NASCAR: A.J. Allmendinger ready to do “whatever it takes” to get a victory

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A.J. Allmendinger needs a win in these final five regular season races to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. So while he’d rather earn a victory without controversy this weekend at Watkins Glen, he’ll take one any way he can get it.

When asked about what he’d do to win if he were running second on the final lap in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355, Allmendinger said he’d do “whatever it takes” while noting that “you race people how they race you.”

“That sets the idea of how you are going to race that person throughout the course of a race,” he said today at the Glen before running fourth in the first Sprint Cup practice session of the weekend.

“When it comes down to the end having a shot to win this race – I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s a tough sport. Unless you are Jimmie Johnson or somebody like that you don’t get that many opportunities to win a race.

“Whatever I have to do to win it, but I will be the first one to say I don’t want to win it in controversy either. I want to go out right and say ‘I earned that win and I won it the right way.’ If I have to stray a little bit, I will.”

He then elaborated on what “a little bit” meant: “I won’t come barreling in the corner and out right just crash the guy on purpose and just say I won the race because of that. But if he’s got to be moved out of the way or whatever, I’m going to do it.”

‘Dinger can’t afford to hold back right now, as he sits 113 points behind the 16th-place cutoff in the Chase standings. Only a victory will be able to get him a post-season berth, which would be a feather in the cap of his single-car JTG Daugherty Racing team.

JTG was among several squads that recently tested at the Glen, and Allmendinger believes it was time well spent.

“The main thing for our test was to really just make the box a lot smaller, so when we got here, we didn’t have to throw big things at it and hope to make a big difference,” he said.

“I felt like we really shortened the box in our race car to what we need to try just little stuff throughout the weekend to keep up with the race track.  For that reason, I thought it was a successful test.”

But will that extra work pay off the way he hopes it will? Allmendinger said he didn’t want to make the weekend “all or nothing” but knows that he and his team are capable of something big.

“I feel like if we do the right things, we can be in contention to win the race,” he said.

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.