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Allmendinger gradually climbed through the ranks to the Champ Car series, where he won five times in 2006. But a fracture within the sport drove him to stock cars, and his dream of taking the green flag in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” was put on hold.

He never could have imagined it would come this year, under these circumstances.

“The start of it was not a good experience, though,” Allmendinger said. “I was like, the biggest sissy on the planet. I probably had the worst start in Indy history, from fifth back to like, 20th on the back straightway. The first stint I was struggling.”

J.R. Hildebrand crashed on Lap 4, and that gave Allmendinger a chance to breath.

“Once the yellow came out, I just calmed down and thought about what I needed to do to make passes,” he said. “Once I figured it out, the car was a rocket ship. It was phenomenal.”

Then his seatbelt came loose and Allmendinger was forced to pit from the lead. His team quickly tightened it again, but he was shuffled back in the pack and out of sequence.

In Allmendinger’s opinion, that misfortune may have cost him the race.

“It just popped,” he said. “After that, we had to pit early every time. I’d come back out seventh or eighth and have to pick my way back through.”

Even then, Allmendinger thought he had a chance to steal the win.

Right up until the final caution came out.