AJ Allmendinger is the new new Xfinity Series road course king of the hill. The 39-year-old Californian was in a class by himself over the final 20 laps, and even a caution with four to go was not about to stop his appointment with destiny.
With an average speed of 97.017 mph, the ‘Dinger toppled the field by 3.192 seconds for the sixth road course victory of his career, snapping a tie with Marcos Ambrose and Austin Cindric. In addition, AJ Allmendinger, the regular-season champion, is now three-for-three on the Charlotte Motor Speedway roval.
AJ Allmendinger will lead seven other drivers to Texas next week for the Round of 8 who will join him after Saturday’s race. Cindric had already qualified before the Drive for the Cure 250, while Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier added their names by the end of the second stage.
Justin Haley, Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton round out the last four slots. Jeb Burton (-8), Myatt Snider (-15), Riley Herbst (-32) and Jeremy Clements (-48) will now race for wins instead of a title.
Meanwhile, AJ Allmendinger won his fifth race of the season in his first year back as a full-time driver. He was on the way to a massive victory by almost 10 seconds when Tommy Joe Martins had a hard lick into the wall, bringing out a caution with four to go. On the restart, he received a challenge from Sam Mayer in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Camaro early on, but he was no match for the Kaulig Racing No. 16.
AJ Allmendinger, Cindric, Hemric, Haley, Brandon Jones, Gragson, Preston Pardus, Snider, Allgaier, and Mayer were the top ten finishers. It was his first top-10 finish of the year and just the third in his Xfinity Series career for Pardus.
• 155.44 miles (67 Laps) - Stages at 20 / 40 / 67. No competition caution.
• Each team has five sets of tires plus four wets in case of rain. If there is to be a wet weather restart, cars will line up in a single file.
• To the rear: JR Motorsports No. 1 - driver change. Michael Annett returns from a stress fracture in his right femur (his last race was four weeks ago at Richmond). Josh Berry was on the original entry list.
• Loris Hezemans, who was part of a press conference announcing he would race a part-time Cup Series schedule in 2022, was making his fourth career Xfinity Series start driving the No. 66 Supra.
• When the race started, only Austin Cindric was locked into the Xfinity Series Round of 8 that will begin next Saturday (Oct. 16 at 3:00 p.m. ET, NBC) at Texas Motor Speedway.
How AJ Allmendinger won the Drive for the Cure 250
LAP 1: Austin Cindric (pole) and Justin Allgaier lead the field of 40 cars to the green flag. CAUTION LAP 2 – Sage Karam spins on Lap 6, Brett Moffitt and Jade Buford make contact and stack up against the wall. Restart Lap 5. Top 5: Cindric, Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, and Noah Gragson.
LAP 7: Having wheel-hopped just after the restart, possibly damaging tires, Justin Allgaier backs into the wall and is forced to pit with damage. By Lap 9, he was P40 with possible brake issues. Meanwhile, Cindric lost the lead due to a stop-and-go penalty after missing the backstretch chicane.
LAP 12: Gray Gaulding has the wheels locked up and comes to a stop inside the backstretch chicane. The leaders did not pit. Restart Lap 14. Top 5: Hemric, Cindric, Gragson, Brandon Jones, Haley.
LAP 19: End Stage 1 under CAUTION (Chris Wright, broken trackbar – fluid on track): Some leaders come in for service before pit row closed, giving up stage points to work on race win strategy. Top ten finishers: Hemric (8th stage win of the year), Allmendinger, Gragson, Ty Gibbs, Haley, Brandon Jones, Riley Herbst, Harrison Burton, Jeb Burton, Jeremy Clements. Harrison Burton has an 8-point advantage over Jeb Burton for the final transfer spot at this point.
Race off pit row: Hemric, Gragson (+1), Brandon Jones (+3), Allmendinger (-2), Haley, Gibbs (-2), Jeb Burton (+2), Harrison Burton, Sage Karam (+3), Myatt Snider (+3). All took four tires. Restart Lap 23 with Cindric and Sam Mayer (who early pitted) on the front row. Hemric, Gragson and Allmendinger rounded out the top five.
LAP 30: CAUTION for debris. Josh Bilicki’s brakes fail at the back of the chicane and slams the curb destroying his front end. The curb was bolted down but came apart on impact. Track personnel had to cut down several protruding bolts so the race could resume. RED FLAG. All 40 cars are on the lead lap. Restart with eight laps left in the stage.
Playoff contender positions: Cindric (P1), Hemric (P3), Allmendinger (P4), Haley (P5), Gragson (P6), Brandon Jones (P10), Myatt Snider (P11), Jeb Burton (P12), Harrison Burton (P13), Riley Herbst (P14), Jeremy Clements (P17), and Justin Allgaier (P26).
LAP 27: CAUTION for debris (brake duct from the No. 02 of Brett Moffitt on the frontstretch). Many of the leaders come in for service. They will be able to make it to the end on fuel. Restart at Lap 00 with Hemric and Haley on the front row, followed by Snider, Gragson, Clements, Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton, Josh Williams, Jeb Burton, and JJ Yeley.
LAP 40: End Stage 2. Hemric sweeps, followed by Haley, Snider, Gragson, Clements, Brandon Jones, Harrison Burton, Ty Gibbs, Jeb Burton and Mayer. Teammates Gibbs and Harrison Burton made contact racing for the green-white-checkered flag. Points earned so far: Hemric 20, Gragson and Haley 15, Brandon Jones and Gibbs 10. Gragson fell off the pace with a lengthy pit stop to repair a big hole in his right-front fender. Meanwhile, Allgaier is back in contention in P7.
CLINCHED: Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier advanced to the Round of 8 at the restart on Lap 43. They join Austin Cindric. Five spots are up for grabs. AJ Allmendinger, Haley, Brandon Jones, Gragson and Harrison Burton are still above the cut line.
20 TO GO: Ty Gibbs was leading the field until he had some braking issues, missing a turn opening the door for Allmendinger to take the point by more than two seconds over Cindric, who moved into P2.
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4 TO GO: CAUTION for Tommy Joe Martins hitting the wall in Turn 14. The last thing AJ Allmendinger wanted to see was a caution because he had opened up a massive nine-plus second lead over Austin Cindric. The top five cars bypassed pit row, meaning that Allmendinger, Cindric, Sam Mayer, Justin Haley, and Ty Gibbs will have to hold off those who stopped, starting with Alex Labbe and Allgaier from P6 and 7, respectively. Restart with two. Mayer made an early run at Allmendinger, but the veteran simply pulled away at the end.