By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
The ‘third time was the charm’ as AJ Allmendinger earned a top-five finish at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver and NBC Sports IMSA analyst restarted inside the top-five with 15 laps to go. Allmendinger squeezed by Timmy Hill and Michael Annett in his No. 10 Leaf Filter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro SS. By the time the Kaulig Racing driver cleared the two series regulars, he had lost touch with the leaders.
Allmendinger then had to hold off charges from Tyler Reddick and Noah Gragson. With each of his two closest competitors having issues of their own, the Los Gatos, Calif. Native cruised to a third-place finish in the B&L Transport 170.
“That’s all I had,” Allmendinger admitted. “That’s probably better than we should have been for the speed that we had. We just fought it all weekend. I knew we weren’t going to be perfect in the race, but we were off more than I expected. We’ve got to put our heads together, do our homework, and get ready for Road America.”
The third-place finish came as Allmendinger steps aside until the next road course, Road America. It is also his first without being disqualified for a post-race technical inspection violation.
“We have some ideas, but we definitely have to go do our homework,” Allmendinger continued. “That’s what makes Kaulig Racing so great. Leaf Filter’s home race, I was doing everything I could to try and win it. The team got everything we could out of it. To get a top three was better than we probably expected at the start of the race.”
Race strategy kept Allmendinger out of the top-10 in stage one. The sixth-place starter avoided disaster at the end of the second stage with two separate multi-car accidents.
Allmendinger finished the second stage in fifth. Despite his road course prowess, he never had the speed to keep up with Christopher Bell or race winner Austin Cindric.
The third-place finish is just the fourth career top-five finish for Allmendinger in the Xfinity Series.
The top-five also breaks a streak of disqualifications for the 2013 Mid-Ohio winner. Allmendinger has the dubious record of being the first, and only, driver to have two disqualifications in the updated penalty system.