NASCAR: Allmendinger wins thrilling Xfinity race

–by Holly Cain–

Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger held off an especially spirited field in double NASCAR Overtime to claim his first oval race victory of the season in a dramatic Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville Superspeedway Saturday evening.

The popular veteran led the final 20 laps and got an impressive final restart to launch his No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet from the pack and drive off to a 1.323-second win over runner-up Riley Herbst in a race that included a record-tying 11 cautions and 17 lead changes among 11 different drivers.

The caution-punctuated ending was perhaps suitable for a race that saw three yellow flags within the first 20 laps. Fifteen cars in the 38-car field had been involved in incidents before the Stage 2 break.

Yet, ultimately, it came down to a veteran’s purposeful, patient afternoon-long pursuit. And the 41-year-old Californian Allmendinger was up for the challenge, claiming his 17th victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and second of the season.

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #10 Bailey Zimmerman – Religiously Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 250 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 24, 2023 in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

“I love winning on ovals because I know a lot of people doubt me on an oval,” a smiling Allmendinger said, a nod to his former open-wheel days and his reputation as one of the best road-course drivers in the history of the sport.

Certainly, his experience paid off on Saturday with an especially active day. Ty Gibbs, the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and now a NASCAR Cup Series rookie, won the first stage and showed himself among the class of the field. But on the next restart, his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was hit while racing for the lead with one of this year’s championship favorites in Austin Hill, who was restarting up front on older tires. Allmendinger’s Chevy also suffered damage in the five-car melee near the front of the pack, but he – and Hill – were able to continue, while Gibbs’ car suffered too much damage.

Chandler Smith, Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate, won the race’s second stage and kept the lead pack honest for most of the day. He and Allmendinger exchanged the lead and ran 1-2 for much of the second half of the race around the 1.33-mile oval.

After a series of final scheduled pit stops, Parker Kligerman settled in for the biggest strategic gamble of the day. While the lead cars were making their way back through the field following stops, Kligerman kept his No. 48 Big Machine Racing Chevrolet out front, willing to take a chance on a fuel-saving strategy. But with 12 laps remaining, Kligerman’s team told him to drop in line behind Allmendinger to start conserving, and the No. 10 passed him for the lead with 11 laps of regulation to go.

JR Motorsports driver Sam Mayer finished third, with Hill fourth and JR Motorsports’ – and Tennessee native – Josh Berry rounding out the top five.

“That was the most up and down day I’ve ever had in racing,” Mayer said, managing a smile on pit road afterward.

John Hunter Nemechek finished sixth in the No. 20 JGR Toyota. Although he never led a lap, his rally forward after a 21st starting position was good enough for him to hold onto the championship lead by nine points over Hill.

Reigning NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Zane Smith turned in an impressive seventh-place finish in the No. 28 Ford. Allmendinger’s Kaulig teammate Daniel Hemric was eighth. Herbst’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Cole Custer was ninth, followed by rookie Parker Retzlaff.

“We got a little fortunate there when the accident happened, it didn’t really do anything too bad to the quarter panels .. and the guys did a good job of fixing it there,” Allmendinger said of the early damage, noting that the rash of early cautions actually helped his team have time to restore his car competitively.

“I will be honest, I was shocked on the initial start, I went down and made it three wide and thought nothing on it, didn’t even drive my car that hard and started wrecking, so that kind of raised my eyebrows, it’s a lot slicker than I expected,” Allmendinger said. “So the next couple starts, just tried to chill and get into the rhythm of the race.

“I just knew more than anything I needed a good re-start and to get in Turn 1 clean,” he said of the final restart and ultimate winning move.

The Xfinity Series will next take to the streets of Chicago for The Loop 121 on July 1 (5 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).

Note: Post-race inspection concluded without issue, confirming Allmendinger as the winner. The No. 00 car of Cole Custer will be taken back to the NASCAR R&D Center for further evaluation.

Race Results

Fin Str No. Driver Team Laps Led Status
1 11 10 AJ Allmendinger(i) Bailey Zimmerman – Religiously Chevrolet 196 25 Running
2 5 98 Riley Herbst Monster Energy Ford 196 0 Running
3 34 1 Sam Mayer Huck’s Market Chevrolet 196 6 Running
4 7 21 Austin Hill Bennett Transportation Chevrolet 196 3 Running
5 23 8 Josh Berry Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Chevrolet 196 1 Running
6 21 20 John Hunter Nemechek Pye Barker Fire and Safety Toyota 196 0 Running
7 6 28 Zane Smith(i) Blue Oval City Ford 196 0 Running
8 33 11 Daniel Hemric Cirkul Chevrolet 196 1 Running
9 1 0 Cole Custer HAAS Automation Ford 196 32 Running
10 10 31 Parker Retzlaff # FunkAway Chevrolet 196 3 Running
11 13 48 Parker Kligerman Spiked Light Coolers Chevrolet 196 22 Running
12 2 16 Chandler Smith # Quick Tie Products Inc. Chevrolet 196 74 Running
13 12 27 Jeb Burton Hawkins Homes Chevrolet 196 0 Running
14 26 25 Brett Moffitt SLTC/ Ford 196 0 Running
15 16 7 Justin Allgaier BRANDT Chevrolet 196 0 Running
16 20 26 Kaz Grala CRUSH Tropical Punch Toyota 196 0 Running
17 19 2 Sheldon Creed Whelen Chevrolet 195 0 Running
18 32 4 Kyle Weatherman Trophy Tractor Chevrolet 195 0 Running
19 14 39 Ryan Sieg Ford 195 0 Running
20 35 6 Brennan Poole Macc Door Systems Chevrolet 195 0 Running
21 17 38 Joe Graf Jr. G-Coin Ford 195 0 Running
22 24 51 Jeremy Clements All South Electric Chevrolet 195 0 Running
23 28 78 Anthony Alfredo DUDE Wipes Chevrolet 195 0 Running
24 15 9 Brandon Jones Menards/DuPont Air Filtration Chevrolet 195 0 Running
25 9 29 Kyle Sieg Peek Pool and Spas Ford 195 0 Running
26 27 2 Blaine Perkins # Our Motorsports Chevrolet 194 0 Running
27 30 45 Jeffrey Earnhardt Roadrunner Markets/FL Chevrolet 194 0 Running
28 25 43 Ryan Ellis Keen Parts Chevrolet 194 0 Running
29 22 91 Chad Chastain(i) Use Your Melon Drive Sober Chevrolet 194 0 Running
30 36 35 David Starr Kales Truck and Heavy Equipment Chevrolet 193 0 Running
31 37 53 Joey Gase Sci-Aps Ford 193 0 Running
32 31 8 Mason Massey BRUNT Ford 186 0 Running
33 29 92 Josh Williams Dan-O’s Seasoning Chevrolet 111 0 Alternator
34 3 18 Sammy Smith # Pilot Flying J Toyota 68 1 Accident
35 38 24 Connor Mosack Toyota Genuine Parts Toyota 61 0 DVP
36 8 77 Carson Hocevar(i) Premier Security Chevrolet 53 0 Accident
37 4 19 Ty Gibbs(i) He Gets Us Toyota 53 28 Accident
38 18 7 Stefan Parsons Nelson’s Green Brier Chevrolet 0 0 Accident
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