AJ Allmendinger Triumphs at Michigan

Kaulig Racing continues to hunt trophies as AJ Allmendinger claims his third win of the season at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Leading up to race day at Michigan International Speedway, notable headlines flooded the NASCAR XFINITY Series field. Front row starter AJ Allmendinger was riding the high from a remarkable NASCAR Cup Series Indianapolis Road Course win. A new team was reported to be in the works for 2022 stating Jesse Iwuji and Emmitt Smith would partner to form Jesse Iwuji Motorsports.  Additionally, Josh Berry announced he would be going full-time racing with JR Motorsports in 2022. 

However, prior to the drop of the green flag, the looming question remained: Would a new driver lock into the Playoffs at the conclusion of the New Holland 250?

Stage 1

Austin Cindric and AJ Allmendinger would start out front and lead the field to green. A competition caution and spin by Caesar Bacarella resulted in wild restarts with drivers using every inch of real estate. 

Be that as it may, at the end of an otherwise quiet stage, Cindric would go on to claim his ninth stage win of the season.

Despite an early end to his day, Austin Cindric did claim a stage win – crucial to his Playoff run. (Image: Team Penske)

Stage 1 top 10: Cindric, Ty Gibbs, Allmendinger, Myatt Snider, Noah Gragson, Daniel Hemric, Harrison Burton, Brandon Jones, Josh Berry, Justin Haley

 

Stage 2

The start of the second stage saw Jeb Burton and Tyler Reddick out front. Unfortunately, as soon as the green flag was in the air, the caution was back out. 

Brandon Brown got loose after contact with Justin Allgaier. As Brown worked to regain control of his car, he made contact with Snider.

An additional half dozen drivers were collected in the mayhem, including pole-sitter, Cindric, Hemric, Gibbs, Joe Graf, Jr., Haley, and Wallace. With major players damaged or out of the game, it was suddenly anyone’s game in the Irish Hills.

As the stage laps ticked by, Allmendinger claimed the lead and left his competitors in the dust. The Kaulig Racing driver would claim his eighth stage of the season

AJ Allmendinger spent a lot of time out front at Michigan International Speedway. (Photo: Kaulig Racing)

Stage 2 top 10: Allmendinger, Gibbs, H. Burton, Allgaier, J. Burton, Gragson, B. Jones, Berry, Brett Moffitt, Riley Herbst

 

Stage 3

The final stage started with Allmendinger and J. Burton out front with 59 laps remaining in the race. Multiple battles immediately engaged throughout the field. However, drivers quickly settled into place, focusing their efforts on the cars directly ahead of them.

With 41 laps left in the race, the battle for the lead was heating up as Allgaier started to hone in on Allmendinger. Almost instantly, Berry was on Allgaier’s bumper as the leaders began to battle lapped traffic. 

Two laps later, Berry snuck through an opening, left wide open thanks to Allgaier and Allmendinger, to claim the lead. The substitute driver for Michael Annett worked his way to a two-second lead but lost a little ground as he battled with H. Burton who was fighting to stay on the lead lap.

Green flag pit stops began with 21 laps remaining almost guaranteeing a shake-up of the field. However, before the field could cycle through, the caution flew as J. Burton ran out of fuel on the backstretch with 10 to go. 

With five laps to go, Berry rocketed ahead on the restart, but Allmendinger would not give up the fight easily. As the end of the race was in sight, Jesse Little and Bayley Currey got into each other, bringing out yet another caution.

This incident would set up an overtime finish, but before the leader could take the white flag, Mason Massey hit the wall hard.

The second overtime attempt was thwarted when Ty Gibbs slammed into the wall, leaving a wake of debris.

Overtime attempt number three was a success and saw Allmendinger rise to the top, claiming his third win of the season.

Final Top 10: Allmendinger, B. Jones, Gragson, Berry, H. Burton, Allgaier, Herbst, Moffitt, Jade Buford, Wallace

AJ Allmendinger celebrates in victory lane at Michigan International Speedway.

The sweet taste of victory. (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Words from the Winner

Wins are Special

In his post-race press conference, Allmendinger said of late-race, overtime restarts, “It’s tough. The XFINITY Series, right now, it’s 10 to 12 cars really deep of really fast cars and great young drivers. And you’ve got to be on your right game. I thought our car was really good early. And then we got tight. We weren’t probably going to win on the long runs. But on the short runs, we had speed. But you’ve got a lot of young, aggressive drivers on the restarts that you have to get after it. That’s the way it is. These races are shorter. Everyone’s more aggressive. So, it’s hard to make a mistake and come back from it. Any time that we can win one of these races, it’s special.”

Live in the Moment

When asked about everything he has had to overcome and then win on back-to-back weekends, in two different series, no less, Allmendinger spoke on the surrealness of it all, saying, “It’s awesome. To have the week that we’ve had, to have we have the season that we’ve had in the XFINITY Series, and we’ve still got a long way to go. So I think that’s more than anything. I don’t try to look at the past or even look towards the future about the championship. I try to live in the moment because I know some of the bad moments I’ve had in my life during this time of the sport. So, just live in the moment, enjoy it and keep trying to get better every week.”

Race Reflections

Josh Berry, while filling in for Michael Annett, definitely showed up and showed out at Michigan. Coming off the heels of his 2022 announcement, it will be exciting to see what this Late Model driver can do when he is in a consistent, full-time ride.

The Playoffs loom further out of reach for Brandon Brown and Brandonbilt Motorsports as they sit 82 points below the cut line. However, the next race is at Daytona International Speedway. The young driver said it best in a recent Terra Talks interview, noting, this is “a track where teams like ours really, truly have a great shot at succeeding, and possibly winning.” Fans of this family-owned team will be holding their breath next weekend. 

Finally, some unique names rounded out the top 20. This list included Buford, Jeremy Clements, Jordan Anderson, Josh Williams, Tommy Joe Martins, and Colin Garrett. 

Looking Ahead

Four races remain in the regular season for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Teams will take on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway next Friday (August 27) at 7:30 PM ET.

Terra Jones

As a life-long NASCAR fan and lover of words, I'm fortunate enough to put the two together here at The Podium Finish to bring our readers and motorsports fans news, features, and interviews from the world of wheels. Originally from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, I moved westward to graduate from Middle Tennessee State University. I now reside in central North Carolina with my husband, our three boys, and our dog, Charlotte. While my heart is at the race track, I also enjoy watching baseball, as well as college football and basketball. 

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