NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR takeaways: AJ Allmendinger conquers Charlotte, playoff field to 8
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR takeaways: AJ Allmendinger conquers Charlotte, playoff field to 8

Updated Oct. 8, 2023 9:19 p.m. ET

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — AJ Allmendinger has worn his emotions on his sleeve when he gets frustrated.

So when he cried a little when he won Sunday on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, few who knew Allmendinger were surprised.

The 41-year-old Allmendinger won a Cup race for the third time in his career and the first time in his last 51 starts, spoiling the hopes of playoff drivers to either pad their playoff points or enjoy a walk-off moment with a win to advance to the Round of 8.

"I put a lot of a lot of anguish on my shoulders when we're struggling, and you never know when you're going to get a Cup win again," Allmendinger said after his third career Cup win in his 426th career Cup start.


"So we're going to celebrate this one."

Kyle Busch came the closest of pulling off a historic moment but he finished third in a must-win situation. Busch, Ross Chastain, Bubba Wallace and Brad Keselowski were eliminated from championship contention. 

William Byron and Ryan Blaney, who had won the first two races of the Round of 12, entered Sunday knowing they would advance to NASCAR's version of its semifinal round. Denny Hamlin clinched a spot after the second stage Sunday. Christopher Bell, Chris Buescher, Kyle Larson, Tyler Reddick and Martin Truex Jr. also advanced.

Takeaways from the race Sunday, where Byron finished second, followed by Busch, Ty Gibbs and Joey Logano:

Allmendinger Win Salvages Season

Allmendinger, in his first full Cup season since 2018, has had a little bit of a frustrating season at 21st in the standings with just two top-5s. It has been a respectable season, but he won 10 races in the previous two years in the Xfinity Series.

He had won the last four races in the Xfinity Series on the Charlotte road course, so he entered Sunday knowing a win was quite possible. He started sixth.

AJ Allmendinger captures the Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte

"There's just a lot of nuances and technique you got to use in different parts of the racetrack, and I've just got a good feel for it," Allmendinger said. "This is a race that [my crew] and myself and everybody at Kaulig Racing circled the last three or four weeks knowing that if we were going to have a chance to win, this was the race.

"We started working on the setup about a month ago. And thankfully it worked out."

Byron said he couldn't do much to catch Allmendinger.

"I was pushing him really hard, but he's just so good on the road courses," Byron said.

Kaulig has not announced yet that Allmendinger will return to the Cup car next year. He will race either full time in Cup or the Xfinity Series for the team.

"Of course I want to stay here," Allmendinger said. "I feel like I belong in Cup."

But Allmendinger wasn't worrying about it Sunday night.

"It's a Cup victory," Allmendinger said. "I don't care about anything else but going home ... and celebrating and knowing my liver is going to hurt a little bit tomorrow."

Busch Close But Not Enough

Busch led six laps and was in contention up until the final handful of laps when Allmendinger and Byron pulled away. He knew he needed a win to advance.

All the drivers eliminated could look in the mirror — Busch blamed himself for pushing it too much in wrecking at Texas, Keselowski and Chastain were at least partially to blame for their wrecks at Talladega and Wallace had not earned a playoff point this year, meaning he needed to have three great races or win to advance.

"I was trying to do what the car gave me," Busch said. "I was overstepping that a couple more times again, but I didn't crash, which is good. ... It's bittersweet. I hate it. It rides on me."

Of the drivers eliminated, only Wallace had never been to the Round of 12.

"We did everything we could — we can't be mad at that," Wallace said. "We weren't supposed to be in the playoffs. We weren't supposed to be in the Round of 12."

Truex Squeaks In

Regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. advanced despite a 20th-place finish. He has not had a finish better than 17th in the playoffs but with his three wins and the regular-season bonus points, he has been able to advance.

He made it by 12 points over Ross Chastain, a relatively comfortable cushion. But if Busch had pulled out the victory, he would have been eliminated.

"I didn't create the system," Truex said. "We used it to our advantage. That [performance] won't get us through the next one. The next one, you've got to be running up front.

"Two winners of the next three races are probably going to be playoff guys that are still going. We need to turn it up and we need to figure it out quickly."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.


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