Justin Allgaier won the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ EchoPark 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday after inheriting the race lead when Cup Series star Martin Truex, Jr. sped on pit road.
Allgaier scored his 15th Xfinity Series win after inheriting the race lead with 27 laps to go under a caution after Truex was sent to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road under that caution.
“Martin [Truex] had a great race car and he definitely had the car to beat at the beginning,” Allgaier said.
Truex dominated the race, winning both stages and leading 103 out of 163 laps, but after speeding on pit road, had to restart at the rear of the field and was unable to get back to the lead.
“We got close and then, the last 10 laps, my right rear was completely smoked off,”Truex said. “It was fun until I screwed it up.”
With their finishes in Saturday’s race, race-winner Allgaier, third-place Harrison Burton, fourth-place Noah Gragson and fifth-place AJ Allmendinger qualified for the Xfinity Series’ Dash 4 Cash program which will start at the series’ next race at Martinsville Speedway.
The race had six lead changes between five drivers and was run under caution seven times for a total of 37 laps.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will take next weekend off and return on Friday, April 9 at 8 p.m. ET from NASCAR’s shortest track, Martinsville Speedway. The race at Martinsville will air live on FS1 and MRN.
Stage 1 – 40 laps
Austin Cindric led Jeb and Harrison Burton to the green flag ahead of the rest of the field. Martin Truex, Jr., starting in his first Xfinity Series race since 2010, started 18th and drove along the outside, carrying momentum to the lead in just seven laps. Once Truex took the lead, Cindric fell behind Harrison Burton, Truex’s teammate.
AJ Allmendinger was supposed to start third, but after failing inspection twice, had to start at the rear of the field. He was running 18th by lap 15.
The competition caution came out on lap 20 as scheduled, but very few drivers came down pit road.
Truex led the restart with Harrison Burton behind him as some of the series’ big names like Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones and Allmendinger were now working their way into the top 10. Cindric, on the other hand, was falling back and dropped outside of the top 10.
With five laps to go in the stage, Dexter Bean in the no. 90 spun by himself in turn 2, bringing out the caution. Riley Herbst, Brandon Brown, Tommy Joe Martins and Myatt Snider elected to pit, but very few others followed suit.
Truex led the restart for the single-lap shootout to the stage end. He pulled out front and cleared the field. Going into turn 3, Jones and Brett Moffitt made contact. Jones slid down the track and then back up into the wall, collecting Gragson, Moffitt and others. Allmendinger and Cindric
The top-10 finishers in stage 1 were Truex, Harrison Burton, Justin Allgaier, Justin Haley, Michael Annett, Cindric, Jeremy Clements, Daniel Hemric, Josh Berry and Jeb Burton.
Stage 2 – 40 laps
Under the stage-end yellow, nearly the entire field made their first pit stops. Truex was able to retain ahead of Harrison Burton and Allgaier. The drivers who pitted under the previous caution, led by Brandon Brown, stayed out and held the top spots.
Brown led the field to the green flag on the restart, but Truex in fourth jumped to the outside and went from fourth to first in less than half a lap.
The drivers on new tires began to swallow up the four drivers on aged tires. Haley moved into second, Allgaier made his way back into third.
Without any cautions, no one came close to Truex. Truex cruised to the stage two win, solidifying the stage sweep.
In stage 2, the top-10 finishers were Truex, Allgaier, Haley, Harrison Burton, Riley Herbst, Annett, Snider, Jeb Burton, Clements and Brown.
Race to the finish – 83 laps
Drivers came for fresh tires and fuel during the second stage-end caution of the day. Truex and Allgaier came out first and second respectively ahead of the field.
Truex led the field to the green flag. Truex faced a hard-charge on the opening lap from Allgaier, who had the lead for just a second, but took the lead back in turn 3.
Truex’s lead slowly grew over the course of the green-flag run as Allgaier continued to run second until the caution came out on lap 112 when Mason Massey in the no. 99 spun off turn 2.
Drivers pitted again for new tires and fuel under the yellow. Truex sped on pit road and had to restart at the rear of the field with 46 laps to go.
With Truex’s mistake, Allgaier inherited the race lead for the restart, but before the cars even got fully up to speed, Jeb Burton and Clements made contact in turn 1, sending both cars into the outside wall and bringing the caution right back out.
After a short cleanup, the race resumed with 40 laps to go. Allgaier once again led the field as Truex fought his way from the rear of the field to fifth before seemingly stalling.
On lap 131, the caution came back out when Ryan Sieg and Josh Berry made contact in turn 4. Berry spun and went nose-first into the grass, crushing the front of Berry’s no. 8 and ending his day.
Drivers elected to take their final sets of tires under the caution. Colby Howard didn’t pit and inherited the lead.
Howard led the restart but was quickly overtaken by the leaders. Allgaier resumed his time leading the race. Amazingly, the damaged car of Noah Gragson was holding up and was running third with 23 laps to go.
After a few laps, Truex’s car started to show life again. He drove from 1.75-seconds back of Allgaier to just one second behind. He was held up by Harrison Burton for a few laps, but was able to pass his teammate and set his sights on Allgaier for the lead and possibly the race win.
Truex got as close as .4 seconds, but he burned up his tires trying to catch Allgaier. Allgaier held on for his first win of the season, becoming the fifth different winner in the season’s six races.
Featured photo credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images