AJ Allmendinger was ahead of Sam Mayer by just .015 seconds when he crossed the line to win his first superspeedway race – or just three feet, in other words. He was critical of the big tracks heading into Saturday’s Sparks 300 at Talladega, but was ecstatic after taking the win.
He’d taken the white flag in the lead three times in his career without a win. This time, he bided his time behind Mayer until the last corner, where he pulled ahead with the help of his teammate Landon Cassill. The win also gives him an automatic berth in the Round of 8 in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.
“Gosh, we’ve been so close to winning one and I feel like I keep giving them away,” Allmendinger said of his experience at superspeedways. “Thought I might have given it away. I’m still learning.”
“But honestly, all credit to Landon Cassill,” he added of his teammate. “He kept shoving me. He stuck with me. That’s what is great about Kaulig Racing.”
“Man, I just wanted to win a superspeedway and finally got it!” Allmendinger exclaimed.
Cassill ultimately ended up third behind Playoff contender Sam Mayer, followed by fellow Playoff drivers Ryan Seig and Josh Berry. Parker Kligerman finished sixth in a one-off start.
Ty Gibbs recovered to seventh after an early spin after being tagged from behind by Justin Allgaier. He managed to keep damage to a minimum and stay competitive.
“I don’t know if I saved it to be honest with you,” Gibbs said. “We did have a lot of damage on the right front and that affected our balance. We lost a lot of our right front splitter and it popped my right front into the air and that impacted the balance and control.” But, he said, “we regrouped as a team and went back out and finished seventh.”
Regarding the championship picture, he said: “I think we’re 50 points to the good, which is not locked in, but it’s a good position. Better than a lot of these guys and we’ll just keep going. We’ve got a good program for the Roval too. This is a hard round so we just have to make it through.”
After fighting for the lead in the closing laps, Noah Gragson was shuffled back to tenth, denying him a fifth win in a row, which would have been a new record in the Xfinity Series. Instead, he’ll have to be happy to share his already-impressive four-win record.
“We’re going to keep it going,” Gragson said. “I have a super motivated team. You want to win them all, but you can’t do that sometimes.”
With just one race to go before the field is trimmed down to the top eight drivers, the cutline is still tight. Ryan Seig is the first driver to the good. Daniel Hemric is six points back, followed by Riley Herbst and Brandon Jones who are both ten points out. Jeremy Clements is 47 points back in the final position.
“We couldn’t jump above the cutline for the playoffs,” Riley Herbst said about his Playoff hopes, “but we’re going to another unpredictable track next Saturday. The Roval will be tough, too. We know what we have to do and we’ll do it.”
Up next is the Drive for the Cure 250 presented by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina on Saturday at the Charlotte Roval (3 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – 3rd Annual Sparks 300
Saturday, October 1, 2022
1. (8) AJ Allmendinger (P), Chevrolet, 113.
2. (13) Sam Mayer (P), Chevrolet, 113.
3. (18) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 113.
4. (14) Ryan Sieg (P), Ford, 113.
5. (7) Josh Berry (P), Chevrolet, 113.
6. (9) Parker Kligerman(i), Chevrolet, 113.
7. (2) Ty Gibbs (P), Toyota, 113.
8. (12) Daniel Hemric (P), Chevrolet, 113.
9. (5) Brandon Jones (P), Toyota, 113.
10. (6) Noah Gragson (P), Chevrolet, 113.
11. (23) Riley Herbst (P), Ford, 113.
12. (3) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 113.
13. (11) Trevor Bayne (P), Toyota, 113.
14. (1) Austin Hill # (P), Chevrolet, 113.
15. (4) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 113.
16. (20) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 113.
17. (16) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 113.
18. (35) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 113.
19. (30) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 113.
20. (37) Jeremy Clements (P), Chevrolet, 113.
21. (25) Joey Gase, Ford, 113.
22. (19) Joe Graf Jr., Ford, 113.
23. (26) Derek Griffith, Toyota, 113.
24. (24) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 112.
25. (33) David Starr, Ford, 112.
26. (32) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 112.
27. (36) Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 112.
28. (22) Jesse Iwuji #, Chevrolet, 112.
29. (28) CJ McLaughlin, Ford, 112.
30. (10) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 112.
31. (31) Caesar Bacarella, Chevrolet, 112.
32. (34) Howie Disavino III, Chevrolet, 112.
33. (17) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 112.
34. (38) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, 111.
35. (21) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 111.
36. (15) Blaine Perkins(i), Chevrolet, 110.
37. (27) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 109.
38. (29) Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 95.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 158.827 mph.
Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 53 Mins, 33 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.015 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 3 for 11 laps.
Lead Changes: 20 among 11 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Hill # (P) 1-7;J. Allgaier (P) 8-13;A. Hill # (P) 14-26;T. Hill(i) 27;A. Hill # (P) 28-30;T. Bayne (P) 31-40;S. Creed # 41-42;A. Hill # (P) 43-51;B. Currey 52;T. Bayne (P) 53-55;N. Gragson (P) 56;B. Jones (P) 57;R. Sieg (P) 58;A. Allmendinger (P) 59;R. Sieg (P) 60-69;B. Currey 70-80;A. Hill # (P) 81-108;S. Mayer (P) 109-110;A. Allmendinger (P) 111;S. Mayer (P) 112;A. Allmendinger (P) 113.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Austin Hill # (P) 5 times for 60 laps; Trevor Bayne (P) 2 times for 13 laps; Bayley Currey 2 times for 12 laps; Ryan Sieg (P) 2 times for 11 laps; Justin Allgaier (P) 1 time for 6 laps; AJ Allmendinger (P) 3 times for 3 laps; Sam Mayer (P) 2 times for 3 laps; Sheldon Creed # 1 time for 2 laps; Timmy Hill(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Brandon Jones (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Noah Gragson (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 21,2,11,19,18,16,7,54,68,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 21,7,16,18,27,1,68,19,39,8
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