After a late-race rally, the day belonged to AJ Allmendinger as he brought home his second win of the season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in what is the home race for Kaulig Racing.
It was a statement in the home game for Kaulig as they came home 1-2 with Justin Haley following up Allmendinger.
You make the call. Should more blame be placed on the splitters or natural grass around race tracks?
This topic reared its ugly head on lap one at Mid-Ohio Saturday afternoon as Noah Gragson went off-course, following a few cars in front of him and he was the unlucky one to have his splitter catch the grass and destroy the front end of his race car.
It’s been a tough season for the No. 9 JR Motorsports team as this is Gragson’s third DNF in a row and sixth through 13 races this season.
Another victim was claimed in the grass vs. splitter wars as Harrison Burton went wide in the long turn one and totaled the front of his car to end his day. Burton came into the day second in Xfinity points.
For the lead, it was a three-man battle as road-course ringers Allmendinger and Austin Cindric took on the teen sensation in Ty Gibbs. Cindric controlled the first half of stage one, but Allmendinger surged through the field after starting outside the top 10 to win his third stage of 2021.
Following the stage one break, the altered pit-road procedures for the weekend allowed Gibbs to get out front, while Cindric and Allmendinger restarted outside the top five.
This helped Gibbs as he ran away from the field in the first half of stage two and led 16 laps.
However, a caution for a stalled Jeremy Clements bunched the field together and Allmendinger was able to nab the preferred lane in turn two on the ensuing restart to take the lead.
Another top contender suffered issues during stage two as Daniel Hemric cut a left-rear tire and littered debris throughout the back half of the course. He fell a lap down and outside the top 30 by the stage end.
Under green-flag stops, Allmendinger was penalized for spending too little time on pit road. The minimum time was 50 seconds for Saturday and Allmendinger was a few seconds quicker.
Meanwhile, Justin Haley assumed the lead out front and did not pit under green to earn his third stage win of the season.
Instead of staying out for points, Cindric reversed his strategy before the final stage and pitted for the track position during caution. It worked out as he landed on the front row and got away from the field within three laps.
Cindric was able to extend his lead by over 10 seconds while Gibbs and Allmendinger fought their way back to the top three.
Unfortunately for Cindric, a caution for Jeb Burton with seven to go bunched the field up for late-race restart.
On the restart with four to go, chaos broke out as Cindric, Gibbs and Allmendinger ran three-wide for the lead into turn one. Advantage went to Allmendinger while Cindric was slammed off course and spun between turns one and two. A caution came out for a three-car pile up soon after involving Kris Wright, Kyle Weatherman and Alex Labbe.
The overtime restart saw Allmendinger get to the point and out to clean air. He easily held off his teammate and Gibbs to earn the victory.
Gibbs earned his sixth top-five finish in seven Xfinity starts.
Brandon Jones earned his first top-five finish since Darlington.
Meanwhile, Andy Lally and Our Motorsports rounded out the top five. For Lally, it’s his fourth-career top-five run in the Xfinity Series.
Brandon Brown finished sixth to set a new career-high for top-10 finishes in a season with seven.
In his first road-course start, Josh Berry came home eighth for Jordan Anderson Racing after spinning earlier in the race. The single-car team should be locked in for the rest of the non-qualifying races as he needed to finish just 25th or better Saturday.
It’s been a struggling season for Josh Williams, but the No. 92 earned its first top-10 of 2021.
Jade Buford finished 13th, which is his best finish since a top-10 run at the Charlotte Roval last season.
Matt Jaskol earned his best Xfinity finish in his fifth start with a 19th-place finish.
After spinning late in the race, Cindric rallied for a 14th-place finish. Riley Herbst spun on the final lap and settled for a 21st-place finish.
The Xfinity Series will return next Saturday for an affair at Texas Motor Speedway.