With a dash of luck and a heaping helping of talent, A.J. Allmendinger cooked up the perfect recipe for success at Saturday’s Pit Boss 250 presented by USA TODAY, returning to Victory Lane at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) for the second consecutive year.
Starting on the pole, Allmendinger led every lap in the opening stage before a caution in the middle of green flag pit stops shuffled the Kaulig Racing driver back in the field. The chance at a repeat appeared doomed after Allmendinger was collected in a pileup in the treacherous Turn One during the ensuing restart.
Undeterred, the Los Gatos, Calf. native navigated traffic from 25th position back to the lead to capture his 11th career road course win and the 20th overall victory for Kaulig Racing.
“I wasn’t sure how the race was going to play out with no stage breaks,” Allmendinger said. “I knew we had a really fast car, but it was about trying to get back up there. I knew we had one pit stop to go. When we first got out of the wreck, I was more worried about damage to the car. Once I calmed down and made sure the car was okay, it was just about getting back up there.”
Allmendinger made contact with Sheldon Creed on lap 33 to retake the lead, which he held for the final 14 laps. Closing in on the lead on the final circuit, Byron’s No. 17 machine got loose, giving Allmendinger enough of a cushion to secure the win. Ty Gibbs, Sammy Smith and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five.
“I just messed the esses up,” Byron said after the race. “I was giving one final run at him. Obviously he’s great at these road courses. I didn’t want to get off and screw up second place, so I slowed way down to keep it on the track. A couple of times I probably had a shot at him, but just needed to be a little better.”
Byron won’t have to wait long for a chance at redemption as both drivers will be among the favorites in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix NASCAR Cup Series showdown. Byron will start from the pole, while Allmendinger will start seventh.
Tickets for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix are on sale at NASCARatCOTA.com. Sunday tickets, which include the Darius Rucker pre-race concert, start at $70 for adults and just $10 for kids 12 and under. Further details can be found on the NASCAR at COTA website.
Keep track of all things NASCAR at COTA by following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@NASCARatCOTA). Keep up with all the latest information on the NASCAR at COTA website and mobile app.