Allmendinger wins wet inaugural Xfinity race in Portland Raceway

Allmendinger wins wet inaugural Xfinity race in Portland Raceway

On Saturday afternoon, AJ Allmendinger won the Pacific Office Automation 147, the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ first race at the Portland International Raceway road course.

Allmendinger literally came from last on the grid to win the race, claiming in victory lane that he changed “everything but the motor” before the race.

His No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet led only six of the race’s 75 laps, but it was enough to beat Myatt Snider by 2.879 seconds, giving the popular veteran his second Xfinity Series triumph of 2022; his first victory came earlier this season on the road course at the Circuit of the Americas.

Not only did the 40-year-old Californian Allmendinger start last, but he also had his first of a half-dozen off-track forays before crossing the finish line. In a race that saw nine cautions and only 21 of the 38 cars on the lead lap at the finish, he slipped down a lap early but managed to stay focused and rally back to the lead lap.

“It might be one of the craziest wins I’ve ever had,’’ the 12-time Xfinity Series winner Allmendinger said after the race.

“Man I cannot believe this. I crashed before it went green,’’ said Allmendinger, who also earned his first Champ Car win at Portland back in 2006. “I was making so many mistakes; trying so hard.”

“I put so much pressure on myself in these races because I know what everyone expects and I know what I expect out of myself, more importantly. But what a win.’’

Snider, who led five laps in the No. 31 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet, smiled as he admitted that finishing second to Allmendinger on a road track isn’t such a bad result.

“Just A.J.’s experience,’’ Snider said, managing a smile as he explained the difference in winning Saturday. “I could tell he was setting up those [corner] exits better than I was. To me that was good hard racing.”

“So cool to be disappointed with second [place] with a team that’s only a year-and-a-half old, and to get my first stage win, and maybe the first top three with this car,’’ he added.

Austin Hill of Richard Childress Racing finished third, with Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier of JR Motorsports completing out the top five. The top ten were Daniel Hemric, Ty Gibbs, JJ Yeley, Noah Gragson, and Alex Labbe.

Wet tyres were required in the early stages of the 1.97-mile track, which began with a steady downpour at the green flag and gradually dispersed as the race went.

As the rain lessened and was replaced with heavy mist at the Stage 2 break, most teams opted for the Goodyear slicks, only for the rain to return in the final stage after the cars had switched to the dry tyres.

Gibbs, driving the No. 54 JGR Toyota, led the race for 42 laps, but was involved in many on-track accidents contending for the lead, including driving under caution at one point after being bumped from behind by three-lap-down Jesse Iwuji.

Gragson, who began from the back of the pack like Allmendinger, had gained a race-best 22 spots at the start of Stage 2 and was in the top five until he was shoved off course by Gibbs on a mid-race restart that proved crucial for many of the day’s top drivers.

Gibbs collided with Gragson, then with Sheldon Creed, causing both Gibbs and Creed’s cars to deviate from their intended path. With 20 laps to go, Creed returned to the track and was engaged in a multi-car crash, severely damaging his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

“I thought we had an okay day going. I made a mistake running second…but got back to the lead,’’ said Creed. “The way my year’s gone, every time we have speed something goes wrong. Today I felt like we had a really good shot at winning.’’

Allmendinger increased his championship lead over Gibbs to 44 points with the win. Gragson’s ninth-place finish puts him 45 points behind the leaders.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will take a two-week hiatus before returning to action on June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway in the Tennessee Lottery 250.

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