CONCORD, N.C.—Winning was the best medicine for AJ Allmendinger at The Roval on Saturday.
Allmendinger, who was under the weather all weekend, started fifth but didn’t take the lead for the first time until 20 laps remaining in the Drive for the Cure 250.
Once he passed Christopher Bell on the Lap 47 restart, Allmendinger held the point over the final three cautions for his third career Xfinity Series win and his first in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.
“I can’t thank Matt Kaulig enough,” Allmendinger said of the team owner. “He has put his belief in me, like wanting me to come here and help build this team. I can’t thank my race team enough, everybody at Kaulig Racing. I’m out of breath.”
Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Alex Labbe, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Truex rounded out the top 10 at the Charlotte Road Course.
“I really have to thank Tyler Reddick,” added Allmendinger. “He’s phenomenal. He’s out-qualified me in every race, beat me in a couple. I knew, behind me, I could be defensive on the right side and give myself an angle and Tyler wouldn’t shove it down in there.
“So, I appreciate that. Just trying to change up restarts enough every time—and you could only do so much—but I knew if we could get this thing in clean air it was going to be good. Traffic was a struggle, but clean air was pretty bad ass.”
Briscoe, who started from the pole, won the first stage on Lap 20 with Cindric, Allgaier, Labbe, Jeremy Clements, Nemechek, Truex, Brandon Jones, Gragson and Custer.
Reddick missed the chicane on the first lap. He served a stop-and-go penalty, dropped to 22nd, and spent the remainder of the first segment playing catchup. By the end of Stage 2, Reddick had recovered to third behind Custer and Briscoe. Allgaier, Gragson, Jones, Labbe, Bell, Cindric and Clements completed the top 10.
Bell took the lead for the final segment on Lap 43, but a pileup involving Nemechek, Custer, Allgaier, Truex and Jones triggered the fourth caution. Bell held the lead when the race returned to green followed by Allmendinger, Cindric and Briscoe. Allmendinger took control with 20 laps to go.
Briscoe finally passed Cindric for third with 12 laps remaining and set his sights on Bell. The drivers tangled on Lap 56. Bell missed the chicane and was sent to the rear of the field—but not before retaliating on Briscoe.
“I thought our Rheem Supra was really, really fast all day long,” said Bell, who finished 12th. “We were really good in the first and second stage and then the third stage, I just, for whatever reason, got a little bit tight and couldn’t keep up with those guys. The 98 (Briscoe) was really fast and I was going to let him go as soon as he got beside me and then whenever we got into the chicane, he didn’t leave me any option besides running me off the race track. At that point, I was just going to race him back as hard as I could.”
Briscoe was busted for pitting prior to NASCAR opened pit road and both drivers were sent to the rear of the field.
“I felt like we had the car to beat all day long,” Briscoe said. “We were able to constantly come back through the field. We had to go for points obviously because of our situation and we were always able to get back. There at the end, I felt like I still could have run down AJ. I felt like we were really good on the long run and that’s kind of where he struggled.
“I still haven’t seen a replay of what happened, so it’s hard for me to say. It always feels different, I feel like, than the way you actually see outside of the car, so I don’t know what happened. I felt like I was doing everything I could do try to win the race and knew that pass was crucial down there to try to have a shot to catch AJ and, like I said, I haven’t really seen it so I don’t know what happened.”
The race restarted with seven laps remaining with Allmendinger and Cindric side-by-side followed by Reddick, Allgaier, Gragson, Labbe and Jones. Allmendinger shot out to the lead as Reddick caught Cindric and passed him for second as the Team Penske driver reported a part failing on the No. 22 Ford.
“I wish I had a chance to fight the 10 there at the end, but under caution, I felt a shock mount break,” Cindric said. “The right-rear shock was clean off the race car before I even restarted the race, so I’m glad I didn’t wreck and I’m glad I finished third.
“I guess all of that is positive, but at the same time I felt like we had a good shot, especially if the thing would have gone green and try to pressure him into a mistake or getting a good lunge, but, all in all, a great points day, a great day for the MoneyLion Ford Mustang. We’ve got to keep it going this way.”
Allmendinger held off Reddick by 2.386-seconds at the finish. He was overwhelmed by emotion as he climbed from the car.
"The last few years were rough. I can’t thank Tad and Jodi (Geschickter) enough for the opportunity they gave me for five years but we had some good times,” Allmendinger said of his former team owners at JTG/Daugherty Racing. “It probably didn’t end the way we wanted it to end but I can’t really thank them enough for getting me back on track.
“The last couple of years were tough and Matt Kaulig (team owner) gave me an opportunity to run some of the road course races, run Daytona. I just wanted so bad to win for these guys. We’ve been close and I wanted to give them a win before the year ended.”
Bell retains a 10-point lead over Custer in the NASCAR Xfinity standings.