• Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Allmendinger goes back-to-back at COTA in comeback victory

ByBrenden Martin

Mar 25, 2023
AJ Allmendinger wins back-to-back at COTA

Chris Graythen | Getty Images

In similar fashion to his come-from-behind victory in the Pacific Office Automation 147 at Portland International Raceway last season, Kaulig Racing No. 10 driver AJ Allmendinger made up for mid-race issues to win the Pit Boss 250 at Circuit of the Americas for the second year in a row.

Altered pit strategy due to there being no stage breaks for road courses this year mired Allmendinger in the middle of the pack after staying out to win Stage 1.

Now a full-time driver for Kaulig in the NASCAR Cup Series, Allmendinger made his first Xfinity Series start since 2022 and made it count.

“I spent a lot of years not winning anything,” Allmendinger said to Fox Sports’ Josh Sims. “I’m going to celebrate every one like it’s my last one, you never know. As much pressure as I put on myself, I’m always going to try to live up to it.”

Allmendinger and Richard Childress Racing No. 2 driver Sheldon Creed duked it out from the very start. The race winner started from the pole, but Creed’s strong restarts all day gave him the edge on the opening lap after a ton of contact on the first turn. Allmendinger quickly got Creed back at the end of Lap 1 and began to pull away with what looked like could be a wire-to-wire win.

The dynamic pit strategies with no stage breaks came into play when the first caution came out due to SS Green Light Racing No. 07 Carson Hocevar having a transmission issue and getting stalled halfway through the first stage.

Most cars came to pit road under caution, but Allmendinger stayed out and ran the rest of the stage on old tires and still came away with his 12th career Xfinity Series road course stage win. Allmendinger came down pit road next time around and came out in the middle of the pack.

His strategy proved to hurt him a caution from Pardus Racing Inc No. 50 driver Preston Pardus closed the field together for a crowded restart. Heavy traffic in Turn 1 sent SS Green Light No. 08 driver Aric Almirola spinning with Allmendinger getting stuck behind him.

Allmendinger got sent back to 30th, making Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice irate.

With Allmendinger away, the battle ensued between Creed and Hendrick Motorsports No. 17 driver William Byron. The two went back and forth, switching up on each other until Byron got around the defensive Creed on Lap 27.

A caution brought out by AM Racing No. 25 driver Brett Moffitt right before the end of Stage 2 meant that everyone could make it to the end on fuel by pitting. However, the green flag would come back out for a one-lap shootout in Stage 2.

Big Machine Racing No. 48 Parker Kligerman stayed out trying to get a stage win, but Creed got around him with another great restart. He won the stage under caution as Stewart-Haas Racing No. 00 Cole Custer got spun into a tire barrier and got stuck in the gravel.

Custer, who was making great pace after starting from the rear, suffered another bout of bad luck and finished 32nd.

Creed led at the restart after the start of the final stage, but Allmendinger emerged behind him in second after the field settled. It was all but inevitable that Allmendinger was going to catch Creed, but the way he got to the lead was nothing short of controversial.

Allmendinger turned Creed with 14 laps to go, sending him back to 23rd and bringing Byron back to battle for the win.

“[I] hate that we had contact with Sheldon,” Allmendinger said to Sims. “I got under him and I was there, I felt like. He turned and I was trying to stay off him, so I hate that happened.”

Creed fought his way back to ninth, but once again lost a shot to win his first career Xfinity Series race.

“I thought I gave him room,” Creed told Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass. “I don’t know if he just overdrove it and drove into us. I don’t know, same thing, different weekend.”

Allmendinger kept Byron at bay the rest of the way, keeping him about a second behind up until the final lap. Byron got to Allmendinger’s bumper entering the last lap but missed a corner on the essess to effectively give Allmendinger the trophy.

“I was getting one final run at him,” Byron said to Fox Sports’ Regan Smith. “Obviously they were really good all day. AJ is great at these road courses. Overall, just got through the essess there and I didn’t want to get off and screw up second place so I slowed way down to keep in within the track.”

The final results at COTA determined which four drivers will compete in the first Xfinity Dash-4-Cash of the season. The highest-finishing full-time Xfinity drivers at COTA will be entered in the competition at Richmond Raceway next week.

The four drivers will be Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 driver Sammy Smith, Junior Motorsports No. 7 driver Justin Allgaier, Kaulig Racing No. 11 Daniel Hemric and JRM No. 1 driver Sam Mayer as they finished fourth through seventh, respectively.

Just like the opening weekend of the season at Daytona, the winners from last year’s Truck and Xfinity races repeated in 2023 as Front Row Motorsports No. 38 driver Zane Smith went back-to-back in the Craftsman Truck Series.

The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season continues next week with the seventh race of the year with the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond on Saturday, April 1 at 1 p.m. EST.

Coverage of the race will be on Fox Sports 1 with NASCAR Raceday at noon EST. The race can also be listened to on Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NOTE: Post-race inspection in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage is complete. No issues. Kaulig Racing No. 10 driver AJ Allmendinger is officially confirmed as the winner.


Xfinity Series COTA Race Results


Xfinity Series Driver Points after COTA


Xfinity Series Owner Points after COTA