Austin Cindric appeared in good position to win Friday night’s regular season finale at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway but a late caution sent the race into a two-lap overtime.
Cindric got a good jump on the restart but Allmendinger powered to second as Justin Allgaier joined the battle and took them three-wide as they began the final lap.
Allgaier and Cindric made contact as Allmendinger cleared for the lead but Cindric came powered right back to get side-by-side with Allmendinger and the two made contact and slid sideways across the finish line.
Allmendinger was credited with the win by .082 seconds – his fourth win of the 2021 season with Kaulig Racing and eighth of his career. His victory also clinched the series regular season title heading into the playoff opener next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“The adrenaline is running so I feel fine. Tomorrow, my whole body’s really going to hurt,” Allmendinger said of the wreck that erupted after he and Cindric crossed the finish line. “It was an opportunity, Austin and that No. 22 team was really quick. I went for it on that restart and knew contact was coming.
“I knew we’d won the race and then all hell broke loose. It’s something to talk about, for sure, tomorrow. We won, so I’m going to smile, but afterwards you’re frustrated. You take a break and think about it, and you know it’s just racing.
“Honestly, I hope that at Phoenix, it’s us two doing that for a championship. He’s made me become so much better as a race car driver.”
Riley Herbst finished third, Allgaier ended up fourth and Brandon Jones rounded out the top-five.
Completing the top-10 were Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, Myatt Snider, Sam Mayer and Daniel Hemric.
Joining Allmendinger in the 12-driver playoff field are Cindric, Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Haley, Hemric, Jeb Burton, Harrison Burton, Snider, Jones, Herbst and Jeremy Clements.
Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, most of the lead lap cars pit but Jeb Burton stayed on the track and inherited the lead.
Allgaier and Gragson both were penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field. Harrison Burton was first off pit road among those who pit.
Jeb Burton led the way on the restart on Lap 180 and was followed by Mayer, Herbst, Brandon Brown and Clements. Harrison Burton lined up eighth.
Mayer went to the outside of Jeb Burton off Turn 4 and pulled ahead to the lead on Lap 181.
Carson Ware wrecked off Turn 2 on Lap 198 to bring out the eighth caution of the race. The lead-lap cars stayed on the track with Mayer still leading the way on Lap 205.
With 80 laps remaining in the race, Mayer continued to maintain a small lead over Cindric while Allgaier had worked his way back up to ninth.
On Lap 230, Cindric and Mayer made contact but Cindric still came away with the lead for the first time in the race.
Tommy Joe Martins and David Starr wrecked while racing for position on Lap 238 to bring out a caution.
All lead-lap cars elected to pit for their last set of tires with Cindric the first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 248, Cindric was followed by Mayer, Herbst, Allmendinger and Allgaier.
With 30 laps to go, Cindric maintained a small lead over Mayer as Allgaier ran in third, also less than a second behind the leader.
On Lap 297, Allgaier got into the left-rear of Mayer, which sent Mayer spinning off Turn 2 which brought out a caution and sent the race into a two-lap overtime.
To start overtime, Cindric led followed by Allgaier, Allmendinger, Hemric and Riley.
Hemric held off Allgaier – who had spun while leading – to take the Stage 2 win.
Gragson was third, Haley fourth and Cindric rounded out the top-five.
Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, all the lead-lap cars pit with Allgaier the first off pit road.
When the race resumed on Lap 94, Allgaier was followed by Gragson, Clements and Hemric.
Martins spun and wrecked on the backstretch following contact with B.J. McLeod on Lap 103 to bring out a caution.
Allgaier remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 109 followed by Hemric, Gragson and Haley.
Hemric powered back to the lead after the restart and on Lap 110, Matt Mills spun down the frontstretch after contact with Spencer Boyd to force another caution. The race resumed on Lap 117 with Hemric still in the lead.
On Lap 136, Allgaier used lapped traffic to box Hemric in and reclaim the lead in the race.
With 25 laps remaining in the stage, Allgaier held about a half-second lead over Hemric with Gragson still in third.
On Lap 154, Allgaier failed to clear Joe Graf Jr. and ending up spinning off Turn 2 while in the lead, which brought out a caution and turned the lead over to Hemric.
A handful of lead-lap car decided to pit under the caution but Hemric continued to lead on the restart on Lap 162 followed by Gragson, Allgaier, Cindric and Haley.
Allgaier took command early in the race and held off Hemric to take the Stage 1 win.
Gragson was third, Haley fourth and Mayer rounded out the top-five.
Gragson started on the pole and led the first four laps until Hemric got around him to take the lead on Lap 5.
On Lap 9, Brett Moffitt wrecked off Turn 2 to bring out the first caution of the race. When the race resumed on Lap 17, Hemric continued to lead followed by Gragson and Allgaier.
Allgaier nudged past Hemric on Lap 36 to grab the lead for the first time.
On Lap 41, NASCAR displayed a competition caution to allow teams to check tire wear. The lead-lap cars remained on the track and Allgaier led the way on the restart on Lap 52.
With 20 laps remaining in the first stage, Allgaier maintained a small lead over Hemric as Gragson ran third.
With five laps remaining, Josh Berry was forced to bring his No. 1 Chevrolet to pit road after it was trailing a large amount of smoke.
JR Motorsports announced before the race that Michael Annett had re-injured his leg and would miss Friday night’s Xfinity Series race. Berry filled in for Annett and had to start the race from the rear of the field.