Tough ending for Kaulig Racing at Bristol

Following an up-and-down result last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kaulig Racing traveled to Tennessee for the next NASCAR Xfinity Series scheduled race at Bristol Motor Speedway, fielding three cars as AJ Allmendinger joined Ross Chastain and Justin Haley to the team’s lineup. When the checkered flag dropped under the lights, Allmendinger emerged with a top-10 result while Haley and Chastain were left with disappointing finishes outside the top 15.

With the race’s lineup determined by a random draw, Haley and Chastain started fourth and sixth while Allmendinger, who started his first Xfinity event since the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval in September, started 27th. In the opening laps of the race, Haley and Chastain displayed early speed by moving to third and fourth. Disaster struck, however, on the fifth lap, when Chastain blew a right-front tire entering Turn 4 and made contact with Austin Cindric against the outside wall. The contact sent Chastain around, where he was clipped by an oncoming Michael Annett. Despite sustaining significant rear-end damage to his No. 10 Nutrien Ag Solutions Chevrolet, Chastain’s crew was able to make repairs to keep the driver on the lead lap.

When the race restarted on Lap 16, Haley settled in third. He remained in the top five as the laps dwindled while Allmendinger methodically worked his way up through the field. Nearly 10 laps later, however, Chastain was forced to pit under green for more repairs needed to his car. He eventually took his car behind the wall where his crew was able to continue making repairs. He would eventually return to the track multiple laps down.

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At the time of the competition caution on Lap 35, Haley was third and Allmendinger was able to race his way to 18th. When the race completed its first stage, Haley was fourth, Allmendinger raced his way into the top 10 in eighth and Chastain was 31st, more than 30 laps behind. Following pit stops under the stage break, Haley exited eighth while Allmendinger returned on track in 11th.

When the second stage started on Lap 98, Haley moved into second but slipped to third the following restart. On Lap 121, a bump from Ryan Sieg sent Allmendinger spinning in Turn 3, drawing the event’s sixth caution. Despite the contact, Allmendinger was able to keep Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet sideways below the apron without sustaining any damage or contact from anyone else. He pitted for fresh tires and returned on track.

By Lap 155, Allmendinger battled his way within the top 10 while Haley continued racing in the top five, spending most of the race in third. At the conclusion of the second stage, Haley was third and Allmendinger was 10th. Chastain was in 28th, 30 laps behind the leaders.

Throughout the start of the final stage, Haley continued battling in the top five and Allmendinger continued battling inside the top 10. With 81 laps remaining, Haley moved into second after passing Noah Gragson and started his pursuit for the lead toward Justin Allgaier. During this time, however, Allmendinger made an unscheduled pit stop to have the left-side tires changed. By the time he returned on track, he was three laps behind the leaders.

As the laps dwindled, Haley started to chip away his one-second deficit from Allgaier. With less than 60 laps remaining, Haley drew himself within a tenth of a second from Allgaier, who was struggling behind lapped traffic and was ready to pounce for the lead. With the battle for the lead brewing, the caution flew with eight laps remaining for a single-car spin in Turn 4. Under caution, Haley pitted with the leaders and dropped to fourth. Allmendinger remained on the track while Chastain pitted as both were still multiple laps behind.

The following restart with 45 to go, Haley made contact with rookie Riley Herbst in Turn 2. The contact sent Herbst spinning and slapping the outside wall while Haley proceeded in third with cosmetic damage and a dragged splitter to his No. 11 LeafFilter Chevrolet. Despite the damage, Haley remained on track while reporting no significant fender damage. When the race restarted with 36 to go, Haley fell to fourth but returned to third two laps later after forcing his way below Brandon Jones in Turn 2.

With approximately 20 laps remaining, Haley’s race went south when he slipped in Turn 1 and scrubbed the outside wall in Turn 2 while trying to race his way back to second. The contact cut a tire on Haley’s machine, where he was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop as his chances of winning his first Xfinity race evaporated for another week.

Through two additional cautions and a late restart that extended the race into overtime, Allmendinger was able to race his way back on the lead lap. On the overtime restart, Allmendinger was able to race his way to a 10th-place result for his third top-10 result in his sixth start with Kaulig Racing. Haley settled in 17th, four laps behind the leaders, while Chastain ended his long race in 28th, 48 laps behind. All Kaulig teammates watched from a distance as Gragson held off Chase Briscoe and Jones to win at Thunder Valley.

With the result, Haley is eighth in the series standings, 79 points behind points leader Briscoe, while Chastain dropped from third to fifth and is 52 points behind.

Allmendinger is scheduled to make seven more Xfinity races this season with Kaulig Racing. Chastain and Haley, along with their fellow competitors, will return for the next series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 6 at 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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