AJ Allmendinger finished seventh in his first Indianapolis 500 but was left to wonder what could have been after a loose harness forced him to pit from the lead on lap 113. The unexpected stop placed Allmendinger on a different pit strategy that nearly took him out of contention.
A series of late cautions brought Allmendinger back to the lead pack but he was only able to get to seventh before another caution ended the race on lap 197.
Overall, Allmendinger was satisfied with his debut Indy experience and spent post-race picking apart some of the finer details of his day. He was especially disappointed in his approach at the start of the race. Allmendinger qualified fifth but was 15th by lap five.
In hindsight, Allmendinger would have been more aggressive at the drop of the green flag.
"I was sissy on the start," Allmendinger said. "That might have been the worst Indy 500 start ever. I went from like fifth to 20th in one lap. I'll be ready next time. After that, it took me about 40 laps to settle down."
Allmendinger said that the lap 35 caution settled him down and that's when he got comfortable and started thinking about a game plan. After a few adjustments on pit road, the No. 2 Chevrolet came alive and he would first take the lead on lap 99.
"It was almost too easy at times just to go by the guys," Allmendinger said. "It was probably the coolest feeling in my life to take the lead at Indy and lead the 500. That's a feeling I'll never forget."
Allmendinger called the events surrounding his harness coming undone a sign from God and ultimately decided that a victory in his first attempt just wasn't meant to be.
"I guess it was God's way of saying, ‘Maybe you're not going to win it your first time,'" Allmendinger said. "It was 130 laps in, so it wasn't like they were loose or anything, and it just popped out. Maybe it was because my heart was beating too hard from leading the race.
"But it came undone. I tried to do it down the back straightaway. I tried to loosen it back up and stick it back in but that just wasn't going to happen."
Allmendinger led 23 laps and will return to the IndyCar Series next weekend on the streets of Belle Isle in Detroit. He said earlier in the week that he was open to joining the Series full-time as long as car owner Roger Penske offered him a job.