AJ Allmendinger survived a series of caution periods and on-track chaos, including one that involved him at the start of the second stage, to muscle his way to the front, assume a late lead and fend off the field during two late-race restarts to win the Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville Superspeedway on Saturday, June 24.
The 41-year-old Allmendinger from Los Gatos, California, led three times for 25 of 196 over-scheduled laps in an event where he rolled off the starting grid in 11th place. After settling in third place at the conclusion of the first stage, he was then involved in a multi-car wreck at the start of the second stage that eliminated a handful of front-runners that included Cup Series rookie Ty Gibbs.
Following a methodical drive back to the front for the remainder of the event, he then muscled his way into the lead with 46 laps remaining. Despite losing ground amid a slow pit service under green during the proceeding laps, Allmendinger then managed to reassume the lead from Parker Kligerman with 11 laps remaining. Despite having to endure two late-race restarts, including an overtime attempt, Allmendinger did not relent as he fended off the field of Xfinity Series regulars to grab his second checkered flag of the 2023 season.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Cole Custer notched his third pole position of the season after posting a pole-winning lap at 157.020 in 30.493 seconds. Joining him on the front row was rookie Chandler Smith, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 156.302 mph in 30.633 seconds.
Prior to the event, Connor Mosack and Zane Smith dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries. Joey Gase also dropped to the rear of the field as he started the event in a backup car and as a result of a driver change, where he replaced CJ McLaughlin.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, early trouble struck through Turns 1 and 2 when Jeb Burton and Kyle Sieg made contact and triggered a multi-car wreck that included Ryan Sieg, his brother Kyle and Stefan Parsons while the rest of the field veered to the bottom lane to avoid the carnage. Also involved was Justin Allgaier, winner of last year’s event at Nashville, after he collided into Parsons sideways while Parsons smacked the outside wall head-on. Despite suffering cosmetic damage to his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro, Allgaier managed to continue while remaining on the lead lap along with the Sieg brothers and Jeb Burton while Parsons retired.
During the following restart on the eighth lap, Custer, who retained the lead through the event’s start and early caution period, continued to lead ahead of rookie Sammy Smith while Chandler Smith and Ty Gibbs battled for third. Entering the backstretch, Gibbs and Smith made contact, which caused the field behind Custer and Sammy Smith to fan out to three lanes. Then entering Turns 3 and 4, Austin Hill, who tried to overtake Gibbs and Chandler Smith for third amid three lanes, made contact beneath Gibbs and was sent spinning up the track as he barely clipped Jeb Burton before lightly backing his No. 21 Bennett Transportation Chevrolet Camaro into the outside wall while the rest of the field managed to dodge Hill’s incident. The incident was enough to draw the event’s second caution period.
At the start of the proceeding restart on Lap 14, Sammy Smith and Custer dueled for the lead as the field fanned out. With Ty Gibbs also fanning out and overtaking teammate Smith for second, Custer retained the lead as the field navigated its way through a full lap under green flag conditions. With Custer leading, Carson Hocevar, winner of Friday night’s Craftsman Truck Series event at Nashville, muscled his way into third while Sammy Smith and Riley Herbst occupied the top five ahead of AJ Allmendinger.
Three laps later, the event’s third caution flew when Chad Chastain, who was running in the middle of the pack, got loose entering Turns 3 and 4 and spun backward toward the outside wall as he also collected Ryan Ellis, who veered sideways and scrubbed the wall, while the rest of the field escaped unscathed.
When the race restarted on Lap 21, Custer and Ty Gibbs dueled for the lead as the field fanned out to three lanes entering Turn 1. Through the turns, Gibbs started to peek ahead with the lead ahead of Custer before he assumed the spot with full authority during the following lap. With Gibbs leading Custer, Sammy Smith was in third followed by Hocevar and Allmendinger while Herbst was in sixth ahead of Chandler Smith, Parker Kligerman, Brandon Jones and rookie Parker Retzlaff.
At the Lap 30 mark, Ty Gibbs was leading by more than a second over Custer followed by Sammy Smith, Allmendinger and Hocevar while Chandler Smith, Herbst, Parker Kligerman, Sheldon Creed and Sam Mayer were in the top 10. Behind, Brandon Jones was in 11th ahead of John Hunter Nemechek, Josh Berry, Allgaier and Hill while Retzlaff, Zane Smith, Brett Moffitt, Daniel Hemric and Kaz Grala occupied the top 20.
Nearing the Lap 40 mark, Ty Gibbs extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Custer while third-place Sammy Smith trailed by more than four seconds. Behind, Allmendinger and Hocevar remained in the top five while Chandler Smith was in sixth ahead of Herbst.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 45, Ty Gibbs, who was making his fourth Xfinity start of the season and swept both stages at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, claimed his third Xfinity stage victory of the 2023 season. Custer trailed in second place by more than a second while Allmendinger, Hocevar, Sammy Smith, Chandler Smith, Herbst, Mayer, John Hunter Nemechek and Kligerman were scored in the top 10.
Under the first stage break, the lead lap field led by Ty Gibbs pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Hill exited first after only opting for fuel to his car followed by Gibbs. During the pit stops, Nemechek was penalized for having too many crew members over the pit wall.
The second stage started on Lap 52 as Hill and Gibbs occupied the front row. At the start, trouble struck for the front-runners when Hill made contact with Gibbs and sent Gibbs’ No. 19 He Gets Us Toyota Supra spinning through the first two turns, where he clipped Allmendinger and sent him spinning with damage before being hit by Hocevar’s No. 77 Premier Security Chevrolet Camaro against the outside wall as the rest of the field turned to the bottom of the track to avoid the carnage. In the midst of the carnage, Custer escaped with the lead followed by Mayer, Chandler Smith, Herbst and Creed while Gibbs and Hocevar retired.
During the proceeding restart on Lap 59, Custer and Mayer battled dead even for the lead until Custer, who restarted on the outside lane, prevailed to retain the lead ahead of Mayer. The caution, however, quickly returned during the following lap when Connor Mosack slid sideways toward the outside wall in Turn 2. While trying to straighten his car, his car then jerked back across the wall and smacked the wall before emerging with extensive damage on both the front and rear ends.
When the race restarted under green on Lap 65, Mayer peeked ahead to lead a lap for himself, but Custer reassumed the top spot amid a fierce battle between himself, Chandler Smith and Mayer. On Lap 67, Chandler Smith made his move to the front and emerged as the new leader while Mayer, Custer and Herbst battled for second. During the following lap, the caution flew again when Sammy Smith, who was battling Sheldon Creed for fifth place, was bumped by Creed through Turns 1 and 2. The contact sent Smith back hard against the outside wall as the rear end of Smith’s No. 18 Pilot Flying J Toyota Supra was left destroyed while Creed, who veered sideways amid the contact, was hit by an oncoming Brandon Jones, who veered sideways with left-front damage to his No. 9 Menards Chevrolet Camaro.
As the event restarted under green on Lap 75, Chandler Smith retained the lead ahead of Mayer while Custer rocketed his way up to third followed by Hemric, Herbst and Zane Smith.
By Lap 80, Chandler Smith was leading by more than a second over Mayer followed by Custer, Hemric and Herbst while Zane Smith, Nemechek, Josh Berry, Brett Moffitt and Retzlaff were in the top 10 ahead of Kligerman, Ryan Sieg, Allgaier, Hill and Grala.
When the second stage concluded on Lap 90, Chandler Smith claimed his second stage victory of the 2023 season. Custer settled in second followed by a hard-charging Hemric while Mayer, Herbst, Nemechek, Zane Smith, Berry, Retzlaff and Moffitt were scored in the top 10.
During the second stage break, where the event surpassed its halfway mark, the lead lap field led by Chandler Smith pitted. Following the pit stops, Chandler Smith retained the lead after exiting first followed by Custer, Hemric, Herbst, Nemechek and Zane Smith. Amid the pit stops, Herbst was penalized and sent to the rear of the field for an uncontrolled tire violation. In addition, Mayer, who pitted from fourth place, exited just outside of the top 10 amid a slow pit service, where he had to back his car while trying to leave his pit box after being blocked by Blaine Perkins.
With 91 laps remaining, the final stage started as Chandler Smith and Custer occupied the front row. At the start, Chandler Smith retained the lead following a push from teammate Hemric while Hemric challenged Custer for second. With Custer retaining the runner-up spot over Hemric, Chandler Smith continued to lead while Nemechek charged his way in fourth followed by Zane Smith and Allmendinger.
Six laps later, the caution returned when Kligerman spun in Turn 4 after receiving a bump by Kaz Grala, though Kligerman managed to quickly straighten his car below the apron and proceed without sustaining any significant damage.
With the race restarting under green with 79 laps remaining, Chandler Smith retained the lead ahead of Custer and Hemric, with Hemric launching his charge for the lead as he overtook Custer for second. Then two laps later, Hemric assumed the lead over teammate Chandler Smith. Smith, however, reignited another charge on his Kaulig Racing teammate as he reassumed the top spot during the following lap with Custer rechallenging Hemric for second. Behind, Nemechek and Allmendinger battled for fourth as Chandler Smith stabilized his advantage to half a second.
With 70 laps remaining, Chandler Smith was leading by four-tenths of a second over Custer and by more than a second over teammate Hemric while Nemechek and Allmendinger trailed in the top five. Smith would continue to lead with 60 laps remaining, but his advantage decreased to a tenth of a second over Custer as Custer methodically caught and challenged Smith for the lead. By then, Allmendinger, Hemric and Berry were in the top five while Nemechek, who was running in the top five a few laps earlier, made an unscheduled pit stop after reporting a vibration to his No. 20 Pye Barker Fire and Safety Toyota Supra.
Five laps later, the battle for the lead intensified as Custer drew his No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang into a side-by-side battle against Chandler Smith’s No. 16 Quick Tie Products Chevrolet Camaro. While Custer had the advantage on the inside lane, Smith refused to relent as he remained on the gas and maintained the momentum with a narrow lead on the outside lane. With both continuing to duke for the lead, Allmendinger joined the battle as he gained massive ground on the two leaders in his No. 10 Bailey Zimmerman – Religiously Chevrolet Camaro. The battle amongst Smith, Custer and Allmendinger soon narrowed down to six-tenths of a second with the trio still dueling for the lead with 50 laps remaining.
Two laps later, Allmendinger made his way into the runner-up spot after overtaking Custer before he proceeded to challenge his Kaulig Racing teammate Chandler Smith for the lead. With Custer losing ground on the two leaders, Allmendinger, who had managed to methodically carve his way back to the front following his Stage 2 incident, assumed the lead for the first time with 46 laps remaining while their third teammate, Hemric, was trailing in fourth place by more than three seconds.
Then with under 45 laps remaining, green flag pit stops commenced as Allgaier pitted along with Custer, Chandler Smith and Jeremy Clements. The race leader Allmendinger and teammate Hemric would also pit with 43 laps remaining as Berry cycled his way into a brief lead. Amid the pit stops, Smith and Custer managed to cycle ahead of Allmendinger, who endured a slow pit stop.
Down to the final 30 laps of the event and with nearly the entire field having made a pit stop under green, Kligerman, who had yet to pit, was leading followed by Allmendinger, who had overtaken teammate Chandler Smith, who was dealing with an ill-handling race car amid a slide, on the track while Brandon Jones, Smith and Custer were in the top five.
With 20 laps remaining, Kligerman, who remained on the track and was trying to conserve fuel to finish, continued to lead by more than six seconds in his No. 48 Spiked Light Coolers Chevrolet Camaro and over a hard-charging Allmendinger with third-place Custer trailing by more than nine seconds. Kligerman would proceed to lead by more than two seconds over Allmendinger with 15 laps remaining.
Then with 11 laps remaining, Allmendinger, who methodically gained ground and drew himself alongside Kligerman during the proceeding lap, overtook Kligerman for the lead entering Turn 1. Allmendinger would proceed to stretch his advantage to more than two seconds over Kligerman, who continued to run on fuel-conserve mode, with 10 laps remaining while third-place Custer trailed by more than three seconds.
Then with six laps remaining, the event’s 10th caution period flew when Chad Chastain spun in Turn 4. The caution period stalled Allmendinger’s progress as he was leading by more than two seconds over Custer while Kligerman was in third. During the caution period, six competitors that included the leader Allmendinger, Chandler Smith, Hill, Herbst, Berry and Hemric remained on the track while the rest led by Custer and Kligerman pitted.
With the race restarting under green with two laps remaining, Allmendinger was drafted into the lead with help from Hill as the front-runners fanned out, among which included Herbst as he bolted his way towards the front. Then in Turns 1 and 2, trouble struck for Chandler Smith after contact with Berry amid a tight four-wide action that also included Custer and Hemric sent Smith spinning up the track while the rest of the field scrambled to the bottom of the track to avoid Smith’s incident. Amid the incident, Allmendinger remained as the leader followed by Herbst, Hill, Hemric, Berry and Kligerman, but the return of the caution sent the event into overtime.
At the start of the first overtime attempt, Allmendinger managed to rocket away from Herbst and the field. The field behind would then fan out to multiple lanes through the backstretch as Allmendinger continued to muscle away with the lead entering Turns 3 and 4.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Allmendinger remained as the leader by eight-tenths of a second over Herbst, who was trying to fend off Hemric. Then just past the start/finish line, Hemric veered sideways, but he managed to straighten his car without triggering a wreck. Hemric’s loose moment, however, cost him a bevy of spots as Herbst, Hill and Mayer went by him. By then, Allmendinger was long gone with an advantage of more than a second through the backstretch. With the field battling amongst one another for as high as second, Allmendinger was able to cycle his way back to the finish line uncontested and score his second Xfinity victory of the 2023 season just as a multi-car wreck in the middle of the field erupted.
With his first victory at Nashville, Allmendinger scored his 17th career win in the Xfinity Series, his second of the season after winning at Circuit of the Americas in March and his first oval, superspeedway venue victory since winning at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2022. In addition, this marked the third victory of the season for Kaulig Racing’s No. 10 “all-star” entry: twice made by Allmendinger and once by Kyle Larson at Darlington Raceway in May.
“All thanks to all the men and women at Kaulig Racing,” Allmendinger said on USA Network. “We got [country artist] Bailey Zimmerman. He flew in from Chicago this morning. [It’s] Awesome to have him here and win a race for him. The car was really good. [I] Got caught up in that wreck on that one restart. [I] Thought at least our chance to win was over, but the guys did such a great job of fixing [the car]. This is one of those iconic trophies [Gibson guitars] you wanna win. What a cool way to do it.”
“All these wins are amazing,” Allmendinger added. “I love winning on ovals because I know a lot of people doubt me being on an oval. What a great time.”
Herbst, racing for the first time with new crew chief Davin Restivo, settled in a career-best second place for the third time in his career and after coming off eight consecutive events of finishing no higher than 14th. Mayer ended up third while Hill and Berry finished in the top five.
Nemechek came home in sixth place while Zane Smith, Hemric, Custer and Retzlaff finished in the top 10. Behind, Kligerman, Moffitt and Allgaier, all of whom wrecked approaching the finish line, ended up 11th, 14th and 15th, respectively, while Chandler Smith rallied his way to 12th.
There were 17 lead changes for 11 different leaders. The race featured a record-tying 11 cautions for 58 laps. In total, 16 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.
With 11 Xfinity regular-season events remaining on the schedule, John Hunter Nemechek leads the regular-season standings by nine points over Austin Hill, 41 over Justin Allgaier and 51 over Cole Custer.
1. AJ Allmendinger, 25 laps led
2. Riley Herbst
3. Sam Mayer, six laps led
4. Austin Hill, three laps led
5. Josh Berry, one lap led
6. John Hunter Nemechek
7. Zane Smith
8. Daniel Hemric, one lap led
9. Cole Custer, 32 laps led
10. Parker Retzlaff, three laps led
11. Parker Kligerman, 22 laps led
12. Chandler Smith, 74 laps led, Stage 2 winner
13. Jeb Burton
14. Brett Moffitt
15. Justin Allgaier
16. Kaz Grala
17. Sheldon Creed, one lap down
18. Kyle Weatherman, one lap down
19. Ryan Sieg, one lap down
20. Brennan Poole, one lap down
21. Joe Graf Jr., one lap down
22. Jeremy Clements, one lap down
23. Anthony Alfredo, one lap down
24. Brandon Jones, one lap down
25. Kyle Sieg, one lap down
26. Blaine Perkins, two laps down
27. Jeffrey Earnhardt, two laps down
28. Ryan Ellis, two laps down
29. Chad Chastain, two laps down
30. David Starr, three laps down
31. Joey Gase, three laps down
32. Mason Massey, 10 laps down
33. Josh Williams – OUT, Alternator
34. Sammy Smith – OUT, Accident, one lap led
35. Connor Mosack – OUT, Dvp
36. Carson Hocevar – OUT, Accident
37. Ty Gibbs – OUT, Accident, 28 laps led, Stage 1 winner
38. Stefan Parsons – OUT, Accident
Next on the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is the series’ inaugural event at the Chicago Street Course in Downtown Chicago, Illinois. The event is scheduled to occur next Saturday, July 1, at 5 p.m. ET on USA Network.