A.J. Allmendinger Rules The ROVAL™
A.J. Allmendinger has no teaching degree, but he took 36 of NASCAR’s best drivers to ROVAL™ school on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Allmendinger had a faultless drive in holding off a hard-charging William Byron to win the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400, continuing a string of scoring at least one victory on the ROVAL™ every year since 2019.
Allmendinger’s ROVAL™ triumphs prior to Sunday, though, were in the Drive for the Cure 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race. This one was under the NASCAR Cup Series spotlight, and no one – not even Byron, the series’ winningest driver this year – could keep Allmendinger from leading a race-high 46 of 109 laps. The win was the third of Allmendinger’s career, his first in more than two years, and his second for Kaulig Racing.
Byron emerged from a pack of contenders to give chase in the closing laps, but Allmendinger held his nerve and beat Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the finish line by .666 seconds.
Kyle Busch, who had to win to advance into the NASCAR Playoffs’ Round of 8, was eliminated after finishing third. Ty Gibbs and Joey Logano completed the top five with polesitter Tyler Reddick sixth, followed by Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain.
Busch, Chastain, Bubba Wallace and Brad Keselowski were eliminated from the Playoffs. Byron, Buescher and Reddick will join Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney in the Round of 8.
Reddick led every lap of Stage 1, while Elliott claimed Stage 2.
Shortly after Hamlin clinched a Round of 8 berth thanks to accumulated stage points, he crashed out and ultimately finished 37th.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER, NO. 16 KAULIG RACING CHEVROLET (Race Winner): “I knew that if I could get into the lead, it was going to be a difficult challenge for those guys to get around me. … I try to study, not just the race track, but where everybody is in the Playoffs and where they are. Everybody’s going for a Cup win, but there’s aggression and there’s desperation. Going back and forth (for the lead with Gibbs) was fun, but I know what he’s going for: his first Cup win. It’s hard to do this. I knew Kyle (Busch) had to win to stay in the Playoffs and I knew William was advancing,so he was going to be aggressive, but not that aggressive.
“At the end of the day, for me, it’s about if I make no mistakes and William beats me, I’ll go home, look in the mirror and say, ‘Hey, the better team, better driver beat me.’ I didn’t want to make a mistake that cost me. Those moments are the ones I dream of: it’s the best of the best, it’s on you, and it’s up to you not to let them by. Those last seven or eight laps, that’s as perfect as I can drive a race car. After that, you can walk around, beat your chest a bit and say, ‘When it’s time, I can be as perfect as possible.’”
WILLIAM BYRON, NO. 24 HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET (Runner-Up): “It was up and down for us – obviously up at the end. That’s how you want it. I was under the weather before the race, but honestly, once I got in the race car, I was pretty much fine. Really close to a win, but not quite.”
KYLE BUSCH, NO. 8 RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING CHEVROLET (Third-Place Finisher): “The 54 (Ty Gibbs) cut me some breaks over the last three or four laps. I was getting sloppy, the car was coming out of the race track and getting real challenging to drive. We held on for third, so that’s about what we expected out of here with our road course program. It’s strong. … It’s going to be bittersweet when we win in Las Vegas next week, because, boom, that locks you through. That’ll give you all the what-ifs, but it’ll certainly be a good building block for our program.”