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AJ Allmendinger Nets Competitive Top 10 at Nashville

AJ Allmendinger winked his way to a top 10 result in Sunday evening’s Ally 400 at Nashville. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

LEBANON, Tenn. – In the past seven weeks, AJ Allmendinger has emerged as a genuine contender for a NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs position.

After a 29th-place finish due to an accident in the GEICO 500 at Talladega, the 41-year-old native of Los Gatos, California, has shown remarkable progress. With the exception of a 23rd-place finish in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington, the driver of the No. 16 Celsius Chevrolet fielded by Kaulig Racing has placed 14th or better.

The positive trend continued for the two-time Cup race winner following Sunday evening’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. Despite qualifying 19th, it was evident that Allmendinger had a car capable of contending for a strong finish, especially with the 10th fastest time in Saturday’s practice session.

Once the race began at the 1.33-mile concrete track, Allmendinger wasted little time climbing up the leaderboard. At the end of Stage 1, he finished in 10th place, earning a valuable stage point.

More progress was made in Stage 2, a critical moment in the race as the transition from late afternoon to nightfall took place. Likewise, Allmendinger exhibited methodical and smooth driving, working his way to an eighth-place finish and earning three stage points.

It is not farfetched for Allmendinger to make the Playoffs via points based on his recent, consistent efforts. (Photo: Eric Parks | The Podium Finish)

By Stage 3, Allmendinger consistently found himself inside the top 10 based on pure pace. Although he dropped to 10th in the final rundown, it was a productive race for the experienced veteran driver, scoring 31 points and moving up to 19th in the championship standings.

Undoubtedly, the 16-year Cup competitor was pleased with the respectable run, which resulted in 116 green flag passes, with 82.7% of the race spent inside the top 15. Allmendinger achieved a driver rating of 90.3, the ninth-best among the 36-driver field.

“We had a really good day,” Allmendinger said. “Our car was well-balanced throughout the day; we didn’t need to make adjustments. We just couldn’t get the track positions, lost spots on pit road, and had to make up for it. At the end of the day, that probably cost us three or four spots overall.”

Nevertheless, it was the kind of race that he and his team needed to maintain their recent momentum. Sitting 24 points behind the 16th and final Playoffs transfer position held by Daniel Suárez, the Californian has a potential route to secure a postseason spot through points.

After a win in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, Allmendinger backed up his victory with a top 10 in Sunday night’s Ally 400. (Photo: Trish McCormack | The Podium Finish)

With Round 18 taking place at the Chicago Street Course on Sunday, July 2 (5:30 p.m. ET on NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), there is a chance to clinch a Playoffs spot with a victory.

Of course, this opportunity is not lost on Allmendinger, especially considering his team’s progress in the opening 17 races of the year.

“I’m proud of the team,” he said. “We are making a lot of progress, and we had a lot of speed all weekend. I’m looking forward to going to a street course here to hopefully make up some more ground.”

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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