By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — AJ Allmendinger’s shot at an Indianapolis sweep was derailed Sunday by a double whammy.
First, he struggled with such searing heat inside the car he needed a post-race trip to the track’s infield care center. Then, on the final restart, the natural chaotic pushing and shoving of an overtime scramble to the finish took him out of contention on the Brickyard’s road course.
But it was the failure of his personal cooling shirt throughout the entire race that was most troublesome: Allmendinger seemed to fall out of his car after the race and rushed to lean over an interior wall, where his wife and other team members draped him in wet towels and doused him with cold water.
He was shirtless and covered in a towel when he went to Indy’s medical center for about 30 minutes of treatment.
“I feel fine,” he said. “It was hot from the start of the race but the problem was I still had the cooling shirt on so it just made it even hotter in the car. I was doing OK, but with 20 to go, I ran out of water, the helmet blower started to feel hot as well.”
A much cooler and healthier-looking Allmendinger emerged in street clothes and walked to his golf cart.
It wasn’t how the 40-year-old Californian envisioned ending what started as such a promising weekend. He won the Xfinity Series race on the road course on Saturday, was the defending Cup winner and in second on the final restart with a chance to sweep the weekend.
But Allmendinger was clearly struggling at the end.
At one point, he disgustedly tossed aside the empty water bottle. Late cautions made the already challenging conditions inside the No. 16 Chevrolet even more difficult.
“Just riding around under yellow makes it worse,” Allmendinger said. “During green, I can be OK. But when you get heat-soaked in the car under yellow, those last few laps were very brutal.”
Somehow, though, Allmendinger still had a shot despite qualifying 20th on Saturday and enduring an early spin into the sand. He recovered by methodically working his way back into contention — despite the rising temperatures.
On the final restart, Allmendinger was starting side-by-side with race leader and eventual winner Tyler Reddick. But as Allmendinger came down the front straightaway and headed toward the looping left first turn in the outside lane, he already sensed he was in trouble.
“The way turn one is here, if you’re on the outside front on one of those late race restarts, you’re just going to get run into,” he said. “You just get shoved off the race track, so I figured I was going to get shoved off the race track and just make the best of it. I felt like we did.”
Allmendinger crossed the yard of bricks in eighth but wound up seventh when series officials penalized Ross Chastain for using the access road after the final restart.
Clearly, though, this road course has become one of Allmendinger’s favorites.
A year ago, he won the Xfinity pole before settling for second to Austin Cindric. The next day, Allmendinger won the Cup’s inaugural race on Indy’s 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course — a race marred by several late crashes and a red flag to fix deteriorating curbing.
Then this weekend, Allmendinger nearly pulled off the perfect weekend.
He captured the Xfinity pole Friday, reached victory lane Saturday and was in contention late Sunday — until the heat and the late restart prevented him from celebrating on victory podium yet again.
“Once you get green, you suck it up and we had a shot to win the race so that’s all that mattered,” Allmendinger said. “At the end of the day, we gave ourselves a shot to win in a two row.”