PORTLAND — A.J. Allmendinger said it was probably the craziest race he’s ever won.
The road-course ace survived the chaos of the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ wet and wild Portland International Raceway debut with a victory Saturday.
Allmendinger led just six overall laps in his Xfinity-record eighth road-course victory and 12th overall series win. He crossed the finish line in the Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 2.879 seconds in front of Myatt Snider.
“Once we got back up front there, I said in my mind that with everything I had done to cause us to lose this race, I was going to do everything I could to win it,” said Allmendinger, who started from the back after engine issues the day before, then went off the slippery course numerous times.
The 75-lap race on the 12-turn, 1.97-mile permanent road course north of downtown started in heavy rain, resulting in slippery conditions. It was first NASCAR event in the region in 22 years, and a rare stand-alone event for the second-tier national series.
There were nine caution flags and eight lead changes in the race that looked at times like a demotion derby with several spinouts, bumps and wrecks.
Snider led in his Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet going into the third and final stage of the race as a break in the rain dried the course somewhat. Allmendinger briefly took the lead with 13 laps to go after coming out of a caution — but the rain started to fall anew and he went to the pits to go back to wet tires for the rest of the way
Coming out of the ninth caution with four laps to go, Snider led but Allmendinger was close behind and quickly moved ahead on the inside, making light contact with Snider. Austin Hill finished third.
“To me, that’s good hard racing. It’s not like he dumped me for no reason or spun me out or anything. He just got into me a little bit,” Snider said. “I mean, all those restarts were extremely rough, so for him to just kind of rub my door a little bit, I mean, that’s racing to me.”
Allmendinger was set to leave shortly after the race to head to the NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis.
He was the favorite in the field at PIR but he got off to a tough start when he was among seven drivers sent to the back because of unapproved adjustments, and then had to pit after the first lap because he went into the grass.
“I was awful. I cannot believe I crashed before we went green. I was off the racetrack I think four times,” he said. “Yeah, I made all kinds of mistakes all over the place.”
Ty Gibbs, who has two road-course victories among his seven overall wins, won the opening stage. The 19-year-old driver for Joe Gibbs Racing was second last weekend in Charlotte.
Gibbs had pushed his lead to nine seconds when he got hit by Jesse Iwuji, bringing out a caution with eight laps left in the second stage. Iwuji was penalized two laps.
Sheldon Creed was knocked out of the race in the final stage after a multi-car crash at turn one. After he got out of his car, he walked back onto the track to confront Jade Buford with an obscene gesture.
“The way my year’s gone, every time we have speed, something goes wrong,” Creed said.
Allmendinger, the Xfinity Series points leader, finished 19th last weekend at Charlotte after a tire problem in the second half of the race. Josh Berry grabbed the victory for JR Motorsports.
It was Allmindinger’s second win at PIR: In 2006 he won his first Champ Car event at the Grand Prix of Portland.
The last NASCAR-affiliated race in the region was the Truck Series, which visited PIR and Evergreen Speedway in Washington in 2000. NASCAR has long eyed racing in this part of the country but until this year was not able to get its national series’ on Portland’s schedule.
Anthony Alfredo won his first series pole with a lap of 93.229 mph Friday night.
Among the drivers moved to the back at the start were Allmendinger, Berry, Snider, Greg Gaulding, Darrel Dilley, Rayn Sieg and Mason Filippi. Noah Gragson ran in a backup car.