By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Though second in the race, AJ Allmendinger was first in line to sing the praises of race winner, Kyle Larson.
Following a spirited five-lap battle Sunday at Watkins Glen International, Allmendinger settled for the runner-up spot while Larson edged away mistake-free toward his second checkered flag of 2022.
And despite the bitter loss for the part-time Cup Series racer, Allmendinger complimented the reigning champion for a race well won.
“When it’s Kyle Larson… finishing second sucks, let’s get that straight,” Allmendinger said. “But, when it’s to Kyle Larson… I’ve said once, I’ve said it 1,000 times: He’s the most badass driver on the planet right now. I don’t care what you put him in, he can go win and he shows it pretty much every day.
“It’s tough to finish second to him, but we were there. He doesn’t really make any mistakes so I was pushing really hard.”
Starting the race on wet tires, Allmendinger spun early in Turn 1, pushing his Kaulig Racing No. 16 behind the eight ball. From there, aggressive strategy and consistent pace brought the two-time road course winner into the top three in the closing laps.
“We had to fight hard getting spun early, using all the strategy,” he said. “Honestly, it was probably one of the most fun racecars I’ve ever driven in my life. The thing was hooked up.”
Unfortunately for him, Larson was that much faster. And the Sunday finish nearly mirrored Saturday’s Xfinity Series finish, where he came up short of a blue Hendrick Cars Chevrolet.
“Yesterday [in Xfinity race], we kind of got gifted a second place. Today, we earned it,” he said. “Honestly, I think it was the same deal. If I could have gotten in front of [Larson], I don’t know if he passes me. We were pretty equal, it was just in different parts of the racetrack.
“I could really get close to him through the bus stop and then I was too loose in the last half of the racetrack. These cars get aero-sensitive, that’s why I thought if I could get in front of him, I would probably be good.”
The result was Allmendinger’s fourth career top-five finish at Watkins Glen, winning previously in 2014.
“I did everything I could,” he said. “I was happy to come out second and have a shot for it to be me and Kyle to try and win the race. It is what it is. We had a shot to win a Cup race so you can’t be too pissed off about it.”