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The only wheels in Las Vegas more costly than the roulette wheels in the assorted casinos on Saturday were those on the right side of AJ Allmendinger’s Chevy.

Losing at the table costs gamblers money. Losing in the pits late in the Xfinity Series playoff race may cost Allmendinger a spot in the Championship 4. To his credit, and rather unexpectedly for a driver who invariably speaks his mind, ‘Dinger’ showed admirable restraint afterward.

AJ Allmendinger has plunged below the Xfinity Series cut line

AJ Allmendinger prepares to practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 14, 2022. | Sean Gardner/Getty Images
AJ Allmendinger prepares to practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco Uniforms 302 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 14, 2022. | Sean Gardner/Getty Images

When the third phase of the NASCAR Xfinity Series began at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, regular-season champion AJ Allmendinger was only second in the standings to Noah Gragson but still 22 points to the good with respect to the cut line. By day’s end, he was in sixth place and 16 points under the cut line.

It didn’t have to be that way, and the driver of the No. 16 Chevy can point to his own Kaulig Racing pit crew as the culprit. A seemingly well-executed pit stop on Lap 162 of the scheduled 200 sent Allmendinger back on the track for the restart in third place.

Almost immediately, Allmendinger felt vibrations and radioed his crew to say he felt his right-front wheel was loose. After losing ground during considerable back-and-forth between the driver and the pit box, he finally decided he had to pull the car off the track for a closer look on Lap 176. The crew executed a four-tire change, after which an inspection of the rims showed signs that both right-side wheels were loose, laying waste to insistence from the box that the wheels were definitely snug.

Pitting under the green proved costly, and Allmendinger finished 22nd. Josh Berry’s winning effort, guaranteeing him a spot in the Championship 4, dropped Justin Allgaier onto the bubble, 15 points ahead of Austin Hill and 16 up on Allmendinger.

He showed restraint when emotions could have gotten the best of him


3 Reasons AJ Allmendinger Is the Right Choice for Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevy

Seven of the eight playoff drivers finished in the top nine of the Alsco Uniforms 302 on Saturday, AJ Allmendinger being the exception. As a road course specialist – only one of his five wins in 2022 came on ovals – Allmendinger will be hard-pressed to make up the necessary ground at Homestead-Miami and Martinsville if all the contenders continue running at the top of the scoring pyramid.

In that context, it would have been understandable if he teed off on the team for sending him back onto the track with two loose wheels. Instead, Allmendinger held back in the trackside interview just minutes after the finish.

It’s tough when you have mistakes like that,” he said, “but we win and lose as a team. It’s frustrating. We’ve just got to move on.”

Perhaps the only redeeming aspect of the episode is that Bruce Schlicker, in his first year as Allmendinger’s crew chief, and Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice will have to show more faith in Allmendinger’s feedback during future races.

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