LEXINGTON, Ohio – AJ Allmendinger led 73 of the 94 laps and survived a late challenge after a restart to win the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Allmendinger improved his record to 2 for 2 this year in the Nationwide Series, adding a victory to the one he picked up for Penske Racing in his only previous start at Road America.
The 31-year-old Allmendinger, rebounding after being suspended a year ago for failing a random drug test, took the lead for good on the 64th lap, then had to weather a late sprint when a car spun out just before his final lap on the twisting course.
Pole-winner Michael McDowell was second, with native Ohioan Sam Hornish Jr. third, Max Papis fourth and Brian Vickers fifth.
Hornish took over the season points lead, 13 points ahead of Elliott Sadler.
The race was plagued by spin-outs and fender benders.
The last one almost changed the outcome.
With everyone racing to the finish and Allmendinger’s Discount Tire Ford comfortably ahead of McDowell by a couple of seconds, the car driven by Kenny Habul spun out on Turn 11. Out came the yellow flag, with Allmendinger and most of the other leaders having to conserve fuel to prevent running out before the restart.
When the pace car finally pulled off, Allmendinger sped away to the lead and held it throughout the final lap to take the checkered flag.
NASCAR TRUCKS: Kyle Busch was as surprised as anyone when James Buescher passed him with about three laps remaining at Brooklyn, Mich.
Busch was leading the NASCAR Truck Series race when Brendan Gaughan’s No. 62 Chevrolet began to apply pressure. Then Buescher passed to the inside of both in his No. 31 Chevy — and held on to win.
“I figured once I could get out front, I felt like I could hold everybody off because it was hard to pass,” Busch said. “The 62 got a run on me down the backstretch, and I pulled a little bit low to block, and then I heard that the 31 was on the inside of him. So how the 31 can get a run on the 62, who’s got a run on me, is beyond me. It blows my mind, but he got a run on all of us.”
Buescher, the defending champion on this series, won his first Truck race of the year and fifth of his career.
ANOTHER MICHIGAN mishap for Jimmie Johnson.
The five-time Sprint Cup champion crashed nose first into a wall in his No. 48 Chevrolet during a practice session Saturday. Johnson was evaluated and released from the infield care center, but the accident forced his team to prepare a backup car — and now he faces quite a challenge trying to win a Cup race at Michigan International Speedway for the first time.
“I’m a little puzzled as to why I spun out going in because I’ve had great entry stability — even on that run I had great entry stability,” Johnson said. “To me it felt like I lost downforce just from the traffic scenario.”
Johnson qualified third Friday, but he’ll have to start from the rear now with the backup car.
Johnson, however, is one driver who could afford a problem like this. He’s won four times this season, leads the standings by a whopping 75 points and has already wrapped up a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.