AJ Allmendinger returns to ROVAL Victory Lane with Kaulig Racing

AJ Allmendinger returns to ROVAL Victory Lane with Kaulig Racing
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

CONCORD, N.C.—AJ Allmendinger successfully defending his victory on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval—albeit sloppily—as rain pelted the 2.28-mile course throughout the day and into the night on Saturday.

With three laps remaining in the Drive for the Cure 250, Chase Briscoe spun in Turn 2 and handed the lead over to Allmendinger.

Over the closing circuits, Allmendinger extended his advantage by .446-seconds over Noah Gragson en route to his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series win and his second on the 17-turn circuit.

“I've got to thank my guys--Chris Rice (Kaulig Racing GM) Matt Kaulig (team owner) especially I love you, man,” Allmendinger said in Victory Lane. “My wife, Tara. My mom's sitting at home. My mom just had knee surgery a couple of weeks ago, so love you, Mom. My dad is up in the suite staying dry. I don't know what we just witnessed...I was complaining the whole race. That was miserable. Crazy.

“The 98, Chase Briscoe, was doing a fantastic job. I didn't have anything for him after a couple laps, but I knew that final restart, I was going to do everything I could... In the infield, with no lights in there and the world's biggest jumbotron blaring in, you couldn't see anything. I was just guessing where the corners were, just praying that, when you hit the puddles, you don't go flying off the race track.”

Daniel Hemric, Alex Labbe, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Cody Ware, Michael Annett and Brandon Jones rounded out the top 10. Briscoe, who finished 17th, maintains a 10-point lead over Cindric.

Harrison Burton, Brandon Brown, Annett and Riley Herbst were eliminated from the NASCAR Xfinity Series Round of 8 following this event.

When the race started, the rain wasn’t far behind. Brett Moffitt spun in Turn 14 to trigger Caution 1, but before the field could return to the start-finish, the first round of rain pelted the track. Every team elected to change to rain tires except for the Nos. 74 and 47 of Gray Gaulding and Kyle Weatherman.

The race returned to green with Chastain, Gragson and Haley barreling three-wide into Turn 1 with the No. 7 Chevy coming out on top. While running fifth, Xfinity points leader Briscoe spun on the front stretch and dropped to 13th, but the race continued under green. On Lap 14, Haley took the point after Gragson spun. Matt Mills, Tommy Lee Martins and Austin Hill piled up into Turn 5 shortly after to ignite the second caution.

Gragson regained the lead on Lap 19—but it was short-lived. Kaz Grala, who has limited starts this season but comes from a road racing background, passed Gragson through Turns 5 and 6 for the lead and the Stage 1 win. Unfortunately, mechanical issues with the No. 21 would end Grala’s day on Lap 50. He finished 31st.

Following pit stops, Gragson grabbed the lead on the restart. He held the point for four laps before being dumped by Riley Herbst in Turn 3 on Lap 27. Mother Nature returned under the fourth caution and NASCAR red-flagged the race for 38 minutes. Under the red, Gragson was asked about the incident. He replied, “It’s just racing I guess. I don’t get mad, I get even.”

Herbst had the lead when the race returned to green on Lap 34 but spun on the restart. Allmendinger led two laps before Haley and Preston Pardus tangled in Turn 3—and Josh Williams plowed nose-first into the Turn 1 wall.

Briscoe remained on the track with the lead. Although Burton stalled in Turn 4 on Lap 37 for Caution 6, Briscoe held the point to the end of Stage 2. Briscoe remained in charge for eight additional laps before Allmendinger passed the No. 98 Ford in Turns 5 and 6.

Allmendinger led five laps before Briscoe outbraked the No. 16 Chevy into the chicane on the backstretch to regain the lead on Lap 56. After spinning multiple times, C.J. McLaughlin finally brought out the caution on Lap 61. Allmendinger took the lead through Turns 3 and 4 on the first lap of green. Briscoe remained in close pursuit and finally passed Allmendinger in the innerloop with four to go. Before he could extend his advantage, Brown hydroplaned into the grass in Turn 4 and buried the No. 68 Chevy into the ground.

After running third, Allgaier was forced to pit on Lap 65 with a flat tire and dropped to 23rd for the final restart. Briscoe and Allmendinger led the field into Turn 1, but the No. 98 Ford spun before Turn 2 and dropped to 21st after leading a race-high 23 laps.

"The driver just made a mistake," Briscoe said. "In conditions like this, you've got to be 100 percent, and I tried going 110, and it bit me. It was very unfortunate. I did my job for about 95 percent of the day right. I just knew AJ was beside me getting into (Turn) 3. He's been running me up so much, I tried throttling up, and I was in first gear, and I just hit the puddle, and it spun me out. It's frustrating, to say the least." 

Allmendinger shot out to the lead and held on for his second-straight Charlotte win.

The Xfinity series rolls into Kansas Speedway next weekend.

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