AJ Allmendinger is off Kyle Larson’s Christmas card list. Larson went from a top five finish to being in danger of missing NASCAR’s Chase after a hard crash at the end of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.
Larson and Allmendinger were both in contention for the win Sunday, a win that would lock either one of the drivers into the Chase. Nearing the end of the race, both Allmendinger, who won at Watkins Glen in 2014 and Larson who is still searching for his first Cup win, were contesting for a top five finish. On the final corner of the final lap, Larson was leading with Allmendinger close behind. Allmendinger got into the Chevy of Larson sending the car nose first into the wall at the entrance to pit road.
Allmendinger went onto finish fourth, Larson was credited with 29th and he was none too happy after it was over.
“We were about a 10th place car and we were going to get a top five day out of it,” Larson said. “We were running sixth coming to (Turn) 7; the No. 47 (Allmendinger) was behind me.”
“He is always aggressive,” he added. “I figured he would be smart. Obviously, the No. 78 was spinning in front of us. That is a free spot for both of us and just dumped me. He had already ran me down to the front stretch wall once with about 15 to go or so.
“Pretty dumb move right there too, but I was the smarter one racing for points, lifted, could have wrecked him, but didn’t. I don’t know. I don’t know. He wrecked me earlier in the year at Vegas. He has ran me hard, but we always race pretty well, but today was flat out stupid. I love his crew chief (Randall Burnett) to death; he was our engineer last year. It just sucks they are going to have to start building some more race cars because he has got a few coming.”
For Allmendinger’s part, he was a bit more conciliatory.
“I turned him,” Allmendinger said. “Not on purpose. The No. 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) started to spin and Kyle and I were racing for fifth there. He defended on the inside, which he should have. And I tried to cut under him off of the last corner and the No. 78 was coming back across the race track. I was under him. He turned. And I just clipped him.
“I’m just not very happy with myself on that,” he added. “I don’t want to do that, especially for fourth place. And he did a great job. It’s on me. I never meant to do it. It’s not going to help the case. I know he’s going to be pissed off and he should be pissed off. I’d be.”
The finish for Larson has worse implications. Without a win Larson is in danger of falling off the Chase grid. He is currently 15th in points, and 16th on the Chase grid. Chris Buescher, who won last week at Pocono can move into the Chase, and eliminate a winless Larson, should Buescher move into the top 30 in points. Buescher left Watkins Glen 3 points out of 30th.