By Jerry Bonkowski
Special to NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- It took two green-white-checker restarts and five extra laps, but A.J. Allmendinger claimed his first career NASCAR and Nationwide Series win in Saturday's Johnsonville Sausage 200 Presented by Menards at Road America.
Piloting a Penske Racing Ford, Allmendinger was making his first start in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race since 2008. But he's no stranger to victory lane at the 4-mile Road America course, having won on the track in the now-defunct Champ Car World Series in 2006.
Earlier in the afternoon, Allmendinger won the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 109.233 mph, his first pole in nine career NASCAR Nationwide Series races.
After Owen Kelly shoved series points leader Regan Smith into Billy Johnson, sending all three cars sailing on Lap 47, Allmendinger took the green flag in first two laps later.
But that was short-lived. On Lap 50, which should have been the second-to-last lap, Michael Annett spun, got stuck in rain-soaked grass and brought out the eighth and final caution flag.
On the second green-white-checker restart on Lap 54, Allmendinger's Ford Mustang dueled with Justin Allgaier's Chevrolet Camaro but pulled away at the start of the 55th and final lap and won by a comfortable 1.373 seconds.
Allgaier finished second, followed by Parker Kligerman, Owen Kelly and Sam Hornish Jr. Sixth through 10th were Brian Vickers, who will also race Sunday in the Sprint Cup road course race at Sonoma Raceway, followed by Kyle Larson, Cole Whitt, Elliott Sadler and Austin Dillon.
Because of the tangle he had with Kelly and Johnson on Lap 47, Smith dropped from fifth to a disappointing 32nd-place finish, one lap down from the winner.
Smith saw his series lead go from a 58-point advantage over Hornish coming into Saturday's race to 28 points over Allgaier.
NOTES: Vickers is the only driver to do the "double" this weekend, racing at both Road America and Sonoma. His total travel from Charlotte to Wisconsin to California and back: approximately 6,300 miles. ... Dexter Stacey was replaced on the fourth lap by Tim Andrews in the No. 92 Ford. Stacey, who was involved in a hard wreck last week at Michigan, reported residual soreness in his chest and requested a relief driver.