AJ Allmendinger earns first career oval win in Atlanta Xfinity race

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger showed Saturday he still has a lot of racing success left in him, winning the EchoPark 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Driving part-time this season for Kaulig Racing, Allmendinger, who had to roar back from back in the field, earned his fourth career Xfinity Series win, but the first on an oval.

“Oh my God, oh my God, I won on an oval. Do you like that? Whoo!” Allmendinger said to Fox Sports after climbing from his race car. He even kissed the camera, he was so excited about the win.

“This car was awesome,” said Allmendinger, who took the lead on Lap 127 of the 163-lap race and held on the rest of the way. “This is Atlanta. The car was awesome on long runs, probably better than the driver early. Once I got in the lead, I was just trying to hit my marks, which is hard to do.”

Later, in a post-race teleconference, Allmendinger said, “Heck, I might retire. Man, I just wanted to win on a damn oval. … I wanted to win on an oval that we really had to drive and get after it. More than anything, I was happy with myself because I always push myself and question myself a lot if I can do it on these race tracks and it’s always a challenge each time I’m in the race car with myself mentally and to push myself and try to be better. … What I was most happy about those last 35 laps was I gave everything I could and not make any mistakes.”

Noah Gragson, who won last week at Bristol, was the highest finisher of the four drivers eligible for the first of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash races, finishing second and taking home a cool $100,000.

Allmendinger was originally not slated to be entered in next Sunday’s back end of a weekend doubleheader race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The second race of the weekend on Sunday, June 14, will serve as the second of four races in the Dash 4 Cash series.

Moments after Allmendinger left the stage, Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice told the media that the team will indeed field a car for “Dinger” in the Homestead Dash 4 Cash race. He will go for the $100,000 price along with Kaulig Racing teammate Justin Haley, as well as Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric.

“I haven’t told AJ this yet, but we will be running the second race at Homestead next Sunday with the Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet with A.J. Allmendinger starting dead last because we will not run the first race (Saturday), we’ll run the second race,” Rice said. “(Allmendinger) said he had a tee time, but that gives Kaulig Racing two chances to run for $100,000. So yeah, we’ll be there with A.J.”

MORE: Results, standings from Atlanta Xfinity race

Haley was third, followed by Hemric and Harrison Burton. Sixth through 10th were Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain, Brandon Jones, Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric (first stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Cindric (second stage win of season)

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson almost made it two wins in a row, but can’t be too upset for finishing second in Saturday’s race. Also, Harrison Burton continued his strong effort this season with his fifth-place showing.

Who had a bad race: Timmy Hill finished 33rd, 76 laps back. Even though he was strong in the iRacing Series during the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, Hill continues to struggle since the Xfinity Series resumed with finishes of 20th or worse in three of the four races back.

Notable: Ross Chastain did his Kyle Busch impression of sorts, competing in both races Saturday. He finished seventh in the Xfinity race and was sixth in the Truck Series race earlier in the day. … All cars passed post-race inspection with just one issue: a lug nut violation on the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Brandon Jones, who finished eighth.

What’s next: There will be an Xfinity Series doubleheader next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Saturday, June 13 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox), and Sunday, June 14 (Noon ET on FS1). The latter race is also the second of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash Series races.

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