Allmendinger wins photo finish over Mayer on Saturday at Talladega, my 5 takeaways

TALLADEGA, Ala — AJ Allmendinger has been vocal about speedway racing. It’s not his favorite. Now, he’s got himself a win at one. Allmendinger made a daring pass coming out of the Talladega Superspeedway tri-oval and won a photo finish over Sam Mayer by .015-seconds in Saturday’s Sparks 300.

“This is Talladega,” a wildly happy Allmendinger told NBC Sports. “Yes, I hate superspeedway racing, but it’s awesome to win in front of the Talladega crowd.”

Allmendinger, who’s 3-for-3 on the Charlotte ROVAL, doesn’t have to go into the opening round cutoff race needing a win. His Talladega triumph puts him into this next round already.

The Kaulig Racing driver was 0-for-24 at Talladega entering the day but ends that drought in scoring his first 14th career victory, 4 of which this season. However, this was his first on an oval this year as his previous 3 wins each came on road courses (COTA, Portland, Indianapolis).

“Let’s gooooooo,” an absolutely elated Allmendinger screamed into the grandstands after climbing out of his car and accepting the checkered flag at the iconic track.

“Gosh, we’ve been so close to winning one [superspeedway race] and I feel like I keep giving them away. Thought I might have given it away. I’m still learning, trying to know what too big of a lead is. But honestly, all credit to [Kaulig teammate] Landon Cassill.

“He kept shoving me. He stuck with me. That’s what is great about Kaulig Racing — when you have teammates like Landon and Daniel [Hemric] that you know wherever you go, they’ll go with you. So thank you Landon.

“Man, I just wanted to win a superspeedway and finally got it,” added a grinning Allmendinger.

Mayer was runner-up in his No. 1 Chevrolet for just his 2nd top 5 finish in the last 13 races. He lost a chance at his first career win by 3 feet.

Allmendinger’s teammate Landon Cassill was third in his No. 10 Chevrolet for his 1st top 5 in the last 18 races. His last top 5 was actually here in April when he finished 5th.

Ryan Sieg was 4th in his No. 39 Chevrolet while Josh Berry rounded out the top 5 in his No. 8 Chevrolet.

Parker Kligerman was sixth, followed by Playoff drivers Ty Gibbs, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Noah Gragson.

It marked quite the comeback for Gibbs, who qualified on the front row, but was involved in the only on-track yellow flag for an incident on the afternoon. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s No. 54 Toyota was tagged from behind by Justin Allgaier while racing in a tight pack up front only three laps into the 113-lap race. Gibbs spun out but was remarkably untouched by any other car.

A quick pit stop and impressive pit strategy later, Gibbs was running around the top-10 in the closing laps of the race and managed to recover to that seventh place final effort.

Gragson, driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, was looking to become the first driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to win five consecutive races and was running among the top-3 with 10 laps to go.

His ultimate move forward for the win in the closing laps was blocked and he instead finished 10th. Although just short of that historic victory nod, he had already earned his automatic ticket to the Playoffs second round by virtue of his victory last week at Texas (his seventh on the season and fourth in a row).

“We’re going to keep it going,” Gragson said after the race. “I have a super motivated team. You want to win them all, but you can’t do that sometimes.”

Chevy went 1-2-3-4-5-6. They’ve won 9 of the last 10 here including 8 straight.

Action during Saturday’s Sparks 300 at Talladega

Tame Race But A Good One

The race was largely tame with just 3 total cautions, 2 of which for stage breaks on Saturday. It was a wildly non chaotic race with the final stage going caution free and running mostly single file until the closing laps.

There were split pit strategies with the main contenders pitting in their own sequence compared to a few trying to stretch their stints out. Bayley Currey pit on Lap 80 to cycle it back to the main group with Austin Hill reinheriting the lead on Lap 81. He’d lead the next 28 laps before chaos broke out with Mayer making a run at the point. Allmendinger was 3rd on the final lap and was even there in Turn 4 before making his move for the win.

Still, it was refreshing to see a race end without the embarrassment of caution after caution to where they can’t complete a lap without another crash. This is how it’s done right and was nice to see.

Hill led the most laps (60) from the pole and even swept both stages but was shuffled back to 14th in the closing laps. Still, by having 20 stage points, he still sits +44 entering the cut race on the ROVAL.

Ty Gibbs is also feeling good at +50. Josh Berry (+28), Justin Allgaier (+26), Mayer (+13) and Sieg (+7) are each above the cutline.

Daniel Hemric (-7), Brandon Jones (-9), Riley Herbst (-10) and Jeremy Clements (-47) are needing to move ahead of the line next week.

Being 3rd On Final Lap An Advantage

Matt DiBenedetto was 3rd on the final lap of the Truck Series race a few hours earlier. He’d position himself heading to the tri-oval to find the lead. AJ Allmendinger saw that and replicated it. Sam Mayer and Ryan Sieg were in front. Allmendinger forced his way to the top lane and into the lead to narrowly win his 1st triumph in 25 Talladega starts.

He said being 3rd on the final lap has its advantages. He’s not wrong. Erik Jones led the white flag lap in the Cup race in April. Ross Chastain won. DiBenedetto was the 5th straight driver to lead only the final lap in the Truck race.

Kaulig Superspeedway Aces

Allmendinger gave Kaulig their 4th Talladega win in the last 6 races. Prior to this year, Kaulig won 3 of the last 5 at Daytona.

Today, they took 2 of the top 3 finishing spots as they showed they’re still the aces on Superspeedways.

Kligerman Double Top 10s

Parker Kligerman has made 12 career Talladega starts. He’s had a top 10 in half of them. 2 of those 6 top 10s occurred on Saturday as he was pulling double duty. He finished 9th in the Truck race and 6th a few hours later in the Xfinity event.

Everyone Finished

38 cars started Saturdays race at Talladega and remarkably enough, all 38 saw the checkered flag in the end. That’s just the 3rd time this feat has ever occurred in the history of the series and for it to occur at at drafting track is remarkable.

The other two races were everyone finished wee at Michigan in 1998 and Langley Speedway in Virginia in 1988.


  • Toyota last won here in 2014. 0 for their last 11.
  • Just 1 pole winner has won here in the last 17 tries.
  • 8 of the last 11 were won by a driver coming from outside the top 5 starting spots.
  • Just once did the driver lead the most laps and win at Talladega during the stage era (2019)
  • 7 of the 9 Stage 1’s did the eventual race winner score stage points. 4 of the 7 finished either 1st or 2nd.

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