SPEEDWAY, Ind. — In Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, the fastest car met superior strategy.
In this case, the fastest car — Ty Gibbs’ No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota — decisively won the battle over the craftiness of AJ Allmendinger as the two full-time NASCAR Cup Series drivers stole the show — and potential playoff points — from Xfinity regulars in the Pennzoil 150 presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Allmendinger, the pole winner, parlayed pit strategy into a pair of stage wins, but Gibbs charged ahead after a restart with 16 of 62 laps left and beat Sam Mayer to the finish line by 7.959 seconds at the 2.439, 14-turn circuit. Mayer passed a disappointed Allmendinger for the runner-up spot on the penultimate lap.
The victory was the first of the season for Gibbs, who won last year’s Xfinity title before moving up to his full-time Cup ride. It was his first victory on the Indy road course and his 12th win in 58 starts in the series.
“Awesome car-great car-thank you, (crew chief) Jason Ratcliff,” exulted Gibbs, who will try to hold onto the final Playoff-eligible position in Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard Cup Series race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).
“I raced go-karts down the street with a bunch of kids… it’s really special.”
His strategy for Sunday is uncomplicated.
“Just have a good car, set the car upright and go win,” Gibbs said.
Mayer, who won the first Xfinity Series race of his career on July 29 at Road America, was satisfied with second on Saturday.
“That was all I had right there to catch the 10 (Allmendinger) and get us some more points,” said Mayer, who scored his fourth straight top-five finish. “I’m really proud of our guys here today. Our Chevrolet was really fast. But a lot of positivity going into the next couple of weeks because we are clicking off top fives like it’s easy.
“These road courses have been good to us the last couple of weeks-and the ovals are just as good. I’m looking forward to what we have going into (Watkins) Glen next week and then a bunch of ovals after that.”
Series leader Austin Hill finished fourth, followed by Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer and Parker Kligerman, Sheldon Creed, Kaz Grala and Brett Moffitt to complete the top 10. Allgaier clinched a spot in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.
Allmendinger started from the pole but surrendered the lead to Ty Gibbs on Lap 3. Gibbs remained out front until lightning in the area forced NASCAR to red-flag the race at 6:04 p.m. ET.
During the delay, rain soaked the track, but the skies began to clear before the cars restarted. A strategic call by Allmendinger put the driver of the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet back in the lead.
Before the field took the green flag after the resumption of the race, Allmendinger and Mayer pitted for slick tires while the vast majority of the field stayed on slower-treaded rain tires.
Allmendinger rapidly gained ground from the back of the field, and after Gibbs pitted for slicks on lap 14, Allmendinger held a lead of more than 16 seconds in the exchange. He lost just over one second of that advantage before Brad Perez’s Chevrolet stopped on the track on Lap 27 to cause the second caution of the afternoon.
“We were never fast enough to win the race,” Allmendinger said. “I thought Ty was the class of the field… We got in a good rhythm there, maybe if it would’ve stayed green. We just needed a 52-lap green run there to win today.”
In short order after a restart on Lap 31, Allmendinger regained the lead from Mayer, who had stayed out on older tires during the caution.
Gibbs restarted three positions deeper in the field than Allmendinger and began to close the gap to the leader. After Gibbs out-braked Mayer into Turn 7 and took the second spot on Lap 38, he trailed Allmendinger by 3.049 seconds.
MORE: Xfinity Series standings
When both Allmendinger and Gibbs pitted for tires and fuel on Lap 43, however, Gibbs won the race off pit road right before NASCAR called the third caution when Andre Castro stopped on the track.
On the subsequent restart on Lap 47, Gibbs, who led a race-high 28 laps, pulled out to an immediate advantage and expanded it the rest of the way.
The Xfinity Series will tackle another road course for the second consecutive weekend in a row, with the field racing in the Shriners Children’s 200 at Watkins Glen International on Aug. 19 (3:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App).
Note: Post-race inspection in the Xfinity Series garage concluded without issue, confirming Gibbs as the race winner.
Contributing: Staff Reports