A second NASCAR Nationwide Series race for A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel of the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford resulted in a second win for the driver on Saturday in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200, the first race for the series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington.
“This Discount Tire Ford was just like at Road America; it was awesome,” Allmendinger said in victory lane.
Road America was the site of Allmendinger’s other win, coming in his first Nationwide start of the year back in June. At Mid-Ohio on Saturday, Allmendinger dominated, leading 73 of the 94 laps that made up the race.
Allmendinger’s win gave the No. 22 team the owner points lead over the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team that headed into the weekend as the leader. Owen Kelly, who was driving the No. 54 at Mid-Ohio, ran near the front for much of the race but spun and landed in a sand trap on the final lap.
The win also meant a road course sweep for Penske Racing, with Allmendinger turning in wins at Road America and Mid-Ohio and Brad Keselowski winning last weekend at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
“For Penske to sweep all three of these road courses just says how awesome these cars are,” Allmendinger said.
Michael McDowell, driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing entry, matched his series career-best finish with runner-up honors and Allmendinger’s Penske teammate, Sam Hornish Jr., finished third and took over the top spot in the driver points standings.
“The first lap of each restart and the initial start of the race, we were just too tight,” Hornish said of his car’s handling. “After the first lap, we got some heat in the tires and it got better.”
The race was filled with restarts, as the yellow flag waved seven times throughout the race. The final caution came out with two laps remaining, adding four laps to the originally-scheduled 90 lap distance for a green-white-checker finish.
Fuel mileage was close for Allmendinger and the other front runners, even before the added laps. With the race lengthened, Allmendinger shut off his engine and coasted at several points under the final caution in an effort to save fuel.
Max Papis finished fourth, and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five. It was Vickers’ sixth-straight top-five finish. After the race, Vickers commented that his team would probably have multiple wins if it weren’t for bad luck and flat tires. Vickers had to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 49 because of a cut tire.
Elliott Sadler finished sixth and moved up to second in the driver standings. Former points leader, Austin Dillon, dropped to third after getting off course on the final lap and finishing out side the top-20.
Finishing seventh through 10th were Marcos Ambrose, Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne and Jeremy Clements.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR