Allgaier Has Dominant Race Car at Talladega, but Late Caution Proves Costly in 8th Place Finish

Justin Allgaier's #7 Hellmann's/Northeastern Supply Company Chevrolet was the class of the 40-car field for most of Saturday afternoon's Sparks Energy 300, NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Allgaier led the race three times for a race-high 24 laps and was in solid position to win his 2nd race of the 2017 season when a caution flag was waved for debris on the racing surface with just 13 laps remaining and with Allgaier leading.

The yellow flag halted racing and brought the field back together, giving a host of other drivers and their race cars to mount charges the opportunity to bypass the #7 Chevy around Talladega's 2.66-mile, high-banked circuit that often lends itself to dramatic and unsuspecting finishes and race winners.

With so few laps left, Allgaier and most of the other lead-lap cars elected not to pit during this caution but it did give some cars that were back in the field the opportunity to pit for tires and adjustments during this late caution and to possibly become a factor for the win.

JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Michael Annett were amongst the top five cars in the running order with Justin along with the Toyotas of Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez, the Chevys of Ben Kennedy and Ryan Sieg and the Fords of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars Aric Amirola and Joey Logano.

Racing resumed on lap 103 with Allgaier trying to hold off the mob of challengers for 10 more laps. But with drivers looking for openings to make some headway and seeking partners to help push them ahead, Allgaier's lead was short-lived. Logano grabbed the lead for two laps and then again on lap 108 and battled Erik Jones for command of the field on laps 107 and 109.

Sadler and Kennedy made the most of their moves and were a part of a gaggle of cars that seemed to stymie Allgaier. Cars with pushing partners advanced on the high side while Justin's #7 Camaro lost ground without help either in the middle of a 3-way pack or on the low side. The car that made the biggest move was the Ford driven by Amirola who wrestled the lead away from Jones on lap 110 and built a small cushion over the now 2nd place Sadler.

Amirola, however, never wavered and was successful in blocking Sadler's attempts to get by on the backstretch each lap and took the checkered flag by half a car length over Elliott's fast-closing Chevrolet. Logano was 3rd followed by Kennedy and Jones. Allgaier was 8th. Annett finished 7th.

"I'm disappointed with how it ended," Allgaier said after the race. "I mean obviously I would have loved to have not had the caution there at the end, but hats off to everybody at JR Motorsports. To have three (the #7, Sadler's #1 and Annett's #5) of the five team cars in the top ten, the 88 running up front with us all day and the #9 (of rookie William Byron) was going to be fine before he got into that crash. They were all strong.

"Unfortunately, there at the end I knew that last restart was going to be aggressive. I tried to be, but unfortunately I got stuck in the middle there and about got crashed on the back straightaway one lap and lost a lot of momentum and a lot of track position. That was disappointing, but all in all it was still a great day for our Hellman's/Northeastern Supply team," Justin added.

Allgaier, who limited his practice laps on Friday knowing that he had a really fast race car, qualified 6th for the race. During the first segment, crew chief Jason Burdett kept the #7 on the race track during a caution that came out with just three laps remaining while several cars running in front of the #7 pitted, putting Allgaier in the 5th position for a 2-lap sprint to the first segment checkers. Justin took his flag in 3rd place for bonus points.

In the 2nd, 30-lap segment, Allgaier started 10th after making his pit stop during the end-of-segment yellow but quickly began working his way back to the lead draft. Eight laps later the #7 was up to 2nd in the field and grabbed its first lead of the day on lap 48. Justin led all but one of the final 12 laps of the segment to win it and grab his Xfinity Series-leading 7th playoff point.

Teammate Kasey Kahne and Allgaier led the majority of the laps during the final segment. Kahne's Chevy cut down a right front tire and scraped the outside retaining wall forcing him to the pits and out of contention for the win while Allgaier charged to the lead for the final time on lap 91. Justin was in solid command and heading for the victory only to have the debris caution stymie his efforts.

Despite the disappointing finish, Allgaier did manage to earn the most driver points of any Xfinity Series regular with 47. Teammate and Series point leader Sadler earned 35 points for finishing 2nd in the final segment, so the 12-point difference enabled Justin to close to within 29 of the point lead after nine of the season's 33 races and after trailing by 60 just three races ago.

The Xfinity Series will now take a 3-week break, getting back to racing action at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27.