AJ Allmendinger sidelined by Stage 1 crash at Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. — AJ Allmendinger, the regular-season champion in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, was sidelined by a Stage 1 crash in Saturday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

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Allmendinger’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet was swept up along with the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevy of Sam Mayer into the outside retaining wall in Turn 3 on the final lap of the opening stage in the Sparks 300. Both drivers had been racing three- and four-abreast back in the pack just before the stage’s end at Lap 25 (of a scheduled 113). Both drivers walked away from the crash under their own power. They were at the tail end of the top-10 group.

Both drivers walked away from the crash under their own power.

“It looks like Sam got clipped by somebody, and that sent him into us,” Allmendinger said. “You put yourself in that position, that’s bound to happen racing with certain people. That’s a part of Talladega.

“It’s unfortunate, but that’s why you go so hard in the regular season to get these bonus point, to go out and if you have something like this happen in a playoff race, it doesn’t completely set you back. We’ll see where we end at the end of today. If we got to go to the Roval and win the race, we’ll probably go do that. And if not, we’ll do what we have to do to make it to the next round.”

Allmendinger entered the middle race in the Round of 12 in the Xfinity Series playoffs with a 59-point cushion over the elimination line, but he was scored 39th in the 40-car field after the incident. That’ll give him just one point. Mayer was slotted 38th in his 13th start this season.

“I didn’t expect people to make it four-wide then and there, going off into the corner,” Mayer said. “Usually you try to make that move off the corner. But honestly, I’m new at this whole thing, so maybe that is the right thing to do but I definitely wasn’t ready for it. I was just trying to mind my own business, put my left front right on the hash mark, like I’d been doing all day. Whether I was three-, four-wide didn’t really matter until there. People just making moves that really don’t benefit you enough to risk, risk vs. reward.”

John Hunter Nemechek ultimately won Stage 1. There were eight playoff drivers in the top 10 – Jeb Burton, Riley Herbst, Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider, Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones filled second through eighth in order; Daniel Hemric was 10th. The race was then briefly stopped during the break for repairs to the Turn 3 barrier.

The Round of 12 field will dwindle down to eight drivers next Saturday at the Charlotte Roval (3 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Allmendinger has never raced on the Roval layout and not won – two wins in two starts. He led 20 of the 67 laps in 2019 and 12 of 68 in 2020.

“We’ll absolutely kick their (explicit) like usual there,” Allmendinger said. “That’s what we’re going to go do.”

Contributing: Staff reports