Just two corners into Sunday's 95-lap Grand Prix of Cleveland polesitter AJ Allmendinger was spinning into the grass, his chances of victory seemingly over. However some two hours later he was celebrating one of the most unlikely victories in recent series history.
Allmendinger emerged victorious in one of the craziest races seen in many a long season to become the first American born driver since Michael Andretti in 1996 to win back to back races and move into a clear third place in the championship standings.
The 23-year old American crossed the line more than three-seconds clear of Bruno Junqueira to the line by 3.279 seconds to take the win with PKV Racing's Oriol Servia following closely behind in third spot.
A large Cleveland crowd, more than 50,000 according to the series, were on their feet from the word go as cars were sent spinning in every direction on the run out of the first turn, led by Allmendinger himself, who later admitted to his own mistake.
Andrew Ranger and Charles Zwolsman spun, Cristiano da Matta was clipped and Alex Tagliani suffered light damage as he avoided Zwolsman. Farther ahead, Paul Tracy tried to split the Newman/Haas cars of Junqueira and Sebastien Bourdais, but ended up flying up and over the Bourdais car as the three got together leading into turn three.
Having been smacked in the head by one of Tracy's tyres, the championship leader was briefly knocked unconscious and it took several laps for the Champ Car Safety team to remove him from his car. However after a precautionary trip to the hospital Bourdais was released in time for the finish of the race with no apparent injuries.
“I was slowly fading away as the pressure (from the bottom of Tracy's race car) was increasing,” a very lucky Bourdais was able to tell the media later. “Maybe his tyre hit me when he came up but it was the bottom of his car that was on top of my head. I probably lost a little consciousness because by the time the whole thing stopped I didn't know if it was a dream or where I was, what happened. I couldn't put everything together.
“For example I don't remember (assistant team manager) Kenny (Siwieck) calling me three times or answering him. At some point I started coming out of it and saw people running toward the car. I don't know what happened; I haven't seen the video so I can't comment too much. I know I didn't change my line but don't know how Tracy got on my head.
“That's what can happen when you race wheel to wheel. I got turned around and the next thing I knew was that there was a car on top of my head. He missed the roll bar and was pushing me down into the cockpit; I was the shock absorber for him. I must have started losing consciousness then because the next thing I remember was being stopped in the grass and people coming at me.”