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LEXINGTON, Ohio - Penske Racing has the concept of road-course racing in the Nationwide Series figured out to the final inch and the last second.
AJ Allmendinger finished a three-race road-course sweep for the Ford Nationwide team Saturday by dominating the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 on the way to a 1.16-second victory.
Allmendinger also won for Penske earlier in the year at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., and defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski won in Penske’s No. 22 Nationwide car at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
And there was other big Ford news on the Nationwide side of things Saturday as Sam Hornish Jr. finished third in the race and regained the series point lead.
Marcos Ambrose finished seventh in the No. 9 Ford, and Trevor Bayne was ninth in the No. 6 Mustang.
For Allmendinger, the win kept his batting average at 1.000 for the Nationwide season. He’s two for two.
“I can’t say enough about this team and this car,” said Allmendinger, who led 73 of the 94 laps, including the final 31. His Mustang had enough power to easily hold off second-place Michael McDowell through a green-white-checkered finish as the race was extended four laps by a late-race caution.
“The last 20 laps the car was so good I was just saving fuel,” he said. “With two to go, I would have expected McDowell to move me out of the way, so I knew I needed a gap on the restart. I got through the first couple of corners and was good.”
Allmendinger had a two-second lead over McDowell in the closing laps of the race and was an instant away from sealing the win in regulation when the day’s final caution sent the race into overtime. But the additional laps and the final restart were no challenges for Allmendinger.
Jeremy Bullins has been the crew chief for all three Penske Racing wins on road courses this year.
“It’s a testament to this company, to Roush Yates [Engines] power, to our fuel mileage and to this guy (Allmendinger) sitting right here,” Bullins said.
McDowell said Allmendinger was clearly at the head of the class all day. “He really had the car to beat us today,” he said. “At times, we thought we could have a shot at him. I definitely didn’t want to start on the outside for that last restart. I didn’t really have a chance at him.”
Hornish ran near the front all day and raced through some tight traffic on the closing laps to nail down third. He now leads second-place Elliott Sadler by 13 points at the top of the standings.