WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Ty Gibbs passed road race ace AJ Allmendinger after a restart with four laps to go and won the Xfinity race at Watkins Glen International on Saturday.
It was the third win in 10 Xfinity races this season for the 18-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs. Points leader Austin Cindric was third, Pole-sitter Justin Allgaier fourth, and Harrison Burton fifth.
Gibbs is a part-time rookie driver in the series this season, concentrating on the ARCA Series. It’s just a matter of time before he makes a big jump.
“My guys worked so hard,” Gibbs said. “I’m just at a loss for words. I just feel like being in these situations helps you. Those guys [Allmendinger and Cindric] look so relaxed in those situations. Kind of just learning from them. This is just wonderful. I can’t believe. It’s just a dream come true.”
Allmendinger passed Gibbs going out of the first turn on the final restart, swinging wide left in the runoff area of the hard, 90-degree downhill right-hander and headed up through the esses. Gibbs gradually closed back in and drove his No. 54 Toyota past Allmendinger coming to the front straightaway with two laps to go on the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen layout and pulled away ever-so-slightly to the victory.
In the previous five races at The Glen, four finishes had a margin of victory under 1.6 seconds and this one added another. The margin of victory was just over a half-second. The series did not race last year at Watkins Glen because of the pandemic.
“Ty did a fantastic job. He raced me clean,” Allmendinger said.
Two years ago, Cindric put on a show, beating Allmendinger in a stirring battle that lasted to the end for his first Xfinity win. This time it was the teenager’s turn to make a statement. Gibbs also won this year at Charlotte and Daytona.
Allmendinger and Gibbs were up front on a restart with five laps left in the second stage of the 82-lap race, and Allmendinger gained the lead roaring up through the esses. He prevailed – barely – in a side-by-side duel to the finish with Gibbs to take his sixth stage win of the season.
Cindric dominated the opening stage to win his eighth stage of the season.
Matt Mills brought out a caution on lap 49, a critical moment in the race, and pit road was crowded as crew chiefs pleaded with drivers to save fuel with the pit window pegged at lap 52.
Daniel Hemric, who stayed on track, took the lead on the restart with Gibbs charging hard, moving to third on Lap 52.
Told by his team that he was a half-lap short on fuel, late cautions took care of that worry. Erik Jones slid off course to bring out a caution with 13 laps to go, allowing the leaders to save fuel and both Gibbs and Cindric, operating in the same fuel window, stayed out.
On a restart with 12 laps left, Cindric gained the lead from Gibbs with Allmendinger close behind. Gibbs challenged for the lead with a bump but couldn’t make the pass after the green flag waved.
Gibbs regained the lead from Cindric and Allmendinger slid past into second with 10 laps to go, but his edge of just over a second vanished when Kyle Weatherman’s No. 47 Chevrolet came to a stop in the esses to bring out the final caution.
Michael Annett was back in the No, 1 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. He was medically cleared by NASCAR to return after successful surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right femur and the allotted recovery time. Annett, who finished 11th, has received a medical waiver from NASCAR so that he can retain his postseason eligibility.