AJ Allmendinger escapes chaos and takes rainy Xfinity Series victory in Portland
AJ Allmendinger won an action-packed Pacific Office Automation 147, the NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on the road course at Portland International Raceway on Saturday afternoon.
Action-packed being the keywords of the checkered green flag; in the rain, in the dry and again in the rain.
RELATED: Official Results | Photos on the track
Allmendinger literally came from last on the grid to take the win – after changing “everything but the engine” before the race, he claimed in victory lane. His #16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet led just six of the 75 laps in the race and beat Myatt Snider by 2.879 seconds to earn the popular veteran his second Xfinity Series win of 2022; his other victory to come at the Circuit of the Americas road course at the start of this season.
“It might be one of the craziest wins I’ve ever had,” Allmendinger, a 12-time Xfinity Series winner, said with a smile.
It would be hard to argue otherwise. Not only did 40-year-old Californian Allmendinger start from behind, but he made his first of half a dozen off-road excursions before even taking the checkered flag. He went down a lap early but managed to stay focused and get back on the lead lap in a race that had nine cautions and just 21 of 38 cars on the lead lap at the finish.
“Man, I can’t believe it, I crashed before it turned green,” said Allmendinger, who also scored his first Champ Car win at Portland in 2006.
“I was making so many mistakes, trying so hard,” he added. “I put so much pressure on myself in these races because I know what everyone expects and I know what I expect from myself, more importantly. But what a win.”
Snider, who led five laps in the #31 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet, managed to smile himself as he acknowledged that second place behind Allmendinger on a road course isn’t such a horrible loss.
“Just AJ’s experience,” Snider said, managing to smile as he explained the difference in Saturday’s victory. “I could tell he was installing these [corner] come out better than me. For me, it was a good hard race.
“So cool to be disappointed with the second [place] with a team that is only a year and a half old and to get my first stage win and maybe the first top three with this car,” he added.
Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill finished third with JR Motorsports teammates Josh Berry and Justin Allgaier rounding out the top five.
Daniel Hemric, Ty Gibbs, JJ Yeley, Noah Gragson and Alex Labbe complete the top 10.
As with Allmendinger, many of the top finishers had adventurous days.
The opening stages on the 1.97 mile course required rain tires with a steady green-flag shower that slowly dissipated as the race progressed. At the Stage 2 break, most teams switched to Goodyear slicks as the rain subsided and was replaced by thick fog. Only for the rain to return in the final stage – after the cars switched to dry tyres.
It was the kind of drama that characterized the race.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Gibbs led the fastest 42 laps of the race in the #54 Toyota JGR, but was involved in several on-track incidents vying for the lead – and even just driving cautiously at a point, hit from behind by Jesse Iwuji, who was three laps down.
Gragson, who like Allmendinger started from the back of the field, made up the best 22 positions in the race at the start of Stage 2 and was in the top five when he was pushed out of the race by Gibbs during a a mid-race restart that proved to be consequential for many of the day’s top riders.
WATCH: Gibbs and Gragson exchange blows on the track
Gibbs had contact with Gragson and then Sheldon Creed, which resulted in Gibbs and Creed’s cars being diverted. Creed returned to the track, then was involved in a multi-car crash with 20 laps to go, damaging his #2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet beyond repair.
“I thought we had a good day. I made a mistake running second there but came back on top,” said Creed, whose wife is due to give birth to their first child any day now.
“The way my year has gone, every time we have speed, something goes wrong. …Today I felt like we had a really good chance of winning.”
WATCH: Creed expresses displeasure after late crash
With the victory, Allmendinger extended his championship lead over Gibbs to 44 points. Gragson’s ninth place keeps him 45 points behind.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will take a two-week break before resuming competition in the Tennessee Lottery 250 on June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway (3:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).