Allgaier Has Big Points Day at Watkins Glen With Strong 4th Place Performance

Now that the horrendous month of July is over, Justin Allgaier was hoping that he and his BRANDT Professional Agriculture/Northeastern Supply race team could regain some strength, eliminate mistakes and begin readying themselves for the end-of-season Playoffs that will determine the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. Justin and team did just that in August's first race with Allgaier running to a strong, 4th place finish in the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York Saturday afternoon.

In Allgaier's four races in July, the #7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet managed just a single top ten finish with that coming in Kentucky with an 8th place effort in the month's initial event. Following that test, though, Allgaier and team struggled. Justin posted disappointing finishes of 32nd in New Hampshire, 35th at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and 20th last week in Iowa. The fall saw Allgaier lose his 2nd place position in driver points to JR Motorsports rookie teammate William Byron who also scored a pair of victories during this same span, and drop 104 points more from point leader Elliott Sadler, also a JRM teammate.

But Saturday at Watkins Glen, Allgaier and team enjoyed a consistent effort and a successful pit stop call by Crew Chief Jason Burdett late in the race proved to be the springboard Justin needed to post his first top five finish in two months and chase the July demons away.

Allgaier was running 5th at the start of the final, 36-lap stage and by lap 52 had made his way to 3rd. That's when Allgaier pitted for four fresh Good Year Eagles, a full tank of fuel and a wedge adjustment. When all of the leaders pitted and the cars recycled, the #7 Camaro was running in the 8th spot and in just two laps moved into 6th with 17 laps remaining.

At the time, Allgaier was battling the likes of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Paul Menard and seemed like the only Xfinity Series regular who could keep up with the big boys.

With only four laps to go around The Glen's 7-turn, 2.45-mile layout, the race's 5th and final yellow flag waved for a caution when the #98 Ford driven by Casey Mears stopped on the race track. Burdett seized the opportunity to bring Allgaier down pit road again for four more fresh tires and fuel, and when the race re-started with only three laps left, the #7 was 8th but in a position to make up some ground quickly with the fresher rubber.

During the first green flag lap, the #7 blew past three cars and into 5th place and then used the final two laps to first challenge Menard for the 4th spot and then make the pass for it on the final go-round. Kyle Busch claimed he victory, his 90th career Xfinity Series win, and was followed across the stripe by Logano, Keselowski and then Allgaier. Menard rounded out the top five. Busch started the race from the outside pole position and led a race-high 43 laps en route to the easy triumph.

"Jason (Crew Chief Burdett) and the boys on this race team did a great job today," said Allgaier after the race. "I felt like we had a top-five Chevy all day long, and the call at the end, as soon as Jason started talking about it, I was on board with it. Hats off to the pit crew today too because they were awesome," Allgaier added.

Allgaier qualified 7th for the race but galloped into the top five in less than 10 laps. One of the top, stage, point-getters this season in the entire Xfinity Series, Justin finished 5th in the first 20-lap stage and then 6th in the second before making his surprise pit stops at the end of the 3rd and final stage that gave him fresher rubber with which to challenge for position. For once, after a couple of failures, strategy calls worked out and has put Allgaier back into the competition.

"The whole team was absolutely flawless today. We've had a bad month and we needed some points and needed some good finishes," Justin commented. "Hopefully this is the momentum we need," he added. Justin will look to continue the upward spiral next Saturday when the Xfinity Series returns to the Mid-Ohio Race Course in Midland, OH for another road course event in which Allgaier will look to again challenge for a win and another large point gain.

With Sadler finishing a distant 18th at Watkins Glen and Byron 10th, Allgaier knocked 25 points off his deficit to Sadler and 17 off of Byron's 2nd place point total. More runs like Justin enjoyed Saturday and successful pit strategy will help Justin close the gap even more with just six races left until the 12 drivers who will compete in the Playoffs are announced. Justin is one of only three full-time Xfinity Series drivers who have won races this season and the trio of Allgaier, Byron and Ryan Reed are thus basically already qualified for three of the Playoff spots. A win by another XS regular over these next six races will guarantee a berth in the Playoffs for that driver, but if no other driver does win a race, then it will come down to those who are the highest in the driver points' battle following the Chicagoland race on September 16.

There will be eight races in the Playoffs with drivers being eliminated based on their point totals following the results after the races in Charlotte on October 6th and Phoenix on November 11 with only the top four drivers to compete for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18.