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Jim Utter

Allmendinger holds off Byron for emotional Roval Cup win

Allmendinger didn’t move into the lead for the first time until he passed Kyle Busch on the start to the final stage but had to navigate five restarts over the final 31 laps.

With less than 10 laps to go, William Byron moved past Busch into the second position and closed to Allmendinger’s rear bumper several times, but the 41-year-old veteran deftly held him at bay and cleared him by 0.666 seconds at the checkered flag.

The win is the first for Allmendinger and his No. 16 Kaulig Racing team this season, which had been a disappointment as he failed to qualify for the playoffs.

That frustration was evident in the emotional response from Allmendinger to the win, who could be heard crying over his team radio on the cool down lap and was in tears doing an interview on the frontstretch.

“This is why you do it. This is the only reason you do it,” Allmendinger said. “You fight. All the blood, sweat, tears, everybody at Kaulig Racing has just been such – I wouldn’t say a down year, but up-and-down year. It’s our second year in the Cup Series.

“I usually give these checkered flags away but I'm going to have to wrap this around (my son) Aero. My mom and dad, all my family and friends, those people see how much anguish and how much I put it on my shoulders when we're struggling. It just means the world.”

Busch ended up third, Ty Gibbs was fourth and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.

Completing the top-10 were Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott and Ross Chastain.

Busch, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and Chastain were the four drivers lowest in points without a victory following the race and eliminated from further playoff contention.

Byron, Reddick, Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson Ryan Blaney kick off the semifinal round of the playoffs next Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Stage 1

Reddick, who started on the pole, led all 25 laps on his way to a 5.299-second Stage 1 win over his teammate Wallace. Chastain was third, Truex fourth and Bell fifth.

Stage 2

Although he planned to pit before the stage break, Elliott instead claimed the Stage 2 win under caution when Josh Bilicki wrecked in Turn 3 with two of 25 laps remaining.

Elliott was headed to pit road for a green flag stop but cut back on the track just before pit road was closed for the caution. Bell was second in the stage, Hamlin third, Reddick fourth and Larson rounded out the top five.

Stage 3

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, those drivers who had not pit did so, and Busch remained on the track and inherited the lead. He led Allmendinger and Gibbs on the restart with 56 laps remaining.

With 52 laps to go, Allmendinger got around Busch in the backstretch chicane to take the lead for the first time.

Elliott was forced to pit under green on lap 67 – much earlier than expected – as he had a right-rear tire going down. He returned to the field in 35th position. Several other drivers followed a few laps later.

With 39 laps to go, Hamlin got spun around on the frontstretch as several cars checked up when Michael McDowell got loose.

Four laps later, Hamlin spun out himself exiting the frontstretch chicane, which caused a traffic jam that resulted in his No. 11 Toyota suffering some significant damage.

Erik Jones and McDowell wrecked in Turn 2 as they went three-wide with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. which set up another restart with 27 laps remaining and Allmendinger out front.

Just after Chastain pit under green for new tires, his Trackhouse teammate Suarez got spun out by Bell on lap 94 which brought out the sixth caution of the race.

A handful of drivers pit for new tires, but Allmendinger remained on the track and in the lead on the restart with 13 laps to go.

The Stenhouse’s No. 47 stopped on track and became engulfed with smoke and fire, which brought out another caution. Stenhouse was not injured.

Allmendinger led Busch and Byron on the restart with 10 laps to go.

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