Race Weekend Central

Only Yesterday: The Emotion of Winning Still Exists


Every race car driver, no matter what, when or where they drive, wants to do it.

Sometimes, drivers win a lot, such as Richard Petty or Kyle Busch. The feeling of winning is just too good, but sometimes the emotion of winning gets lost. The more you win, the more expected it becomes. When that happens, a driver can experience more emotion in losing than when they win.

Enter A.J. Allmendinger.

Allmendinger notched his third career NASCAR Cup Series win on Sunday (Oct. 8) at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, and just like the previous two times, his energy was through the roof. Listen to his radio after he takes the checkered flag, and you can’t make it out any words he is saying — if he’s saying any coherent words at all — as his screams of joy typically overpower any attempt at speaking.

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Allmendinger seems to be a part of a minute group of people in NASCAR who are emotional about winning, no matter when or where he does it. It’s not like he isn’t used to winning — he has 17 wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, including two this season at Circuit of the Americas and Nashville Superspeedway.

It’s been a wild ride for Allmendinger in his Cup Series career, which might be the reason he treats all his wins as special. But it’s proof that the emotions of winning still exist in NASCAR.

Some of NASCAR’s greatest victories have had emotional drivers in the center of it. Jamie McMurray’s Daytona 500 win in 2010 was popular with many after he broke down in victory lane.

Jeff Gordon won his first career win in NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, in a day Gordon described as the greatest day of his life.

Of course, then Gordon went onto win the inaugural Brickyard 400 a few weeks later, calling that moment the greatest of his life. Gordon grew up in Indiana, so to earn his first two wins at crown jewels, with the second coming in front of a hometown crowd, is a feeling one can only imagine.

Even Gordon’s final career win came packed with emotion. In his retirement season in 2015, he picked up a ticket to the Championship 4 by virtue of winning at Martinsville Speedway, one of his best tracks.

Emotion in motorsports is so fun. To watch men go out and risk their lives to drive at 200 miles per hour just to celebrate like a little kid on Christmas is sure to put a smile on almost any person’s face.

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The fun doesn’t stop at wins. Championship victories are usually chock-full of emotions. Perhaps there was none more exciting and full of pandemonium than that of Martin Truex Jr.‘s 2017 title. All the adversity Truex had to overcome in his 12-year Cup Series career up to that point resulted in an absolutely dominant season in which Truex was overcome with emotion after winning the title.

In recent years, the same drivers have come to dominate the sport, and that’s OK. But as I said earlier, the more a driver wins, the more likely they are to be more blasé because of the fact that they’ve been in that situation before. They know that they are able to continually win, and while winning is nice, there’s less emotion behind the win as much as there is enjoyment afterward.

Allmendinger serves as a reminder that you can still soak in every moment of a win, regardless of how often you do it. The phrase “act like you’ve been there before” bears no meaning when you win at the highest echelon of NASCAR.

Allmendinger’s win at the ROVAL came amidst uncertainty of what he’s going to do in 2024, therefore he celebrated a little harder than he had when he won his previous Cup race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2021 — which is surprising when you consider that he was excited at Indy too.

Drivers who don’t know if they’ll be racing the next season usually show more emotion than you would normally expect them to. Allmendinger said it himself: “Treat every win like it’s your last.” Such was the case for Matt Kenseth, who was left without a ride for 2018 after being replaced by Erik Jones. In the penultimate race at Phoenix Raceway in 2017, he won his final career race, riding off into the sunset in a sea of emotion.

But for Allmendinger, he knows he’s going to keep racing, whether it’s in the Cup or Xfinity series. Yet he still broke down on the cool-down lap. Because that’s who Allmendinger is. And he brings a consistent level of excitement to winning that just makes you smile.

It’s something that drivers should consider more often. Bubba Wallace sure didn’t hold back emotions in his two career Cup wins to date. He’s likely another who will celebrate every win like it’s his last.

Clint Bowyer was the same way. But of course, Bowyer was just a hoot to begin with, so that was expected out of him.

A win is a win. So celebrate accordingly.

Because after all, what’s more fun than finishing first?

About the author


Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Carl D.

I was there for Gordon’s first win at Charlotte and I remember the tears. Jeff and then-wife Brooke actually celebrated in the infield after the win. I even remember that half-ass mustache he was sporting back then.

Bill B

It’s nice to see such emotion when it’s the exception rather than the rule. I would think it would get annoying if it happened every week and there wasn’t some compelling reason for that win to be considered “special” by a driver (like his father just passed away, or it’s his final win before retirement, or he just came back from an injury, or his father died in a wreck at that very track the previous race, etc..).

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