While delighted with his third place in the Daytona 500, AJ Allmendinger admitted that it could have been an even better result for the Richard Petty Motorsports team.
On a lap 146 restart, and just nine laps before NASCAR officials decided to throw the red flag as rain descended on Daytona International Speedway, Allmendinger's RPM team-mate Elliott Sadler had been leading the race, with the squad's third entry, driven by Reed Sorenson, sitting in third spot and Allmendinger fourth.
However, three laps after the race went green, Matt Kenseth received a push from the fast-charging Kevin Harvick and took the lead. Sorensen, meanwhile, got moved high up the banking by Harvick, dropping him back down the order.
Allmendinger, meanwhile, reacted quickly to the move, ducking in behind Harvick so that, when the caution for Aric Almirola's second spin of the day – and the ensuing red for rain that arrived during the caution – he was sitting pretty in third spot, claiming a podium finish when his first appearance in the blue riband event was finally curtailed 48 laps early.
“I was hoping it was going to rain when Elliott was leading and Reed was second and I was fourth - that would have been a really great result for the team,” the Champ Car convert confessed.
“But Kevin had a great run and got under me, [and] that kind of shuffled Reed out. I had to kind of dive down with him because I was going to get really shuffled out if I didn't get back in line.”
Allmendinger had special reason for hoping that his two team-mates got the result their showing in the first three-quarters of the race appeared to deserve. Needing to race his way into the 500, the #44 Valvoline Dodge driver received help from both Sadler and Sorenson to make it through his Gatorade Duel.
“I was trying to push Reed and Elliott as much as I could,” he revealed, “They are the ones that got me into the race, so ii was my turn to return the favour and try to get them the win.
“Elliott and Reed were a big factor of why I got into this race - that was a lot of teamwork that was involved to get that to happen. Like I said, I wish it would have rained a little bit earlier so we could have had a Cinderella story, had Elliott and all of us in the top five.”