(WATKINS GLEN, N.Y.) — After eight years and 213 starts, AJ Allmendinger can finally call himself a winner after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Cheez-It 355 on Sunday.
The day began when Tony Stewart withdrew from the race about 12 hours after he struck and killed 20-year-old sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. in a race after Ward climbed from his car on a small dirt track.
“It’s a tough time for everybody,” Allmendinger said. “This NASCAR community, as a whole, we’re a family. When anything like that happens, it’s something that you don’t get time to erase and forget about. Our thoughts and prayers go to the Ward family and what happened.
“And it also goes to Tony. It’s not like he’s sitting there and forgetting about it.”
The race did serve as a much-needed distraction, as Allmendinger held off Marcus Ambrose and Kurt Busch.
“I dreamed about this moment and I’m not going to forget it,” said Allmendinger, making his 213th Cup start. “It’s just a dream come true.”
Allmendinger’s first Sprint Cup race was back in 2007.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
John Newsome and Anne Woolsey, CNN