A.J. Allmendinger snags COTA Xfinity win
With most of his top challengers falling to the wayside, A.J. Allmendinger cruised to his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win of the season at Circuit of the Americas.
When Ross Chastain – who led the second-most laps – got spun on the final restart on Lap 41 of 46, Allmendinger cleared for the lead and cruised to a 2.039-second win over Austin Hill in Saturday’s race.
The win is his first of the 2022 season, 11th of his career and seventh on a road course.
In the final stage, Allmendinger saw several top challengers experience problems. In addition to Chastain, Jeb Burton and Jeremy Clements were both penalized for violating track limits and Cole Custer had to rebound from a speeding penalty.
“All the men and women at Kaulig Racing have been working so hard. They aren’t sleeping a bit,” Allmendinger said. “I wanted to win so bad. But I knew if I just drove right, it would have speed. Best way to show how hard this team works is to go win races.
“Thanks to my wife for putting up with my whining and crying about how much I suck. Cup (practice and qualifying) wasn’t the best, but this was good, and we’ll go attack them again tomorrow.”
Custer ended up third, Noah Gragson fourth and Josh Berry rounded out the top-five. Completing the top-10 were Myatt Snider, Brett Moffitt, Jade Buford, Miquel Paludo and Sheldon Creed.
Saturday’s race served as a qualifier for the first Dash4Cash bonus, which will be awarded in next weekend’s race at Richmond, Va. Eligible to win the bonus next weekend are Allmendinger, Hill, Gragson and Mayer.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, those who did not pit before the stage break did so, including Mayer.
On the restart on Lap 33, Chastain led the way with Allmendinger and Gragson behind him. Allmendinger grabbed the lead shortly after the restart.
NASCAR was forced to throw a caution on Lap 34 for debris on the track in the area of Turn 9. On the restart on Lap 36, Allmendinger led the way followed by Chastain, Gragson and Hill.
NASCAR again was forced to throw a caution for debris on the backstretch of the track on Lap 38
The race returned to green on Lap 41 with Allmendinger out front, followed by Chastain and Hill.
Chastain got spun off course on the restart after contact from Landon Cassill. Hill moved into second and Gragson into third.
With four laps to go, Jeb Burton was penalized for cutting the course in Turn 4. He was running fourth at the time. Jeremy Clements, who was running fifth, received the same penalty for cutting the course in Turn 6.
Mayer easily claimed the Stage 2 win as several challengers elected to pit prior to the stage break. It’s the first stage win of his career.
Buford ended up second, Justin Allgaier third, Berry fourth and Riley Herbst rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, those cars who didn’t pit prior to the stage break did so, including Allmendinger.
On the restart on Lap 18, Ty Gibbs – who stayed out – led the way.
Chastain quickly powered around Gibbs on the restart to reclaim the lead as Bubba Wallace moved into second.
On Lap 20, Gibbs was forced to take his No. 54 Toyota to pit road with what appeared to be a problem with his right-front tire. The issue turned out to be a broken valve stem.
With 10 laps remaining in the stage, Chastain had built more than a 3-second lead over Wallace with Custer in third.
On Lap 22, Custer got around Wallace to move into the second position, 3.4 seconds behind Chastain.
With five laps to go, Chastain remained out front but Wallace had reclaimed the second position and was closing the gap on Chastain.
Once again, a group of drivers decided to pit under green prior to the stage break, with Gragson among the first followed by Allmendinger, Creed, Wallace and Daniel Hemric.
Mayer moved into the lead with two laps to go as both Chastain and Custer elected to pit before the break. Custer, however, was penalized for speeding on pit road.
Allmendinger cruised to the Stage 1 win when several of the top challengers elected to pit prior to the stage break.
Alex Labbe ended up second, Hemric third, Parker Kligerman fourth and Allgaier rounded out the top-five.
Gibbs started on the pole but Chastain grabbed the lead quickly after the start and led Lap 1.
Josh Berry and Miquel Paludo both suffered damage to their respective cars in separate incidents on Lap 2. Berry was forced to pit under green to have repairs made to his No. 8 Chevrolet.
On Lap 4, Allgaier got spun around by his JR Motorsports teammate Gragson but both were able to continue.
Entering Turn 1 on Lap 4, Gibbs went to the inside of Chastain and took the lead but Allmendinger passed both Gibbs and Chastain to move out front before the start of Lap 5.
With five laps remaining in the stage, Allmendinger and Gibbs continued to back neck-and-neck for the lead, with neither able to gain a clear advantage.
Custer got around Chastain to move into third place on Lap 10.
Several drivers elected to pit prior to the end of the stage, including Wallace, Gragson, Gibbs, Custer and Chastain.
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