AJ Allmendinger celebrated his fourth win of the year and the regular-season championship with a ride to the infield care center after Austin Cindric punted him coming to the start-finish line.
After a three-way battle between Allmendinger, Cindric and Justin Allgaier for the lead in overtime, the Nos. 16 and 22 slid sideways coming to the checkered flag with sparks and flames flying.
Although he was furious with Cindric—who sent him sailing into Justin Haley and Myatt Snider after crossing the line—cooler heads prevailed once Dinger arrived in Victory Lane.
“I expected to get run into,” Allmendinger said. “It happened that previous corner. It’s frustrating getting hit that hard coming to checker, but we’re battling for the win. It’s Bristol, baby. That’s what it’s all about.”
Just .082-seconds separated Allmendinger and Cindric at the finish. Riley Herbst vaulted from sixth on the restart to finish third. Allgaier, Brandon Jones, Haley, Harrison Burton, Snider, Sam Mayer and Daniel Hemric rounded out the top 10.
Allmendinger held a 10-point advantage over Cindric to earn the regular-season title.
“We put ourselves in position, that’s all you can ask for,” Cindric said. “I guess that’s just short-track racing.”
Noah Gragson led the first four laps but was easily passed by Hemric. With a nudge from the right side of his nose, Allgaier took control on Lap 36 and won Stage 1. The first segment was slowed by two previous cautions. Brett Moffitt hit the Turn 2 wall and retired on Lap 9. During the competition caution on Lap 42, Spencer Boyd left pit road with his gas can and dragged it to the backstretch. The can dumped fuel on the apron and a safety worker slipped while trying to contain the spill. The race returned to green on Lap 51 after nine circuits under yellow.
With 10 laps to determine the stage, Josh Berry, who was subbing for the sidelined Michael Annett, was black-flagged as smoke billowed from the No. 1 Chevy. The team elected to take the car to the garage after fluid leaked from the rear of the car. Berry would eventually return to the race, 91 laps off of the pace.
Allgaier continued at the point in Stage 2 but his charge was slowed by an incident between BJ McLeod and Tommy Joe Martins on Lap 103. Hemric grabbed the lead from Allgaier on the Lap 109 restart before the fifth caution erupted between Jade Buford, Matt Mills and Spencer Boyd on the front stretch.
Hemric retained the lead but was blocked by traffic. As he tagged Buford on Lap 136, Allgaier regained the lead. Allgaier appeared to be in control but as he entered Turn 1, he slid up into Joe Graf Jr. and turned sideways allowing Hemric to seize the point—and the Stage 2 win. Although Allgaier finished the segment second followed Gragson, the two JR Motorsports drivers were busted for speeding during pit stops and dropped to the rear of the field.
Jeb Burton took the lead when the race restarted on Lap 179, but was passed by Mayer two laps later. When Mayer encountered lapped traffic on Lap 230 and made contact with Tommy Joe Martins, Cindric passed him for the lead. Mayer made contact with the wall on the front stretch one lap later but kept digging.
The action slowed eight laps later when Martins tagged the rear of David Starr. Cindric and Mayer continued out front when the race returned to green on Lap 248, but Allgaier kept nipping at the No. 8 Chevy.
Allgaier eventually tagged Sam Mayer on Lap 297 to send the Food City 300 into overtime. Allmendinger lined up to the inside of race-leader Cindric with Allgaier behind the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. Allmendinger got a push from Hemric, then made contact with Cindric coming to the white flag. Cindric returned the favor when he caught the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevy coming through the final corner but held on long enough for the win.
“I haven’t had a lot of chances to get a win at Bristol, so you know what? When you have a chance to do it, you’ve got to go do it,” Allmendinger added. “If I don’t take that chance, I don’t belong in a race car, because my team deserves the win.”