AJ Allmendinger hits the jackpot with Xfinity win at Las Vegas

A.J. Allmendinger took the lead and held off the field on a final race restart with 12 laps remaining to earn his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the last 16 races – taking the victory in the Alsco Uniforms 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in his first race at the track in three years.

Allmendinger’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet had to hold off the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Daniel Hemric, who led a race best 74 of the 200 laps and came 0.978-seconds away from his first career victory.

It was clearly an emotional win for the veteran Allmendinger, who climbed out of his car at the finish line and leaned against it, eyes closed for a moment before doing his live television interview.

This is the 39-year-old Californian’s first fulltime season racing in NASCAR since 2018 when he competed in the NASCAR Cup Series ranks, however he earned three wins driving parttime for Kaulig Racing the last two seasons.

“First of all, it’s awesome to have you all back in the grandstands,” a smiling Allmendinger said, motioning toward the cheering but socially-distanced and limited-size crowd.

“It’s emotional because you don’t know when you’re going to do this again,” Allmendinger continued. “You never know. This could be the last one (win), you never know, I hope it’s not I think we can do a lot more.”

“Even though I’m back fulltime,” he added, “this is fun, but I want to win so bad for [team owner] Matt [Kaulig] every week. It’s hard to put into words what he means to me. Truly how bad I want to win for him. … it means that much to me that he believes in me.”

For Hemric, who now has 11 career runner-up showings in NASCAR’s three national series, it was a tough final outcome considering the strong showing up front for his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota all race long. He led eight different times and won Stage 2. Tonight was Hemric’s eighth runner-up finish in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett holds the Xfinity Series record for the most runner-up finishes before his first victory with 10 second-place finishes.

“You hate to have one get away like that, but we came here and wanted to try to have more speed to lead laps and win stages and we did that today,” Hemric said. “We lined up with a shot there and just got beat. Congratulations to A.J. We just got beat.”

Hemric’s teammate Brandon Jones finished third followed by 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric, who led 43 laps and won Stage 1.

Cindric had a tire go down on his No. 22 Team Penske Ford 55 laps into the race but turned in an inspired rally, finishing 10th in the 2nd Stage and breaking into the top five by Lap 117. He made contact with Harrison Burton in the closing laps and his fourth-place showing is his fourth top five in as many races.

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson finished fifth – his best showing of the season. Michael Annett, rookie Josh Berry, Justin Haley, Harrison Burton and Jeb Burton rounded out the top 10. Haley’s and Jeb Burton’s work gave Kaulig Racing a top 10 sweep.

Cindric holds a 21-point lead over Hemric in the series driver standings entering next Saturday’s Call 811 Before You Dig 200 at Phoenix Raceway (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).