Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Allmendinger Recovers from Pit Penalty to Pass Allgaier for Second

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Making his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start since 2013 at Mid-Ohio, A.J. Allmendinger was looking to score his third non-consecutive series win as his last two starts (both in 2013) resulted in victories. It was turning out to be a confidence boosting performance, but a costly mistake with 31 laps to go resulted a pit penalty, eliminating him from the hunt.

However, the ending was uplifting as Allmendinger came from 14th to snatch second from Justin Allgaier in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International, leading 11 of 82 laps.

Allmendinger’s No. 23 ISM Connect/AfterShokz Chevrolet Camaro started the race in fourth, but there was little action in Stage 1, and was running in his starting position until making his first pit stop on Lap 16, finishing Stage 1 in 18th.

Several drivers who stayed out for track position pitted and it propelled Allmendinger up to second for the start of Stage 2. However, there was another twist that would thicken the plot, and it was Mother Nature.

The 36-year-old would stay in second, trailing Joey Logano as he began to pull away until Allmendinger’s teammate Justin Haley and Matt Tifft were involved in a two-car crash on Lap 27.

Minutes later, rain poured most of the 2.45-mile road course, and a decision was made to bring Allmendinger into the pits for wet tires. Before the race resumed, a pit road violation by Aric Almirola moved Allmendinger on top of the leaderboard and led for 11 straight laps.

As his other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars struggled to adapt on the wet conditions, Allmendinger showcased his versatile racing experience and dominated the sequence, leading for 11 straight laps.

His lead would evaporate when Vinnie Miller slammed into the tire barriers in Turn 1 on Lap 37, bringing out the full course caution and later the red flag.

After a 10-plus minute stoppage, the track began to dry, but the No. 23 GMS Racing team opted to wait until Stage 2 wrapped up to change for slick tires.

“The rain was cool,” Allmendinger on running the wet conditions. “I kind of wished it would’ve stayed raining because I felt I might’ve had everybody covered there. It was fun.”

Once the race resumed, the 2014 Cup winner at The Glen scored his first career Xfinity Series stage win, beating Allgaier in the process.

The final stage became the turning point of his afternoon as he made his stop for slick tires, giving up the lead to Brad Keselowski. As the race winded down, he was quietly running in fourth when he made his scheduled pit stop with 31 laps remaining. This is where his day drastically changed.

Entering the pits, he slid past his pit stall, and his crew serviced him for fuel only before backing it up to finish his stop. Once he exited pit road, he was handcuffed with a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his box. Allmendinger apologized over the radio for his mistake that diminished his shot battling with the Penske teammates.

Fortunately for Allmendinger, he un-lapped himself before the penultimate full course caution came out for Josh Bilicki’s stalled car in Turn 1. Allemdinger made his final stop to get fresh tires, to set himself on an incredible rally from 14th.

“Dumb mistake on my part,” said Allmendinger. “I over slid a little bit. Then I didn’t knew the rules, so I drove by my pit stop. It was a mess, so I got lucky with the yellow.”

He frantically gained several track position and worked his way up to 10th when Scott Heckert brought out the final caution of the afternoon with 10 laps remaining. When the race restarted for the last time, he slowly pick pocketed by the front runners and saw himself passing Ryan Preece for third with three laps to go.

Then he set his eyes on Allgaier for second as Logano had a sizable four second lead, making their battle the most intense on the track. As Logano scored his 30th career Xfinity Series victory, Allmendinger successfully got by Allgaier for second, and while it wasn’t a win, it was his third non-consecutive top-five finish.

Allgaier felt it wasn’t necessary to run dirty against Allemdninger coming to the checkered, as he gained valuable points in the regular season standings, where he sits fifth, 37 points behind Christopher Bell.

“We got into a battle with A.J. coming to the checkered, I probably could’ve done some things a little bit differently to defend him off,” said Allgaier. “It was great points day for us, so there’s need to crash both of us coming to the checkered. We gave up a spot, but all-in-all, it was a solid top-three and good race car today.”

Allmendinger will now set his eyes on snapping a four-year winless streak in the Go Bowling at the Glen Sunday where he’ll start eighth.

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a three-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.