Allmendinger beats Byron to Xfinity road course win at COTA
AUSTIN, Texas — A.J. Allmendinger dominated early, then had to fight to retake the lead at the start of the final stage to earn his 11th career NASCAR Xfinity series road course victory Saturday at the Circuit of the Americas.
Allmendinger bumped Sheldon Creed out of the lead with 14 laps to go, then held off William Byron over the next couple of laps before pulling away for the victory, his second in a row at the Texas track. Byron will be starting Sunday's NASCAR Cup series race from the pole position.
Allmendinger had the dominant car in the field and started Saturday from the pole. He built a big lead early before a pit stop strategy misstep and getting caught in some caution flag restart traffic dropped him to the back.
“I feel like I'm on vacation,” Allmendinger told his garage as he steadily pulled away from the pack in the first stage.
The race got much harder from there.
Allmendinger pitted from the front, dropping him to 27th and turned a 3.5-second lead into a deficit of about 37 seconds. He then got stuck in the pack on a restart, one of four in stage two, and the car in front of him got bumped and spun around, forcing Allmendinger into a complete stop.
Creed won the stage, leaving him the chance to race for his first career Xfinity series win. But another restart saw Allmendinger launch from sixth to second and right on Creed's bumper.
With those two battling for the lead and Byron waiting behind them for an opening, Allmendinger tagged Creed's left rear wheel and pushed him sideways. Creed fought back to finish ninth.
Ty Gibbs finished third. Austin Hill, who won at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta, retired early after reporting gear change problems in the opening laps.
The series moves to short track racing next Saturday at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Virginia.