Allgaier Among 3 JR Motorsports Drivers Advancing to 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Finale

- 10th Place Phoenix Finish Cements 2nd Straight Title Opportunity -

The odds will be pretty good for a JR Motorsports driver and team to capture the 2017, NASCAR Xfinity Series championship this coming Saturday when NASCAR teams move to the Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season and Playoff finale.

Justin Allgaier, winner of two races this season and never lower than 3rd in the championship driver point standing after this year's 5th race, finished 10th in Phoenix this past Saturday to write his ticket to the finale and will be joined by JRM teammates Elliott Sadler and rookie sensation William Byron in Homestead to battle it out for the title. The driver with the best finishing position in the Homestead finale will be crowned the champion that in 2016 was Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suarez when Allgaier and Sadler were also finalists.

Chevrolet will be assured of the championship-winning manufacturer as the fourth and final slot in Saturday's championship run will be Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Daniel Hemric who finished 5th in Phoenix in a Chevy this past weekend to beat back the charge of another rookie, Cole Custer.

"At the start of the season in Daytona, this (qualifying for the finale) is the ultimate goal," Allgaier said. "I'm really proud of our guys. We knew we had put enough points in the bank today that we needed to have two, really good stages, but we weren't sure if that would put us in the position to make the Championship 4. But ultimately that was the case," he added.

Allgaier, who sat 3rd in points entering the race behind leader Sadler and 2nd place Byron but had a fairly comfortable, 15-point advantage on 4th place Brennan Poole coming into Phoenix, just needed to run a conservative race and stay out of trouble but you would have never known that from the way Justin competed on a track where he earned his first victory this season back in the spring with a dominant performance. That's what happens when the race track happens to be one of your favorites on the entire Xfinity Series schedule.

Justin started this race in the 10th position and after two laps was 8th when the race's first caution flag waved. Despite his car running a little free in dirty air, Allgaier pressed on, and after the race re-started on lap 5, the #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture/Northeastern Supply Chevrolet jumped up to the 5th position. He was shown in the 4th spot on lap 24 when another yellow flag flew.

Allgaier's race machine had begun running a little tight in the center of the corners at both ends of PIR's very unique, 1-mile configuration at this point, but Crew Chief Jason Burdett refused to give up track position by making a pit stop and kept the #7 Camaro on the race track to complete the first race segment. Allgaier responded favorably by immediately moving into 3rd place just after the re-start on lap 30. The tightness Justin was experiencing with the race car continued over the remaining 30 laps of the segment but he held tough and only lost two positions when the first segment caution flag was displayed.

With a 4-tire change, fuel and wedge adjustment to his race car during his segment break pit stop, Allgaier started segment number two in 6th place but again charged forward with some speed on the re-start to take over 3rd just 20 laps into the 2nd segment run. Despite the tightness returning to his car, Allgaier remained in the top five and finished segment two in 4th place for some more, valuable segment points.

Burdett ordered a 4-tire change, full tank of Sunoco fuel and a track bar adjustment for Allgaier's race car to start the final, 113-lap segment in 7th place. Justin settled in and in 50 laps had moved back into the top five in 4th place. It was evident at this point in the race that without any incidents, the #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture/Northeastern Supply Chevrolet would earn what would have been Justin's 10th top five finish in 2017.

However, when the final caution flag was brought out on lap 182 for a single car incident, and with the #7 holding down the 4th position, all of the front runners elected to pit for fresh tires and fuel. Unfortunately, the #7 pit crew, which was made up mostly of crew members not from the team's regular group from Hendrick Motorsports, wasn't efficient as it needed to be on this final pit stop and Justin had to re-start the race in 16th place. All four of the JR Motorsports teams competing in Phoenix were in the same predicament when the Hendrick Motorsports airplane containing the many of the regular, pit crew members for the JRM Xfinity Series teams competing in Phoenix, were sidelined in Arkansas when their jet was forced to make an emergency landing on Saturday morning. All four teams had to assemble their over-the-wall crews from a smattering of other teams putting them in a disadvantage.

Allgaier's race car was still too quick to settle for a finish outside of at least the top 10 and Justin was just determined to get as many positions back as he could get over the final laps and was able to take the checkered flag in 10th for top 10 finish number 17 for Allgaier this season.

Teammate Byron rallied late to beat Ryan Blaney for the victory, the rookie's 4th win this season,  to nail down his spot in the Homestead finale while Sadler struggled to an 18th place finish but had enough points to earn his Playoff berth.

"We had a solid race car all day," Allgaier said. "We did what we needed to do and unfortunately we had a rough pit stop there at the end and had to go quite a ways further back where we felt we could have finished. I'm really proud of William (teammate Byron). To have a JR Motorsports sweep here (in Phoenix) this year is pretty incredible.

"We feel like we bring quality race cars to the track every week, and that's what we've got to do next week (in Homestead) too to battle it out with this guy Hemric and my two teammates for a championship," Justin added. 

Rounding out the top five finishers behind Byron and Blaney were Eric Jones, Christopher Bell and Henric. Blaney, Jones, 9th place finisher Austin Dillon and 13th place finisher Ty Dillon were all Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars, as has been much of the season. However, only Xfinity Series drivers will be eligible to race in Homestead to give the championship contenders the opportunity of racing with their own Series contestants.

For whoever does win the title next weekend, it will be there first such crown in their career.