Kaulig Racing driver A.J. Allmendiger won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race of the season, leading 27 of the 46 laps around the 3.41-mile circuit in Austin, Texas.
When it came to navigating Circuit of The Americas on Saturday afternoon, A.J. Allmendinger was quick and agile, reminding the field why he’s considered one of NASCAR’s road course great.
In the first road course race of the year, Allmendinger’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet beat Austin Hill’s No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet by 2.039 seconds. It was the veteran’s first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the 2022 season, and his 11th overall. He’s won seven road course races on six different courses (series-most).
It’s also his fifth Xfinity road course victory, which ties him for the most in the series.
“I was hard on myself yesterday, I was not happy with where I put ourselves, the setup that I made for us,” Allmendinger told Fox Sports after the race.
“All these men and women here at Kaulig Racing, between the Cup side of it and the Xfinity side of it, they don’t sleep during the week, they’re busting their tails.”
“That’s why I’m so frickin’ hard on myself sometimes because they deserve to win more than anybody here and I just want to do it for them, so thankfully, we got one done today.”
He led early and late, just when he needed to, holding off the field on two late and risky race restarts and controlling the race for the final 14 laps.
Austin Hill, an Xfinity rookie, finished second for the second time in the series. He’s now finished in the top two in three of Richard Childress Racing’s six races this season, including the season-opening victory at Daytona International Speedway.
“I guess AJ was just a little bit better than I was because I felt like we had a really good car,” Hill told Fox Sports.
“There were certain spots that I thought he was a little better than us.”
“It just shows we can run with AJ (on road courses). Maybe make the car just a little better and I think personally, as a driver, I need to work on a few things.”
Cole Custer, a regular in the NASCAR Cup Series, came back from a midrace pit road speeding penalty to finish third. Noah Gragson of JR Motorsports finished fourth, his sixth top-five result in the seven-race season. Sam Mayer, a teammate of Gragson’s, came in sixth.
“I told myself yesterday, I was not happy with where I put ourselves,” said Allmendinger, who qualified fourth.
“Honestly, all these men and women here at Kaulig Racing between the Cup side of it and the Xfinity side of it, they don’t sleep during the week.”
“They’re busting their tails, and that’s why I’m so fricking hard on myself sometimes because they deserve to win more than anybody here.”
“And I just want to do it for them. Thankfully, we got it done today,” Allmendinger added.
Allmendinger, Hill, Gragson, and Mayer are now eligible to earn a $100,000 bonus in the Dash 4 Cash sweepstakes opening at Richmond (Va.) Raceway next week as a result of their efforts. The check will be presented to the top-finishing driver in the ToyotaCare 250, courtesy of sponsor Comcast.
It was not an easy task for Allmendiger’s win. For the most part, Allmendinger was joined at the head of the field by pole-winner Ty Gibbs and fellow NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ross Chastain and Custer.
Gibbs and Chastain traded the lead with Allmendinger throughout the 46-lap race across the 3.41-mile, 20-turn circuit, but both suffered setbacks.
After a flat tire on Gibbs’ Toyota caused him to pit during a green flag run, he was way back in the field (36th place). He came back to finish 15th.
Chastain remained in the lead until the final laps of the race, when he was caught up in an aggressive pack on the last race restart with seven laps to go. He came in 17th place.
In a last-lap battle with Mayer, Myatt Snider came in sixth. Brett Moffitt finished seventh, while Jade Buford, Miguel Paludo, and Sheldon Creed rounded out the top ten. Sheldon Creed claimed the pole position for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race earlier in the day.
Hill was particularly pleased with himself since he was able to keep Allmendinger honest in the final laps.
Gragson leads Allmendinger by a single point in the Xfinity Series driver standings after his performance at COTA, with Gibbs third, 31 points down.
The next race in the Xfinity Series will take place on April 2 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).