Following a dismal week at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kaulig Racing traveled south to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Georgia as AJ Allmendinger returned to the team’s lineup alongside Ross Chastain and Justin Haley. When the dust settled and the checkered flag flew, all three teams finished in the top 10 with Allmendinger earning the race win and recording Kaulig Racing’s first NASCAR victory of the 2020 season.
Coming into Atlanta, Kaulig Racing’s previous best finish at the track was eighth, which came a year ago with Haley and the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet team. This season, the team had three opportunities to improve on the stat.
The starting lineup was determined by a random draw. Haley started fourth, which marked the fourth consecutive race since NASCAR’s return to on-track racing where he started in the top five. Chastain, who finished sixth in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series event at Atlanta earlier in the day, started 11th and Allmendinger started 30th.
When the race commenced, Haley moved to the runner-up spot as Chastain remained inside the top 10. By the 10th lap, Allmendinger had worked his way inside the top 20 and all three Kaulig Racing Chevrolets remained in the top 10 at the time the competition caution flew on Lap 16. Under the competition caution, all three Kaulig competitors remained on track along with the majority of the field. When the front-runners pitted, Haley inherited the lead for the restart on Lap 21.
For four laps following the Lap 21 restart, Haley led, but was overtaken by Austin Cindric for the lead on Lap 25. By Lap 30, Chastain moved into the runner-up spot, trailing Cindric by more than three seconds. Haley settled in third, trailing Cindric by four seconds while Allmendinger was in 12th. When the first stage concluded, Chastain and Haley settled in second and third behind Cindric while Allmendinger was able to work his way in the top 10 by finishing ninth.
Under the stage break, the leaders pitted and Chastain exited second while Allmendinger exited fifth. Haley was due to restart in the top five, but was sent to the rear of the field in 27th due to a crew member jumping over the pit wall too early.
When the second stage started on Lap 47, Chastain retained the runner-up position while Allmendinger, who made a brief appearance in the top five, settled in the top 10. By Lap 60, Haley had made his way back into the top 15. Five laps later, Allmendinger made his way to fifth after overtaking JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson in Turn 4.
Following a caution on Lap 68 for a spin involving rookie Riley Herbst and a late restart in the stage, Chastain fell to third as Chase Briscoe moved to second. Behind, Allmendinger continued to run in the top five while Haley made his way back inside the top 10. When the second stage concluded, which was won by Cindric, Chastain finished third, Allmendinger settled in fifth and Haley rallied to finish seventh.
Under the stage break and when the leaders pitted, Chastain and Allmendinger exited in the top five while Haley was penalized again, this time for speeding on pit road, and was sent to the rear of the field.
Over the course of the next 38 laps in the final stage, which included two cautions and two restarts, all three Kaulig Racing competitors were running in the top 10, watching from a distance as Briscoe maintained a steady advantage over Cindric. With less than 40 laps remaining, an opportunity presented itself under caution following a pit stop when the top-three competitors that included Briscoe, Cindric and Allgaier sped on pit road and were sent to the rear of the field. Their misfortunes allowed Allmendinger to inherit the lead for the restart with 34 laps remaining. Haley restarted third behind Allmendinger while Chastain restarted sixth.
When the race restarted, Allmendinger took off with the lead while Haley settled in third after being overtaken by Gragson. Over the course of the final 34 laps, Allmendinger would navigate his way through lapped traffic and maintain his advantage over a second over Gragson, which was enough to claim the checkered flag first and record his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season. The victory was Allmendinger’s fourth of his Xfinity Series career in his 18th series start, his first oval-track win and his first Atlanta win in his first series start at the track. In addition, Kaulig Racing notched its third NASCAR Xfinity career win in the team’s fifth season.
“Oh, my god! I won on an oval! You like that?!” Allmendinger said on FOX. “Matt Kaulig, I really love you. Chris Rice, these cars were awesome. It’s Atlanta. You’re trying to figure out how much tire to use early. The car was awesome on long runs. Once I got to the lead, I was just trying to hit my marks, which is hard to do. I can’t thank everybody at Kaulig Racing, LeafFilter Gutter Protection, everybody that’s associated with this team. We got C2 Freight Resources on the car…Thank you ECR [Engines], Chevrolet, everybody for giving me the opportunity. Let’s party.”
Following his victory, team owner Matt Kaulig announced that Allmendinger will compete in the second Xfinity Series doubleheader event at Homestead-Miami Speedway on June 14 as one of four Xfinity competitors vying for the second Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus.
Haley rallied from his pair of pit road penalties to finish third for his third top-five finish of the season while Chastain settled in seventh for his sixth top-10 result of the season.
“[Today] was good,” Haley said on PRN Radio. “We’ve had speed the past few weeks and haven’t had any luck. So, glad we could finally finish it off. Last week at Bristol, we were passing for the lead and when the caution came out, [we] got wrecked on the restart. I don’t know, it’s just tough. Congrats to A.J. He was pretty good. All three Kaulig Racing cars were fast. We’ll keep digging.”
With his result, Haley moved from eighth to seventh in the standings and trails points leader Briscoe by 73 points as he will also contend for the Dash 4 Cash bonus next weekend at Homestead. Chastain remained in fifth in the standings as he trails Briscoe by 45 points.
Next on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule is a doubleheader series weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the first on June 13 and the second on June 14. The June 13 race at Homestead will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX while the June 14 race will air at noon ET on FS1.