Allmendinger climbs through the field for a recovery win at Circuit Of The Americas

AUSTIN, TEXAS - MARCH 25: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #10 Celsius Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pit Boss 250 at Circuit of The Americas on March 25, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

It was a masterclass by Allmendinger on Saturday afternoon. Though Allmendinger started on pole and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Pit Boss 250 presented by USA Today, his win was not without a hard fight.

After leading the first fourteen laps, pit strategy calls left Allmendinger in bad position as the caution flag flew as he got caught in restart traffic and fell as far back as 25th place.

But Allmendinger showed flashes of his road course brilliance as he sliced his way through the field to lead the final fourteen laps en route to a .853-second win over fellow Cup Series competitor William Byron.

“William Byron put his best foot forward, you’ve seen all the Cup races he’s winning,” Allmendinger said. “I knew it was going to be tough just trying to fight to get back up to the front there.”

“I spent a lot of years not winning anything so I’m going to celebrate every one of them like it’s my last one,” Allmendinger said. “You never know. As much pressure as I put on myself, I’m always going to try to live up to it. The pit crew was awesome and I’m so proud of everyone.”

AUSTIN, TEXAS – MARCH 25: AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #10 Celsius Chevrolet, and William Byron, driver of the #17 Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pit Boss 250 at Circuit of The Americas on March 25, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Allmendinger took the lead after a fight with Sheldon Creed which ended in Creed spinning.

“Hate that I had contact with Sheldon; he got under me,” said Allmendinger. “I was trying to stay off him, so I hate that happened but so proud of everyone at Kaulig Racing. The Celsius Chevy was really hooked up and with all the damage we had it didn’t hurt the car.”

As for Byron, who will be starting on the pole in the Cup Series event at the 3.41-mile, 20-turn COTA track, he was only congratulatory towards Allmendinger.

“I was getting one final run at him, but obviously they were really good all day, just great at these road courses,” Byron said, but he acknowledged that he had “just a little bit to gain and then made a mistake” in the esses.

“It was a great effort, just need to clean it up in the cars,” he said, “but had a lot of fun racing.”

AUSTIN, TEXAS – MARCH 25: Carson Hocevar, driver of the #07 Engine Parts Plus Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pit Boss 250 at Circuit of The Americas on March 25, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

NASCAR Cup Series rookie Ty Gibbs – the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion – finished third in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota, just ahead of his JGR teammate Sammy Smith and veteran JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier.

“We were just a little bit too loose all day,” said Gibbs, last year’s Xfinity Series champion. “It was an okay finish – we will take it. I’m happy to be back racing in Xfinity Series – it’s a fun time. Hopefully we can go get them tomorrow.”

Kaulig Racing’s Daniel Hemric, JR Motorsports teammates Sam Mayer and Josh Berry, Creed and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Riley Herbst rounded out the top-10.

This was a Dash 4 Cash qualifying race with the four top-finishing fulltime NASCAR Xfinity Series competitors now eligible for a $100,000 bonus next week at Richmond Raceway; the top finisher among the four will earn the money and be eligible for another the following race at Martinsville later that month.

With their showings on Saturday: Sammy Smith, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and Sam Mayer are the four drivers who race for the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash $100,000 in next week’s Call811 Before You Dig 250 at Richmond Raceway (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Photos: NASCAR at COTA Saturday March 25, 2023

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – Pit Boss 250 presented by USA Today
Circuit of The Americas
Austin, Texas
Saturday, March 25, 2023

1. (1) AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 46.
2. (9) William Byron(i), Chevrolet, 46.
3. (3) Ty Gibbs(i), Toyota, 46.
4. (2) Sammy Smith #, Toyota, 46.
5. (8) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 46.
6. (11) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 46.
7. (14) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 46.
8. (15) Josh Berry, Chevrolet, 46.
9. (4) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 46.
10. (7) Riley Herbst, Ford, 46.
11. (26) Brandon Jones, Chevrolet, 46.
12. (27) Chandler Smith #, Chevrolet, 46.
13. (18) Miguel Paludo, Chevrolet, 46.
14. (25) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 46.
15. (23) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 46.
16. (29) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 46.
17. (34) Parker Retzlaff #, Chevrolet, 46.
18. (20) Kaz Grala, Toyota, 46.
19. (22) Connor Mosack, Toyota, 46.
20. (32) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, 46.
21. (21) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 46.
22. (33) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 46.
23. (31) Ryan Sieg, Ford, 46.
24. (13) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 46.
25. (36) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 46.
26. (38) Kyle Sieg, Ford, 46.
27. (6) John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 46.
28. (24) Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 46.
29. (30) Brad Perez, Chevrolet, 46.
30. (35) Joe Graf Jr., Ford, 46.
31. (5) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 46.
32. (10) Cole Custer, Ford, 45.
33. (37) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, Steering, 29.
34. (28) Brett Moffitt, Ford, Engine, 27.
35. (16) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, Engine, 23.
36. (19) Preston Pardus, Chevrolet, Suspension, 16.
37. (12) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, Engine, 13.
38. (17) Carson Hocevar(i), Chevrolet, Transmission, 7.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 75.263 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 5 Mins, 3 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.853 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 5 for 7 laps.
Lead Changes: 6 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Allmendinger(i) 1-14;S. Creed 15-26;W. Byron(i) 27;S. Creed 28;P. Kligerman 29;S. Creed 30-32;A. Allmendinger(i) 33-46.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): AJ Allmendinger(i) 2 times for 28 laps; Sheldon Creed 3 times for 16 laps; Parker Kligerman 1 time for 1 lap; William Byron(i) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 10,2,48,19,17,98,7,9,18,1
Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,39,20,08,8,10,17,19,18,27

Owen Johnson