A.J. Allmendinger took the lead and held off the field on a final race restart with 12 laps remaining to earn his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the last 16 races, winning the Alsco Uniforms 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
It was Allmendinger's first race at the track in three years.
Allmendinger's No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet had to hold off the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Daniel Hemric, who led a race best 74 of the 200 laps and came 0.978-seconds away from his first career victory.
It was clearly an emotional win for the veteran Allmendinger, who climbed out of his car at the finish line and leaned against it, eyes closed for a moment before doing his live television interview.
This is the 39-year-old Californian's first full time season racing in NASCAR since 2018 when he competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, however he earned three wins driving part time for Kaulig Racing the last two seasons.
"First of all, it's awesome to have you all back in the grandstands," Allmendinger said, motioning toward the cheering but socially-distanced and limited-size crowd.
"It's emotional because you don't know when you're going to do this again," Allmendinger said. "You never know. This could be the last one (win), you never know, I hope it's not; I think we can do a lot more.
"This is fun, but I want to win so bad for [team owner] Matt [Kaulig] every week," he added. "It's hard to put into words what he means to me. Truly how bad I want to win for him. ... It means that much to me that he believes in me."
For Hemric, who now has 11 career runner-up showings in NASCAR's three national series, it was a tough outcome considering the strong showing up front for his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota all race long. He led eight different times and won Stage 2.
It was Hemric's eighth runner-up finish in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career. NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett holds the Xfinity Series record for the most runner-up finishes before his first victory with 10 second-place finishes.
"You hate to have one get away like that, but we came here and wanted to try to have more speed to lead laps and win stages and we did that today," Hemric said. "We lined up with a shot there and just got beat. Congratulations to A.J. We just got beat."
Hemric's teammate Brandon Jones finished third followed by 2020 Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric, who led 43 laps and won Stage 1.
Cindric had a tire go down on his No. 22 Team Penske Ford 55 laps into the race but turned in an inspired rally, finishing 10th in the 2nd stage and breaking into the top five by Lap 117. He made contact with Harrison Burton in the closing laps and his fourth-place showing is his fourth top five in as many races.
Las Vegas native Noah Gragson finished fifth - his best showing of the season. Michael Annett, rookie Josh Berry, Justin Haley, Harrison Burton and Jeb Burton rounded out the top 10. Haley's and Jeb Burton's work gave Kaulig Racing a top 10 sweep.
Cindric holds a 21-point lead over Hemric in the series driver standings entering next Saturday's Call 811 Before You Dig 200 at Phoenix Raceway (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race - 25th Annual Alsco Uniforms 300
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nevada
Saturday, March 6, 2021
1. (10) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 200.
2. (3) Daniel Hemric, Toyota, 200.
3. (4) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 200.
4. (2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 200.
5. (34) Noah Gragson, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (13) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (9) Josh Berry , Chevrolet, 200.
8. (6) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 200.
9. (22) Harrison Burton, Toyota, 200.
10. (5) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 200.
11. (25) Brandon Brown, Chevrolet, 200.
12. (40) Tyler Reddick(i), Chevrolet, 200.
13. (23) Santino Ferrucci, Toyota, 200.
14. (37) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
15. (21) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 200.
16. (24) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 200.
17. (8) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 199.
18. (26) Joe Graf Jr., Chevrolet, 199.
19. (30) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 199.
20. (38) Colby Howard, Chevrolet, 199.
21. (14) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 199.
22. (39) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 199.
23. (35) Ryan Vargas , Chevrolet, 199.
24. (15) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 199.
25. (16) Dexter Bean, Chevrolet, 198.
26. (32) Jesse Little, Toyota, 198.
27. (36) Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 198.
28. (29) Chad Finchum, Toyota, 198.
29. (28) David Starr, Ford, 198.
30. (27) Jade Buford, Chevrolet, 196.
31. (20) Ty Dillon, Toyota, 195.
32. (1) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 191.
33. (19) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 184.
34. (7) Brett Moffitt(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 181.
35. (17) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, Accident, 181.
36. (33) Stefan Parsons, Toyota, Fuel Line, 137.
37. (18) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Engine, 100.
38. (11) Ryan Sieg, Ford, Accident, 73.
39. (31) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, Electrical, 72.
40. (12) Riley Herbst, Ford, Accident, 56.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 113.804 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 38 Mins, 10 Secs. Margin of Victory: .978 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 45 laps.
Lead Changes: 23 among 7 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Snider 0;D. Hemric 1;A. Cindric 2-25;D. Hemric 26-28;A. Cindric 29-47;B. Jones 48;D. Hemric 49-62;J. Allgaier 63;D. Hemric 64-68;J. Allgaier 69;D. Hemric 70-75;J. Allgaier 76;D. Hemric 77-92;J. Allgaier 93;B. Jones 94-118;D. Hemric 119-138;A. Allmendinger 139-148;B. Jones 149;J. Haley 150-154;A. Allmendinger 155-175;B. Jones 176;T. Dillon 177-178;D. Hemric 179-187;A. Allmendinger 188-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Daniel Hemric 8 times for 74 laps; AJ Allmendinger 3 times for 44 laps; Austin Cindric 2 times for 43 laps; Brandon Jones 4 times for 28 laps; Justin Haley 1 time for 5 laps; Justin Allgaier 4 times for 4 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 2 laps.
Stage 1 Top Ten: 22,11,18,16,19,1,7,9,98,54
Stage 2 Top Ten: 18,16,7,19,02,1,9,20,68,22
--By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service, special to Field Level Media