A.J. Allmendinger returned to full-time racing in the Xfinity Series for the 2021 season and already made noise heading into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway event on March 6.
No noise, however, was louder than when the 39-year-old for Kaulig Racing took home the victory in Sin City Saturday evening.
The win is Allmendinger’s sixth in the Xfinity Series and his first since June 6, 2020 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Vegas race was also Allmendinger’s first in the Xfinity Series.
A powerful Myatt Snider jump at the onset of the green flag proved helpful through only three turns as the No. 2 Chevrolet was swiftly sandwiched in the middle between Daniel Hemric and Austin Cindric, with the latter taking the lead through turn four.
A combination of a Stefan Parsons caution and fluid around turns three and four brought the caution flag out until the lap 26 restart. Hemric, after choosing the inside lane, maintained the speed through turn one to overtake Cindric for the lead. Cindric, however, transitioned to the inside lane and reclaimed the lead several laps later.
Cindric maintained a second-plus pace to hold off Hemric and pick up his third stage win of the season at the conclusion of stage one. In the ensuing position battle, Hemric claimed the pit road victory and started the beginning of stage two in first over Cindric.
In the ensuing battle on the restart, Hemric rocketed ahead to solidify the top position, while Cindric quickly faded due to a left rear flat. Cindric, however, was saved from going a lap down after a three-car incident through turn two on lap 55.
Several more cautions in the ensuing 20 laps knitted the field tight together with 14 to go in stage two upon the restart. Hemric continued his strong day and cashed in yet again with a big jump off of the restart to clear Justin Allgaier. Hemric maintained the top spot to keep away from Allmendinger to pick up his first stage win of the season.
Hemric started the final stage in second after his teammate Brandon Jones won the top position out of pit road. After a lap of head-to-head action, Jones cleared Hemric on lap 99 and kept the lead over the course of the next 25 laps before the latter took the lead once more.
Allmendinger, however, collected his first lead of the day with 62 to go and padded up a two-plus second lead until a Harrison Burton spin via Austin Cindric with 26 to go brought out the caution again.
After another caution (Ty Dillon on lap 180), Allmendinger chose the inside lane and promptly shot ahead of Hemric for the lead with 12 to go. While the middle of the field made several wrecks likely, another caution never came and Allmendinger held on to prevail.
Hemric finished second. It is Hemric’s eighth second-place finish in the Xfinity Series. Despite possessing 33 top-five finishes, Hemric has yet to pick up a victory.
Despite picking up a flat earlier in the race, Cindric maneuvered through the field and capitalized on the restarts to finish fourth. The finish extends Cindric’s top-five finish streak to five, dating back to last year’s championship.
After a painful 33rd-place finish in last week’s Homestead race, Noah Gragson finished fifth. The finish is Gragson’s first inside the top five this season.
Josh Berry finished seventh. It is Berry’s second top-10 finish this season (he finished 10th at Homestead last weekend) and the fourth of his Xfinity career.
Following a rough NASCAR debut, former IndyCar driver Santino Ferrucci earned a 13th-place finish after outdueling Allgaier in the final laps.
The Xfinity Series continues its west coast swing next weekend in the desert, where the field will do battle at Phoenix Raceway. Coverage for the race will begin at 5:30 p.m. EST on FS1.
Lead changes: 24
Time of race: 2:38:07
Avg. speed: 111.330 mph