He may not have set the pace prior to the final stage, but in the end, the result for AJ Allmendinger was a familiar one on a road course.: a victory.
Allmendinger moved into the lead with 20 laps remaining, then survived overtime to win a NASCAR Xfinity Series record sixth race on a road course by winning the Drive For The Cure 250 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
It wasn’t an overpowering win for Allmendinger, but he did what he usually does at a road course and ran near the front. To win a race, you have to first be in position to win, and Allmendinger did that. And with 20 laps to go, when race leader Ty Gibbs had to take a stop-and-go penalty for missing the chicane, Allmendinger was in prime position to sieze on the opportunity. Even though a late caution due to Tommy Joe Martins sustaining heavy damage to the right side of his car brought out the yellow flag and erased a lead of more than six seconds, a perfect restart sealed the deal for Allmendinger, who noted to his crew over the radio as the raced ended, according to the NBC Sports broadcast that his engine was beginning to skip.
For the second week in a row, non-playoff drivers didn’t cower away from the challenge.
Sam Mayer forged his way toward the front within the race’s first half, and it ended up being no fluke as he was in the top five as the overtime began, only to see hopes of that finish go away due to serving a stop and go penalty by missing the chicane to finish tenth. He also got into Ty Gibbs, of who he’s gone door to door with in ARCA. Gibbs, by the way, also stuck his nose in – leading seven laps before a penalty for missing the chicane booted him from the lead with 20 circuits to go, and he finished 21st.
"AJ Allmendinger goes by!"
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 9, 2021
As noted above, both Gibbs and Mayer fell victim to missing the chicane and the subsequent penalty. With both taking place so late in the race, fans didn’t get the chance to see both going at it for the win, something that could have easily happened had both not been penalized. If the contact after the final restart is an indication, go ahead and get ready for the next great rivalry in this series.
They’ve become a bit of a humorous reference due to their nicknames, but the “turtles” again became a story through no fault of their own. At 28 laps into the second stage, Josh Bilicki, after losing his brakes ran clear over one of the turn barriers, causing damage that had to be repaired, thus bringing out the red flag. The “turtles” are necessary at road courses. Hopefully, a quicker way to repair them can be devised going forward.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 9, 2021
Underdog Performance of the Race
There were mulitple drivers of which could be classifed as underdogs that put forth strong showings on Saturday. None, however, outshone that of Preston Pardus. He found his way on the fringe of the top ten early on and stayed there, persevering to earn a career-best finish of seventh.
Jordan Anderson Racing got yet another strong finish from its rotation of drivers thanks to Sage Karam, who race in or near the top ten before being shuffled back to finish 25th. Finishing 11th was Josh Williams, giving him his best finish since a tenth at Mid-Ohio.
“Three in a row here at the ROVAL, it means the world to me.” – AJ Allmendinger
AJ Allmendinger on the upcoming semifinal round:
“We’ve still got work to do. … If we get it right, we can be a team to make it to the final round.” pic.twitter.com/TChPQEe2mD
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) October 9, 2021
“I got in the wall when I was side-by-side by Harrison. Luckily, it didn’t end our day. I just need some more laps here. I hadn’t raced here before.” – Jeb Burton
“I feel like this has honestly been one of my weakest road courses for probably exactly what you saw—the rear tires fall off way too much. I felt like I was driving a skid-pad car after about 10 laps.” – Austin Cindric to NASCAR.com
The Final Word
Tracks like the ROVAL can breed calamity, especially for drivers looking to advance forward in the Playoffs with it being a cutoff race. That ended up not being the case on Saturday with the eight drivers advancing being those largely expected to do so, with Harrison Burton edging out Jeb Burton for the final spot in the Round of 8. He’ll be joined by Allmendinger, Hemric, Cindric, Justin Haley, Noah Gragson and Brandon Jones.
If you want to find a happy driver, check in with any of those eight as they survived two races in a row of which the unexpected can ruin hopes of a championship – Talladega and the Roval.
As the series moves on to the Round of 8 starting next week at Texas, it does so with this reminder, that Allmendinger and Kaulig Racing are doing what you have to do to win a title – be at your best late in the year.
Eight drivers will now aim to lock up a spot in the Championship 4 as the series heads to Texas next weekend for the Andy’s Frozen Custard 335 on Saturday at 3 p.m. on NBC.
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