Allmendinger scores another road win on Portland debut
Anne M. Peterson
Portland, Oregon. — AJ Allmendinger said it was probably the craziest race he had ever won.
The road racing ace survived the chaos of the wet and wild NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Portland International Raceway with a win on Saturday.
Allmendinger led just six total laps in his eighth road victory and 12th series victory. He crossed the finish line in the Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 2.879 seconds ahead of Myatt Snider.
“Once we got back in front there, I thought to myself that with everything I had done to make us lose that race, I was going to do everything I could to win it,” Allmendinger said. , who started from the back after engine problems the day before, then swerved several times.
The 75-lap race on the 12-turn, 1.97-mile permanent road course north of downtown began in heavy rain, which resulted in slippery conditions. It was the first NASCAR event in the region in 22 years and a rare stand-alone event for the second-tier National Series.
There were nine warning flags and eight lead changes in the race that at times felt like a downgrade derby with multiple spinouts, bumps and wrecks.
Snider led his Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet into the third and final stage of the race as a wet break dried out the course somewhat. Allmendinger briefly took the lead with 13 laps to go after coming out of a warning – but the rain started to fall again and he pitted to revert to wet tires for the rest of the way.
Coming off the ninth warning with four laps to go, Snider was leading but Allmendinger was close behind and quickly moved inside, making light contact with Snider. Austin Hill finished third.
“For me, it’s a good hard race. It’s not like he dumped me for no reason or tailed me or anything. He just got into me a little bit,” Snider said. “I mean, all of these restarts have been extremely difficult, so for him to just kinda rub my door, I mean, that’s racing for me.”
Allmendinger was scheduled to leave shortly after the race to go to the NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis.
He was the peloton favorite at PIR but got off to a rocky start as one of seven riders sent back due to unapproved adjustments and then had to stop after the first lap because he walked into the grass.
“I was horrible. I can’t believe I crashed before going green. I think I went off the circuit four times,” he said. “Yeah, I did all kinds mistakes everywhere.”
Ty Gibbs, who has two road victories among his seven overall victories, won the first stage. The 19-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver finished second last weekend in Charlotte.
Gibbs had extended his lead to nine seconds when he was rammed by Jesse Iwuji, prompting a caution eight laps from the end of stage two. Iwuji was penalized two laps.
Sheldon Creed was knocked out of the race on the final stage after a multi-car accident at the first corner. After getting out of his car, he returned to the track to confront Jade Buford with a lewd gesture.
“The way my year has gone, every time we have speed, something goes wrong,” Creed said.
Allmendinger, the Xfinity Series points leader, finished 19th last weekend in Charlotte after a tire problem in the second half of the race. Josh Berry took the win for JR Motorsports.
It was Allmindinger’s second victory at the PIR: in 2006 he won his first Champ Car event at the Portland Grand Prix.
The last NASCAR-affiliated race in the area was the Truck Series, which visited PIR and Evergreen Speedway in Washington in 2000. NASCAR has long watched racing in this part of the country, but until this year it did not was able to get his national series. The Portland timetable.
Anthony Alfredo took his first series pole with a lap of 93.229 mph on Friday night.
Among the drivers moved to the back at the start were Allmendinger, Berry, Snider, Greg Gaulding, Darrel Dilley, Rayn Sieg and Mason Filippi. Noah Gragson raced in an emergency car.
Chase Briscoe finally has a pole to claim with his first NASCAR Cup Series win earlier this season.
The second-year Stewart-Haas Racing driver ran through a bobble at the end of the back straight and clocked a 138.274 mph lap on Saturday, giving himself the best starting spot for the first time in his 51st career start.
“Lap one I felt like I under-drove extremely badly. Lap two I felt like I rode too much,” said Briscoe, who won in March at Phoenix. – a track that shares many of the same characteristics with the World Wide Technology Raceway.
“It’s exciting to be part of the inaugural event here,” he said, “but better lead the pack to the green.”
Austin Cindric gave Ford the front row with a 137.775 mph lap for Team Penske, while Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick will start from the second row and Ryan Blaney completed the top five in qualifying.
“I mean, it’s cool to be in pole position, isn’t it? I say it all the time, I never thought I would run a Cup race, or even run a truck race,” Briscoe said. “I think we have a good car capable of winning. We just have to put everything in place and minimize mistakes, and as a driver that’s something I haven’t done very well so far this season.
Cindric was among the fastest in a Friday practice session, which gave many drivers their first glimpse of the track east of downtown St. Louis, and he was close to the top of the speed chart throughout Saturday’s qualifying.
“The Fords really brought speed. The track really suits us,” said Cindric. “Looks like (Briscoe) screwed up his knees and he’s still on the post, so he’s probably going to murder everybody tomorrow.”
Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Harrison Burton and Ross Chastain also competed in the final qualifying round.
Among those who didn’t was Brad Keselowski, who was back in 30th position after another poor session. He didn’t have much speed when he unloaded on Friday and lamented changes to NASCAR’s weekend schedules, which removed most of the practice time that once allowed teams to make adjustments to their cars.
“It’s always hard to come back, but we’ve been here three days and we’ve had an hour to practice,” Keselowski said. “I don’t know how much money that saves us compared to a 3 hour workout.”
Keselowski is considering a return to the old practice and qualifying setup on Fridays and final practice on Saturdays before Sunday races, which would be especially helpful as he grows and develops his team. But he also believes the setup has the ability to help everyone in the garage area, whether teams are established or not.
The weekend’s condensed schedule was meant to help teams contain spiraling costs. But in many cases, the lack of track practice has resulted in more crashes, more cars being destroyed and, in some cases, even more money being spent.
“From the owner’s perspective, I don’t think we were saving a lot of money,” Keselowski said. “We’ve saved a million or two on travel, but we’re spending it all on simulators and engineering. It’s time to dive deep into the weekend schedule.
Corey Heim got the warning flag he needed with three laps to go in the NASCAR Truck Series race in Madison, Illinois.
Then he had another to finish it with him in front.
Heim was lucky enough to get the bot lane for the final green-white checkered restart, held off teammate Chandler Smith to start the two-lap sprint around World Wide Technology Raceway, then put some distance on Unlucky Christian Eckes when heavy wreckage behind them ended the race with the leaders on the back stretch.
It was Heim’s second career victory after triumphing last season in Las Vegas.
“I can’t believe I have the bottom right there. It’s unbelievable,” Heim said. “Nice push from my teammate right there.”
Eckes was heading for victory when a warning flew by with three laps to go, forcing the NASCAR version of overtime. He ended up going the outside route, spun his tires on the restart and had a chance to round Smith to finish second.
“I just didn’t have a good launch,” he said. “Two of the last three races we’ve had when a warning is issued late.”
Eckes wasn’t the only one with bad luck on Saturday.
Smith, who finished third, might have had the fastest truck in the field, easily winning Stage 1 and battling for the lead at the end of Stage 2. It was then that Grant Finallyger made a bold move to take the lead into the third and fourth corners.
The two were left to drag the run down the front stretch – about a facility originally built with the NHRA in mind – but Finallyger couldn’t get him to stay low through the first and second hairpin turns. He drove up the track, took Smith with him, and left the #15 truck with right-rear damage, causing refueling problems the rest of the race.
Smith was forced to spend more time in the pits at each stop to refuel the car, which cost him his position on the track. And while he was generally able to make his way across the field, it was a long day in the sweltering heat.
“To be honest, if the 23 wasn’t short on talent in Stage 2 or whatever, we probably would have been past half the field. Our truck was stupid, stupid good,” Smith said. It really sucks. There, at the end, our tires are probably beaten four times more than anyone on the field and we were still there.
Stewart Friesen finished fourth after a hectic afternoon.
After the flag flew to end Stage 2, Friesen and Hailie Deegan argued along the back stretch. Friesen fired right by Deegan and nearly drove her into the grass that runs alongside the track apron, resulting in a flat tire and other damage that he was forced to overcome at the during the long final stage filled with caution.
It was also a busy Truck Series debut for Rajah Caruth, the talented 19-year-old ARCA Series points leader from Washington, DC, who had the opportunity to drive the No. 7 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.
Caruth spun when Taylor Gray made contact with Ty Majeski to get out the first warning of the race, but he kept his cool and fought his way through the field. Caruth finished 10th.