AJ Allmendinger passed Darrell Wallace Jr. on the second-to-last lap of Saturday’s Monster Energy Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway to win the race and transfer to Saturday’s main event, the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race (8 p.m. ET, MRN, FS1). The JTG Daugherty Racing driver overcame Wallace, whose team took only two tires at the break between Stages 2 and 3, so the No. 43 could start from the front.
"I made the decision that I was crashing, or I was winning," Allmendinger said. "This is big for the organization, all my guys here at the race track, back at the shop. For Kroger ClickList, especially, to be able to call us all-stars for the night is great. We’re making progress. We’re not where we want to be yet as a race team, but we’re getting better."
Erik Jones finished second to Allmendinger, 0.327 second behind the leader. Chase Elliott, Paul Menard and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five. The winners of the three stages of Saturday’s Open all advanced to the main event. The All-Star field will be completed with the winner of the fan vote. Here’s a recap of the earlier stages in Saturday’s Open:
Stage 1 (20 laps)
Alex Bowman passed pole-sitter Aric Almirola on Lap 12 and drove away to win Stage 1 in the Monster Energy Open. Bowman took advantage of Almirola moving up the track in an attempt to block and scooted past on the inside just before the start-finish line. With the win, Bowman advances to the feature race in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
"The car was really good," Bowman said. "We were wide open all the time. I’m really proud of all my guys. Other people’s cars weren’t driving as well as ours was. The All-Star Race is going to be interesting. The track is going to cool down. The racing is probably going to get a little wilder. But, it is just so cool to be a part of it."
With five laps to go, Almirola and Chase Elliott battled, with Almirola coming close to the back of Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet. Elliott eventually finished third in the stage, while Almirola faded to eighth place. Erik Jones finished in second place, 0.355 seconds behind Bowman. Elliott, Paul Menard and Darrell Wallace Jr. rounded out the top five.
Stage 2 (20 laps)
Daniel Suarez and Chase Elliott went back-and-forth, but it was Suarez who reclaimed the lead from Elliott on Lap 35 en route to the Stage 2 victory. Suarez will take the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to the main event, joining Alex Bowman, the winner of Stage 1.
Elliott took the lead from Suarez on Lap 33, but only held it for two laps as Suarez quickly regained his momentum. AJ Allmendinger finished second with Elliott in third and Darrell Wallace Jr. and William Byron rounding out the top five.
Paul Menard scraped the wall in Turn 3 late in the stage and finished 14th in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.