Race Weekend Central

AJ Allmendinger’s Dominant Day Undone by Late Race Drama at COTA

The three-peat wasn’t meant to be Saturday (March 23) at Circuit of the Americas for AJ Allmendinger.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series driver of the No. 16 Chevrolet Camaro, tied for the most laps led with fellow Kaulig Racing driver Shane van Gisbergen. The teammates and Kyle Larson battled cleanly all day, unchallenged at the front of the field by others for the majority of the race.

Allmendinger, staying on the race winning strategy, sacrificed stage wins to Parker Kligerman and Riley Herbst in order to compete for the win against the two in a battle of road-racing mastery.

Allmendinger restarted the final stage with the lead and looked to be pulling away at first, but van Gisbergen ran him down, passing the No. 16 with nine to go and began scooting away for what seemed to be his first career win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“I thought SVG and I had the dominant cars,” Allmendinger said. “He was a little bit better on that last run there. I got too free, so we were probably going to come home one-two, and that was the way it was going to go.”

Or so he thought.

The race changed when Ed Jones spun, leaking oil on the track with four laps to go in regulation, sending the race into the second overtime finish of the day.

Allmendinger elected to restart on the bottom behind van Gisbergen and made the move to the middle of the track to battle for the lead, but Allmendinger was caught on the outside off the racing line, forcing the California native back into heavy traffic.

The penalty became more severe when Herbst, Ryan Ellis, Leland Honeyman and Daniil Kvyat were involved in a multi-car pileup, bringing out the caution for the final time. This turned the penalty from a pass-through penalty to a tail-of-the-longest-line penalty

“Once the caution comes out in these late races, especially these road courses, anything could happen,” Allmendinger said. “So you expect the worst and hope for the best, and we got the worst of it.”

Also under caution, him and Ty Gibbs ran into each other in what looked to be a disagreement on track.

“We got to talk about it,” Allmendinger said. “We were just racing. You’re racing for the win. Everybody’s on the edge and doing everything they can. I love Ty and we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

After the dust settled on the final restart and the finish, Allmendinger managed a top-10 finish while Larson won the race over Austin Hill and van Gisbergen, who was dropped to 27th after his own track limits penalty.

“At least we were able to salvage something,” Allmendinger said.

About the author

Wyatt Watson has been an avid fan of NASCAR since 2007 at the age of 8. He joined Frontstretch in February 2023 after serving in the United States Navy for five years as an Electronic Technician Navigation working on submarines. Wyatt writes breaking NASCAR news and contributes to columns such as Friday Faceoff and 2-Headed Monster. Wyatt also contributes to Frontstretch's social media and serves as an at-track reporter.

Wyatt Watson can be found on Twitter @WyattGametime

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