BIG DAY FOR THE ‘DINGER — AJ Allmendinger scored his career-best NASCAR Sprint Cup finish with a runner-up effort behind Ryan Newman in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500. While it’s true that he benefited hugely from the wad of wrecked cars in front of him when the race went to a green-white-checkered finish, still it has a well-earned highlight moment for Allmendinger.
“For the way we ran all weekend even if the yellow wouldn't have come out, we would have finished eighth where we were running,” said Allmendinger, who earned his fifth top-five finish in 158 Sprint Cup starts. “I was going to be happy because we were a Top-10 car all day. We worked our way up there and did all the right things. From 27th on, from where we started, we didn't have any fender damage. We were clean. I was going to be happy with that. At the end, you get a little bit lucky on a restart and you have a chance.”
Allmendinger said he had a good car, but not good enough to take Newman on the outside on the final restart. And Allmendinger wasn’t about to wreck him for him first victory. “He ran me really clean,” Allmendinger said of Newman. “He didn't shove me up the racetrack like he could have. He gave me the opportunity to beat him on the outside there. We just were not turning good enough in the center there on the restart. But we had a shot at it. That's all you can ask for.”
KENSETH BEST IN CLASS — The Roush Fenway Racing Fords weren’t fast at all on Friday or Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, but Matt Kenseth managed to finish the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 in an excellent fourth place. Considering the fact that he regards this as one of his worst tracks, that’s not too shabby.
“We were pretty good. We weren’t a good as those three Hendrick cars and sometimes the 11 (Denny Hamlin), especially on a short run, but for us at Martinsville it was pretty good,” said Kenseth. “We’ve just got to keep working because even when we had the balance perfect I just couldn’t run with those guys. But, overall, we came home in the top 10 at Martinsville and to not have anybody mad and not be mad at anybody is probably a pretty good day.”
GREAT RUN FOR ALMIROLA — One of the day’s more impressive performers in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 was Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola, who finished an excellent eighth and ran in the top 10 much of the race. It was Almirola’s third top-10 finish in 41 career Cup starts.
“We had a good day,” said Almirola. “The car was good on a long run, but it just wouldn’t take off so we’ve got to go back and look to see if we can make that better, but, overall, it was a good day. As long as we kept having those long green flag runs our Smithfield Ford was fast.”
Almirola’s crew was especially swift on pit road, a big reason why he had his best finish of the season.
“We did a really good job in the pits,” he said. “I’m proud of everybody on pit road. We maintained and gained spots all day, so we had a great day. I was proud of that. The way we’ve been running, to be able to come back and rebound and go into a weekend off with a top 10 is important.”
MIXED BAG FOR HAMLIN — Most people would be happy with a sixth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway. Not Denny Hamlin. While Hamlin brought his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota home sixth in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, only once in the last 12 races has he finished worse that sixth at the 0.526-mile track, so this one was nothing to get excited about.
“We wished we could have run a little better than what we ran today,” Hamlin said. “We just tried a new setup — trying to see if we could make some big gains for the fall and just didn't have it all figured out today. We brought a new car here and it looks like it needs some different things than what we typically run. Today, we just were an average car.”
Asked if the outcome disappointed him, Hamlin said it did.
“It's not bad, but it's not where we're accustomed to,” he said. “We're accustomed to leading laps and being in a fight with those guys — those Hendrick cars at the front of the field. They were just far more superior than us today. We're going to go back to work and see what we got.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.