Coming off a thrilling Cup victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, AJ Allmendinger extended his momentum in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The veteran competitor from Los Gatos, California, survived three overtime restarts and a late charge from Brandon Jones to win the New Holland 250 at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, August 21.
The victory was Allmendinger’s third of this year’s Xfinity season as he continues his pursuit for his first NASCAR championship.
The starting lineup was based on a performance metric formula, weighing the driver’s and owner’s results from a previous Xfinity event, the owner points position and the fastest lap recorded from a previous Xfinity race. With that, Austin Cindric, winner of the previous Xfinity event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, started on pole position and was joined on the front row with AJ Allmendinger.
Prior to the event, Josh Berry started at the rear of the field due to replacing Michael Annett in the event, with Annett being absent for the fourth time this season as he continues to recover from a leg surgery.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Cindric and Allmendinger battled dead even for the lead until Cindric got dead sideways in the first turn. As Allmendinger pulled ahead with the lead, Cindric got stuck in the middle lane with no cars behind him as a bevy of competitors went by him.
Following the completion of the first lap, Allmendinger was leading ahead of teammate Justin Haley, Noah Gragson, Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton and the field. The following lap, Allmendinger’s advantage over Gibbs stretched out to nearly two seconds.
Through the first five laps of the event, Allmendinger was leading by nearly two seconds over Gibbs, with Cindric, Justin Haley and Noah Gragson settling in the top five. Harrison Burton was in sixth followed by Justin Allgaier, Myatt Snider, Brett Moffitt and Daniel Hemric.
By Lap 10, Allmendinger continued to lead by more than a second over Gibbs. While Cindric and Haley remained in the top five, Harrison Burton made his way into fifth place ahead of Gragson and Allgaier. Behind, Josh Berry was up in 21st behind Alex Labbe.
When the competition caution flew on Lap 15, Allmendinger remained as the leader over Gibbs and the field. Under the competition caution, some led by Tyler Reddick pitted while the rest led by Allmendinger remained on the track. During the pit stops, Reddick missed his pit box and returned the following lap.
The race restarted on Lap 20 and Allmendinger, the leader, had issues launching at the start, which forced Gibbs and Cindric to place Allmendinger in a four-wide battle for the top spot along with Haley. By the second turn, Cindric made his way into the lead followed by Gibbs while Allmendinger was back in third. Harrison Burton was in fourth ahead of teammate Hemric, Haley, Snider, Gragson and Allgaier.
A lap later, the caution returned due to Caesar Bacarella wrecking in Turn 4. Under caution, names like Allgaier, Jeb Burton, Tommy Joe Maartins, Bubba Wallace, Brandon Brown and Ryan Sieg pitted while the rest led by Cindric remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Allgaier was penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation while Wallace was penalized for an over-the-wall-too-soon violation.
When the race restarted with four laps remaining in the first stage, Cindric muscle ahead of the top spot to retain the lead through the first two turns while Gibbs challenged Snider for the runner-up spot. A lap later, both Gibbs and Allmendinger overtook Snider for second and third.
While the field behind jostled for final opportunities of positions, Cindric cruised ahead to claim the first stage victory on Lap 30, which marked his ninth stage victory of the season. Gibbs settled in second followed by Allmendinger, Snider, Gragson, Hemric, Harrison Burton, Brandon Jones, Berry and Haley.
Under the stage break, a majority led by Cindric pitted while the rest led by Jeb Burton remained on the track. During the pit stops, rookie Sam Mayer took his No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro to the garage due to transmission issues.
The second stage started on Lap 35 and Jeb Burton rocketed with the lead followed by Tyler Reddick and the field through the first two turns. Just then, the caution flew for a heavy multi-car wreck in Turn 2 that started when Snider slid up the track in Turn 2, made slight contact with Cindric and ran into Brandon Brown before spinning. In the ensuing chaos, Cindric, who was trying to dodge Snider, ran into Hemric and both spun into the outside wall, collecting Bubba Wallace and Brown. Haley and Joe Graf Jr. were also collected in the wreck.
Under caution, Snider was held two laps in his pit stall for improper fueling. By then, Hemric and Cindric, who was strong at the start of the race and was trying to continue, retired.
Following an extensive caution period, the race restarted on Lap 45. At the start, Jeb Burton retained the lead while Allgaier and Allmendinger overtook Tyler Reddick for spots in the top three.
By Lap 54, Allmendinger returned to the lead after he overtook teammate Jeb Burton for the top spot.
Down to the final five laps of the second stage, Allmendinger was out in front by nearly a second over Gibbs with Allgaier in third while Jeb Burton was back in fourth ahead of his cousin, Harrison.
When the final lap of the second stage struck, Allmendinger continued to lead by nearly a second over Gibbs. With no comers closing in behind, Allmendinger came back around and claimed the second stage victory on Lap 60, thus achieving his eighth stage victory of the season. Gibbs settled in second followed by Harrison Burton, Allgaier, Jeb Burton, Gragson, Brandon Jones, Josh Berry, Brett Moffitt and Riley Herbst.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Allmendinger retained the lead after exiting pit road in first place ahead of Harrison Burton, Allgaier, Jeb Burton and Gragson. During the pit stops, Gibbs got blocked by Josh Williams in his pit box and fell from second to 10th.
With 59 laps remaining, the final stage commenced. At the start, Allmendinger launched ahead with the top spot on the outside lane through Turn 1 while Allgaier muscled his way into the runner-up spot ahead of cousins Jeb and Harrison Burton.
While Allmendinger and Allgaier were running first and second, the Burton cousins occupied third and fourth while Josh Berry, who started at the rear of the field, made his way into the top five ahead of Brandon Jones, Gragson, Gibbs and Herbst. A few laps later, Berry muscled into fourth place ahead of Jeb Burton, who was also being intimidated by Brandon Jones for more.
With 52 laps remaining, Allmendinger continued to lead by nearly four-tenths of a second over Allgaier. By then, Harrison Burton made an unscheduled two-tire pit stop under green due to vibration concerns while Josh Berry moved up to third place.
With 40 laps remaining of the event, Allmendinger was leading by a tenth of a second over Allgaier and four-tenths of a second over Berry, with the two JR Motorsports competitors closing and issuing a challenging on Kaulig Racing’s Allmendinger for the top spot.
Two laps later, Allgaier peaked ahead of Allmendinger through Turn 4 to lead for a lap before Allmendinger fought back through Turn 1. Then, when Allmendinger and Allgaier got stalled behind two lapped cars entering Turn 2, Berry zipped by both on the outside lane to take the lead.
Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Berry was leading by more than a second over teammate Allgaier.
Nearing the final 20 laps of the event, pit stops under green occurred as Gragson, who was running in the top 10, pitted. Soon after, Brett Moffitt pitted along with Gibbs, who was then penalized for an uncontrolled tire violation. Then, Berry and Allmendinger pitted while Allgaier remained on the track for three laps before pitting.
With approximately 15 laps remaining, Jeb Burton, who had yet to pit, was leading followed by Riley Herbst. A few laps later, however, Burton ran out of fuel as his car was coasting below the banking in Turn 1. Soon after, Herbst also ran out of fuel, but he was able to nurse his car back to pit road and his pit stall while Allgaier reassumed the top spot followed by his hard-charging teammate, Berry.
With 10 laps remaining, the caution flew when Jeb Burton stalled his car near the pit road entrance after he was unable to nurse his car back to his pit stall. At the time of caution, Allgaier, who was locked into a fierce battle with Berry, managed to retain the lead ahead of his teammate.
Under caution, Allgaier surrendered the lead to pit while the rest led by Berry remained on the track. Along with Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Herbst, Jeremy Clements and Gibbs pitted.
Down to the final four laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Allmendinger muscled into the lead ahead of Brandon Jones and Berry. Then, the caution flew due to a two-car accident on the backstretch involving Bayley Currey and Jesse Little.
With the race sent into overtime, the race restarted as Allmendinger and Berry filled in the front row. At the start, Allmendinger retained the lead. The race, however, was sent into another caution period and another overtime attempt when Mason Massey and Colby Howard wrecked.
In the second overtime attempt, Allmendinger and Berry dueled for the lead as the field fanned out to multiple lanes entering the first turn. Then through Turns 1 and 2, while Berry slowly slid up the track, Gibbs got loose and hit the outside wall. While trying to straighten his car, Gibbs ended up spinning in the straightaway before making contact with the wall again, though he was dodged by the oncoming field. Gibbs’ spin was enough for NASCAR to draw the caution as the race was still not deemed official. At the time of caution, Allmendinger remained as the leader ahead of Brandon Jones, Berry, Gragson and Herbst.
In the third overtime attempt, Allmendinger received a push from Jones to pull ahead with the lead ahead of Gragson. While the field fanned out through the backstretch, Allmendinger slowly started to place a gap between himself and Jones.
When the final lap started, Allmendinger was leading by two-tenths of a second over Jones, with Gragson trailing by half a second. Despite a valiant final lap effort from Jones, Allmendinger was able to come back around, retain the top spot and streak across the finis line in first place to claim his third checkered flag of the season.
The victory at the Irish Hills was Allmendinger’s third of this year’s Xfinity Series season and the eighth of his career, with the Xfinity Series making its return to Michigan International Speedway following a one-year absence. The race was also the 11th Xfinity career victory for Kaulig Racing, which achieved its first Cup career win last weekend at Indianapolis with Allmendinger.
“Wow, what a hell of a six days. Oh my goodness,” Allmendinger, who led a race-high 70 laps, said on NBCSN. “This is what’s awesome, though, to have all the fans back. Indy, last weekend, was spectacular. Michigan, thank you. You, guys, make it fun. I’m more tired from the celebrations than I am from driving. When you’re restarting on the front row, the outside [lane] was the place to be. The problem is, you just got to hope you got pushed. Brandon Jones, thank you so much because he pushed me every time. Man, I can’t thank all the men and women at Kaulig Racing enough. I don’t wanna wake up from this dream.”
Brandon Jones finished in the runner-up spot for his eighth top-five result of the season and following three DNFs in the previous four Xfinity races while Noah Gragson settled in third place for his eighth top-five result of the season.
Berry, who led 24 laps, notched a strong fourth-place result as an interim competitor for Michael Annett while Harrison Burton finished in the top five for the eighth time this season.
Allgaier, Herbst, Moffitt, Jade Buford and Bubba Wallace finished in the top 10. Ty Gibbs, who was in position for a strong result following his late incident, came home in 13th.
There were 13 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured nine cautions for 43 laps.
Despite his early accident and retirement, Austin Cindric continues to lead the regular-season standings by 35 points over AJ Allmendinger as the 2021 Xfinity Series regular-season stretch is four races away from being complete.
1. AJ Allmendinger, 70 laps led, Stage 2 winner
2. Brandon Jones
3. Noah Gragson
4. Josh Berry, 24 laps led
5. Harrison Burton
6. Justin Allgaier, nine laps led
7. Riley Herbst
8. Brett Moffitt
9. Jade Buford
10. Bubba Wallace
11. Jeremy Clements
12. Ryan Sieg
13. Ty Gibbs, one lap led
14. Matt Mills
15. Jordan Anderson, one lap down
16. Tyler Reddick, one lap down
17. Justin Haley, one lap down
18. Josh Williams, one lap down
19. Tommy Joe Martins, one lap down
20. Colin Garrett, one lap down
21. Ryan Vargas, one lap down
22. David Starr, two laps down
23. Jeffrey Earnhardt, two laps down
24. Kyle Weatherman, two laps down
25. Colby Howard, two laps down
26. Landon Cassill, two laps down
27. Gray Gaulding, two laps down
28. Carson Ware, three laps down
29. Jeb Burton, four laps down, 23 laps led
30. Mason Massey – OUT, Accident
31. Alex Labbe, 16 laps down
32. Jesse Little – OUT, Accident
33. Sam Mayer, 25 laps down
34. Bayley Currey – OUT, Accident
35. Caesar Bacarella – OUT, Dvp
36. Myatt Snider – OUT, Dvp
37. Austin Cindric – OUT, Dvp, 12 laps led, Stage 1 winner
38. Joe Graf Jr. – OUT, Dvp
39. Daniel Hemric – OUT, Accident
40. Brandon Brown – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ second event of the season at Daytona International Speedway. The event will occur on Friday, August 27, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.