Allmendinger should make Chase after first career win
AJ Allmendinger has bragging rights in the NASCAR world for the first time in his life.
The 32-year-old won his first-ever Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glenn over the weekend, passing Marcus Ambrose on the final restart before pulling away from the field.
Allmendinger's victory also all but assures him spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which will include 16 drivers that qualify based on wins and points for the season.
Allmendinger, who competes for JTG Daugherty Racing, has 34 top-10 finishes in 213 career races since joining the Sprint Cup circuit in 2006.
Allmendinger's best finish for a season came in 2011, when he placed 15th. His career was previously highlighted by a third-place finish at the 2009 Daytona 500.
Allmendinger was 35th in the final points standings in 2013, and currently sits in 24th place this season.
Four races remain until the start of the Chase, including a trip to Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. The race will be broadcasted on ESPN starting at 1 p.m.
As of Tuesday, it was still unclear when Tony Stewart would return to the track.
Stewart missed the race at Watkins Glenn after he was involved in a tragic accident that claimed the life of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. on Saturday evening.
According to video footage, Stewart bumped Ward Jr., sending the 20-year-old's car into the fence and bringing out the caution flag.
Ward then climbed from his car and, while standing on the track, appeared to gesture with his right arm toward Stewart. After a couple of other cars went past Ward, he was struck by the right side of Stewart's car.
The autopsy revealed that Ward died from massive blunt trauma to the head even though he was wearing a helmet.
Ontario County (N.Y.) sheriff Philip Povero said on Monday that there were no charges pending against Stewart but that an investigation continued.
Stewart is currently 21st in the Sprint Cup points standings and in danger of missing the Chase. Regan Smith drove Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet last week.
Odds and ends ...
... Dale Earnhardt Jr. took over the points lead with his 11th-place finish at Watkins Glenn. Earnhardt grabbed the top spot from teammate Jeff Gordon, who placed 34th after experiencing battery problems.
... Twelve drivers have won at least one race this season. If the season ended today, the four winless drivers that would make the playoff field include: Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, rookie Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer.
... Notable drivers who have yet to reach victory lane this season include Stewart, Newman, Kasey Kahne and Kenseth.