Jeremy Clements takes Road America for 1st Xfinity win
By GENARO C. ARMAS
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) A phone rang at the winner's podium just as Jeremy Clements was about to recap a memorable Sunday at Road America.
The driver for the small, family run team had finally captured a checkered flag for the first time in 256 Xfinity Series races. Suddenly, it seems like everyone wants to talk him.
Clements battled Matt Tifft down the stretch at Road America before pulling away to the finish line after the two leaders spun out near the end of the second-to-last lap.
"I drive for a small family team. Just to get a win in any of these starts is amazing," Clements said. Father and team owner Tony Clements sat next to him, slightly embarrassed after having to turn the ringer off on his phone.
They might be fielding a few more calls this week. Not only was Clements' No. 51 Chevy built in 2008, but the front end had to be pieced back together following a wreck two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.
But Tony Clements figured that a road course like Road America might provide a more level playing field against more well-funded teams, especially on a weekend when the top-level Monster Cup series wasn't racing on the same track.
"To even be here is very hard," the younger Clements said. "We've got to make a lot of sacrifices."
Pit strategy paid off on an overcast afternoon on the 4-plus mile, 14-turn road course.
All the twists and turns can take a toll on tires, and second-place finisher Michael Annett said drivers also had to deal with some wet track around turn 12. Qualifying for the 45-lap race was cancelled because of weather, with rain having fallen earlier in the morning.
Working with fresh tires down the stretch, Clements chased down Tifft after pitting with nine laps left to surrender the lead. Clements finally caught up with Tifft on the 44th lap, with their cars spinning into the dirt on the last turn of the 14-turn road course.
The 32 year-old Clements recovered first and sped away to victory on the last lap. Annett passed Tifft to take second, 5.8 seconds behind Clements. Tifft settled for third.
"I was just trying to survive on the older tires," Tifft said. "Any time I would try to push it at all, the rear would get really lightened and not so happy with me."
Elliott Sadler finished in 14th, but the series leader holds a 107-point lead over second-place William Byron.
WHO'S HOT: The early portions of the race were just as eventful as the end. Daniel Hemric took the second 10-lap stage that included four cars spinning out of the left-hand Turn 5. Hemric finished in 15th but captured his second stage win of the season. He is fifth in the driver standings.
WHO'S NOT: James Davison said his No. 20 Toyota got clipped in the scrum around Turn 5 and a cracked radiator knocked him out of the race. He was knocked to the back of the field for Stage 2 because of a speeding violation on pit row.
It was a memorable afternoon until then for Davison, who started second and led the first 11 laps to win the first stage.
CINDRIC DEBUT: The starting grid was determined by owner points, so Austin Cindric took the pole in his No. 20 Ford for Team Penske in his Xfinity series debut. The son of Penske team president Tim Cindric got a preview of the tight racing to come by competing in the ARCA series race earlier Sunday, finishing 12th in that race.
HE SAID IT: "It's pretty neat to be this field with about a 10 year-old car." - Jeremy Clements. He said the team is slated to debut a new car at Richmond on Sept. 8, the first time that they will have a new car in at least three years.
UP NEXT: Darlington Raceway, Sept. 2. Sadler is the defending champion.
More AP auto racing: racing.ap.org
Updated August 27, 2017