CONCORD, North Carolina — It took a bit of thievery for AJ Allmendinger to preserve his perfect record at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
“We got that one—we stole that one,” shouted Allmendinger after spinning his car like a dervish during a celebratory burnout at the finish line of the 2.32-mile, 17-turn road course.
Indeed, the 40-year-old Allmendinger swiped the lead from Ty Gibbs—a driver half his age—after an overtime restart on Lap 68 of the Drive for the Cure 250 presented by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, the Round of 12 elimination race in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
After lagging behind Gibbs into Turn 1 on three previous restarts, Allmendinger kept his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet to the outside of Gibbs No. 54 Toyota through the first corner, surged ahead into Turn 2 and cleared Gibbs from the inside line through Turns 3 and 4.
“It’s unbelievable,” Allmendinger, who won for the fourth time in four starts at the Charlotte ROVAL. “Ty was really good there at the end, and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get him. I knew if I could just get to one restart on the outside of him, at least we’d have a chance.”
Once in the lead, Allmendinger survived a second overtime restart before beating Gibbs to the finish line by .582 seconds. The victory was Allmendinger’s second straight in the series, his fifth of the season and the 15th of his career — 10 of which have come on road courses.
“I was wanting it pretty bad there,” Allmendinger said. “I didn’t think we had a shot, but I’m always going to put it on my back when it’s time to go. We got that one. We stole that one!…
“I drove it in as deep as I could (on the final restart), probably used Ty up just a little bit, but I’d expect the same if the roles were reversed.”
Gibbs was diplomatic in his assessment of the final two restarts.
“I just lost the lead on that one restart and didn’t execute the right way and lost it there,” Gibbs said. “The last one, I caught the fence when I got ran wide, and it just kind of hurt my momentum… I feel like I gave it my best run, but I was proud of the effort.
“I had a fun out there and learned a lot.”
Allmendinger already had clinched a spot in the Playoffs’ Round of 8 with last Saturday’s victory at Talladega. So had third-place finisher Noah Gragson, who won his fourth straight race a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway.
Gibbs clinched his spot in the Round of 8 by finishing second to Allmendinger in the first stage of Saturday’s race. Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry, Sam Mayer, Austin Hill and Brandon Jones also advanced to the next round, with Jones finishing seventh in the race and claiming the final spot by two points over Ryan Sieg.
All four JR Motorsports drivers—Gragson, Allgaier, Berry and Mayer—will be competing for positions in the Championship 4 race at Phoenix Raceway.
In addition to Sieg, reigning series champion Daniel Hemric, Riley Herbst and Jeremy Clements were eliminated from the postseason.
Hemric qualified third but slammed into the outside barrier between Turns 5 and 6 on Lap 3. He recovered to finish 17th but ended the round 11 points behind Jones after contact from Sieg on a late restart.
“I made a mistake on Lap 3 that you just can’t make,” Hemric said ruefully.
Road course specialist James Davison ran fourth, followed by Allgaier, Alex Labbe, Jones, Berry, Sieg and Landon Cassill.
Karam Made Presence Known
Sage Karam made mention prerace that he’d love to run full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2023. The Pennsylvania native has been turning heads in his limited opportunities here and with how well he drove in Saturday’s race, there’s no reason to believe someone won’t give him a shot.
Karam was in the top 10 for stage points at the end of the first stage and positioned himself in the second stage to have a shot at the win in the final 20 laps. He did so too. Karam restarted the race with 7 laps remaining in 3rd. In front of him was Allmendinger and Gibbs. Behind him Gragson and Allgaier. He was the odd one out or maybe this was a sign of things to come.
Karam later spun, it still shouldn’t overshadow his prowess up front. Two starts ago was a 5th place finish in Daytona too.
Jones Sneaks By
Brandon Jones said it was closer than it should have been and boy was he right. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver narrowly escaped the first round by just 2 points. However, this is the playoffs and it’s about survival. Even with Ryan Sieg taking no prisoners and charging hard, Jones still held him off to advance to the 2nd round on Saturday via a top 10 finish.
Round of 8 Going To Be A Fight
All 4 JR Motorsports cars advanced. So did a pair of Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s. They’re joined by Austin Hill (Richard Childress Racing) and Allmendinger (Kaulig Racing) in the Round of 8. 3 races remain to set the Championship 4 and among these 8 drivers left, it’s going to be an intense second round.
Allmendinger has won 2 straight races now and has 11 consecutive top 7 finishes including 8 top 4’s. Gibbs has 9 top 8 finishes over the last 10 races himself. Gragson has 4 wins in the last 6 and 10 top 10’s over the last 11. Allgaier has been here before and in having 4 Championship 4 appearances in the last 6 seasons. He also has 13 top 5’s and 19 top 10’s on the season heading to some very good tracks for him ahead.
These are the favorites for the final round.
But don’t sleep on Jones. He won Martinsville this past spring and was runner-up in Phoenix. Hill has 2 top 3 finishes in his last 4 starts on the season. Even Mayer is coming on. The rookie has finished 9th, 4th, 8th, 2nd and 11th in his last 5 races. Then there’s Berry who has 8 top 10 finishes in his last 9 races on the season too. He won the last playoff race in Vegas, was 4th in the spring and 3rd in Phoenix this past March.
Buckle up. This round is going to be wild…
Saturday’s win was Allmendinger’s 5th career playoff victory. That’s 1 shy of tying Christopher Bell for most all-time.
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – 41st Annual Drive for the Cure 250 presented by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina
Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
Concord, North Carolina
Saturday, October 8, 2022
1. (1) AJ Allmendinger (P), Chevrolet, 72.
2. (2) Ty Gibbs (P), Toyota, 72.
3. (37) Noah Gragson (P), Chevrolet, 72.
4. (16) James Davison (P), Toyota, 72.
5. (5) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 72.
6. (12) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 72.
7. (15) Brandon Jones (P), Toyota, 72.
8. (14) Josh Berry (P), Chevrolet, 72.
9. (17) Ryan Sieg (P), Ford, 72.
10. (7) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 72.
11. (6) Sam Mayer (P), Chevrolet, 72.
12. (18) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 72.
13. (31) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 72.
14. (10) Jeremy Clements (P), Chevrolet, 72.
15. (24) Daniil Kvyat, Toyota, 72.
16. (4) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 72.
17. (3) Daniel Hemric (P), Chevrolet, 72.
18. (23) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 72.
19. (25) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 72.
20. (33) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 72.
21. (19) Preston Pardus, Chevrolet, 72.
22. (26) Scott Heckert, Chevrolet, 72.
23. (27) Brad Perez(i), Toyota, 72.
24. (36) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 72.
25. (13) Stefan Parsons(i), Chevrolet, 72.
26. (32) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 72.
27. (35) Joe Graf Jr., Ford, 72.
28. (34) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 72.
29. (8) Austin Hill # (P), Chevrolet, 70.
30. (9) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 70.
31. (29) Andy Lally, Ford, 69.
32. (11) Riley Herbst (P), Ford, Accident, 67.
33. (28) Patrick Gallagher, Ford, Engine, 67.
34. (20) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 66.
35. (21) Kaz Grala(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 59.
36. (30) Marco Andretti, Chevrolet, Accident, 45.
37. (22) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, Track Bar, 35.
38. (38) Kris Wright(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 7.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 70.771 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 21 Mins, 37 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.582 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 9 for 15 laps.
Lead Changes: 8 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Allmendinger (P) 1-20;T. Gibbs (P) 21;N. Gragson (P) 22;S. Creed # 23-37;B. Jones (P) 38-40;R. Herbst (P) 41;S. Creed # 42-44;T. Gibbs (P) 45-67;A. Allmendinger (P) 68-72.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): AJ Allmendinger (P) 2 times for 25 laps; Ty Gibbs (P) 2 times for 24 laps; Sheldon Creed # 2 times for 18 laps; Brandon Jones (P) 1 time for 3 laps; Noah Gragson (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Riley Herbst (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 16,54,1,21,98,7,18,10,8,02
Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,98,1,7,18,11,8,23,2,54