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