'The Dinger' Drives to Victory
One of NASCAR's most excitable drivers tamed the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL™ on Saturday.
A.J. Allmendinger expertly negotiated the closing stages of the Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, scoring a well-earned third triumph of his 16-race NASCAR Xfinity Series career.
Allmendinger, a longtime Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver who spent the 2019 season as a part-time driver for Kaulig Racing, delivered car owner Matt Kaulig his second victory of the year after leading 20 of 67 laps around the 17-turn, 2.28-mile ROVAL™.
He sped away from Austin Cindric on the final restart with four laps to go and beat Tyler Reddick to the finish line by 2.386 seconds. Cindric nursed a broken right-rear shock - sustained in the closing circuits - to the finish line in third ahead of Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson.
Alex Labbe, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Chase Briscoe and Ryan Truex rounded out the top 10. Briscoe won last year's inaugural Drive for the Cure 250 as well as the pole for Saturday's second running, but late-race contact with Christopher Bell sent Briscoe's No. 98 spinning and relegated to salvaging the afternoon in the top 10. Bell overcame adversity of his own to rally from 30th to 12th in the last 15 laps.
A.J. ALLMENDINGER, No. 10 Digital Ally Chevrolet Camaro (Race Winner): "Whew....I'm out of breath. I can't thank Matt Kaulig (team owner) enough. He's believed in me. He wanted me to come here and try and help build this team. I can't thank all of our race team enough. The last few years have been rough. I just wanted to win so bad for these guys. We have been so close. I really got to thank Tyler Reddick. He told me when I got here I needed to help him on the road courses. I knew with him behind me, I could keep someone on the right side of me and Tyler wouldn't shove it down in there. I appreciate that. I was just trying to change up the restarts every time, and you can only do so much. Once we got out in clean air this thing was good. In clean air, this thing was pretty badass."
"It was for sure challenging. But this track is so fun. It takes me back to my Champ Car days. It's a street course that if you make a mistake it can have consequences. Everybody at Kaulig Racing has worked hard to make our cars better and faster. It was so important to get out front. I started using my tires up and I kind of had to dictate my own pace. So I had to be very aggressive on Christopher (then leader Bell) to get around him. I felt like once I got around him I could dictate my own pace. And see what kind of speed we had. The last how-ever-many restarts, I just tried to change it up enough. I knew I needed about a half-car going into Turn 1. For me, all I can do is go out there and drive the wheels off of it."
CHRIS RICE, No. 10 Digital Ally Chevrolet Camaro (Winning Crew Chief): "We have a great team. Our engineer spent a lot of time on the ROVAL set up. It has just paid off. A.J. Allmendinger has made Kaulig Racing so much better along with Justin Haley and Ross Chastain and Elliott Sadler. I just can't thank them enough. I told A.J. that you are way better than our race team right now and we have got to get to your level. We won today because of AJ. We have got to beat the 20 (Christopher Bell) and the 00 (Cole Custer). It's just awesome to go trophy hunting with that 10 car."
MATT KAULIG, No. 10 Digital Ally Chevrolet Camaro (Winning Car Owner): "We hated that the 11 (team car Justin Haley) had trouble early and we had our spirits dampened for about half the race. But when the 10 car (Allmendinger) was up in front, A.J. was the fastest guy on the track. We are really proud of A.J., Chris Rice (crew chief) and this whole team. We have been through a lot this year. And to have two trophies now, we couldn't be more excited. We definitely have more plans with A.J. He can help us in many areas. We just signed him to all our road courses and some speedway races until he doesn't want to do it anymore. All we ask for is a chance. You just want to be in a position to win at the end."
TYLER REDDICK, No. 2 Emerson Chevrolet (Runner-Up): "A lot happened (at the beginning of the race), for sure. Just made a mistake there. We've been getting better on these road courses and the cars have been really fast for me. But still, I lack the knowledge I need to keep myself on the safe side at the beginning of the race. Just an inexperienced move, not keeping om top pf thee brake bias there for a little bit warmer temperature and everything else that was going on. Looking back, I definitely know what to do going into the race to be a little bit on the safe side, but I just didn't want to flat-spot the front tires. I thought I had a pretty happy spot with the brake bias, so I hate to see that, but we still had a really good day, a good rebound. To be able to get back up there and still score the fourth-most points out of anybody, that's kind of crazy, so it was a good day for our guys. We're sitting second. Never thought the way the day was started we were going to finish the race second, so a good race."
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 22 MoneyLion Ford Mustang (Third-Place Finisher): "Yeah, the right-rear shock's gone. Totally missing, gone, just not there. I was probably the most aggressive on the curbs today. … We had a pretty decent MoneyLion Ford. I don't know if we were good enough to win today, but good enough to be there on the restarts. We had a good, consistent day gives us a lot of points heading into Dover. I wanted those five bonus points, man. Congrats to A.J. Obviously I wasn't going to push the issue with A.J., knowing he had nothing to lose. He gives as much as you give him."