AJ Allmendinger Keeps ‘Dream’ Week Alive at Michigan

AJ Allmendinger

Getty AJ Allmendinger (left) races at Michigan International Speedway.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers took on Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 21, after two straight road courses. JR Motorsports put on a show at the two-mile oval, but Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger locked up his second consecutive week with a win after leading 70 laps.

The Dinger locked up the win after a late battle with Josh Berry. Three late cautions forced the drivers to line up multiple times for a two-lap overtime race to the checkered flag. Berry had the early advantage after using the outside lane to jump to the front of the pack, but Allmendinger took the top spot during overtime. He did not relinquish during the final run, capping off his day with another win and even more playoff points.

Allmendinger entered the race second in the points after locking up early-season wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. His third win will not be enough to boost him to the top spot, but he will move closer to championship favorite Austin Cindric.

A Wreck Sent Several Cars to the Garage Early

The Xfinity Series race at Michigan started as many fans expected with Cindric and Allmendinger fighting for the lead. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang won Stage 1 and lined up first with his eye on sweeping all three stages. However, his day came to an early end.

A massive incident took place early in Stage 2, bringing out the caution flag and sending several vehicles to the garage early. The No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro of Myatt Snider went sideways, hitting Brandon Brown’s No. 68 Brandonbilt Chevrolet and sparking a chain reaction.

The incident collected several vehicles, including Cindric’s No. 22, Bubba Wallace’s No. 61, Justin Haley’s No. 11, Daniel Hemric’s No. 18, and Joe Graf Jr.’s No. 07. Wallace and Haley were both able to continue in the race, but the championship favorite in Cindric had to head to the garage. He tried to make some laps in the No. 22 after the pit crew removed the hood, but NASCAR brought the stock car back and officially ended Cindric’s day.

Josh Berry Impressed at a Track New to Him

JR Motorsports announced in the week leading up to Michigan that Michael Annett would miss his second consecutive race while continuing to recover from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right femur. The team also revealed that Josh Berry would replace Annett for the second time in the 2021 season, following the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The 30-year-old from Tennessee climbed into the No. 1 without any previous experience at Michigan or any practice sessions. He had to learn the track while facing off with the biggest names in the Xfinity Series and starting from the rear of the field.

Berry quickly showed that he could contend even while figuring out how to race on the “fastest track in NASCAR.” He raced his way to ninth place at the end of Stage 1 and then rebounded from a pit crew over the wall too early penalty that dropped him to the rear of the field. He fought his way back from 23rd at the midway point of Stage 2 and finished the segment in eighth place.

Berry performed well during the first two stages, but he truly put on a show during the final laps. He trailed Allmendinger and Justin Allgaier during the final segment but used a bold strategy to take the lead. Berry raced to the top line from the third position and raced past his two peers before weaving through two lapped cars to take the lead.

Berry finished off the race by losing his lead during green-flag pit stops, regaining it once again, and then losing it during one of the multiple caution restarts. Without having access to the top lane on the restarts, Berry was unable to lock up his second win of the season. However, he still finished fourth while showcasing how he will make an impact during his first full-time season in 2022.

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