Allgaier Snaps 5-Year Xfinity Series Winless Streak with Dominating Performance and Victory at Phoenix
Justin Allgaier knocked on the victory door several times last year, his first as a NASCAR Xfinity Series driver for the JR Motorsports organization, but he was never able to break through despite being one of the four pilots to race for the championship in the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale. This year, Allgaier won't have to knock on any more doors.
Thanks to a scintillating performance at Phoenix International Raceway Saturday afternoon, Allgaier charged to a near dominating victory in the DC Solar 200 to snap a 5-year Xfinity Series victory drought that encompassed 80 races.
Having to overcome several, late-race and final segment re-starts, Allgaier's #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture/Northeastern Supply Chevrolet just would not be denied and the car had the power under its hood to make it happen.
On lap 172 of the 200-lap affair, Eric Jones was able to grab the lead from Justin on a re-start from his second place position only to have Allgaier rally back to re-take the lead on lap 181. Four laps later, the race's 8th caution flag waved for Blake Koch's spin in turn two. The lead lap cars, that last pitted on lap 157, stayed on the track to remain in place for the first of the two late-race cautions. Allgaier was in front and was able to get a good jump on the drop of the green flag, vaulting out to a 10-car length advantage on Jones.
With just nine laps to go, the Ford driven by Cole Custer collected the Chevy of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver Austin Dillon, sending the latter hard into the outside retaining wall. Also caught up in the incident was the Chevrolet of Ryan Sieg. It forced NASCAR to bring out the yellow flag and then the red on lap that halted racing action for five minutes to clean up the debris from the accident.
When the race was re-started with just four laps remaining, and with now second place Ryan Blaney, Allgaier's JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler and Jones all itching for the chance to make a run at the lead, Justin quickly put an end to those chances by jumping out to a healthy advantage and running away from the competition. He took the checkered flag first by half a dozen car lengths over Blaney with Jones, JR Motorsports rookie teammate William Byron and Sadler rounding out the top five. With Michael Annett finishing 9th, it gave JR Motorsports four cars in the top 10 to complete a superb afternoon.
'Last year was tough," Allgaier said in Victory Lane. "We had really good runs all year but we weren't able to get to Victory Lane. But these guys fought hard. This was the same group of guys we had last year, and to be able to do it here in Phoenix and win the first Xfinity Dash 4 Cash race (worth a $100,000 bonus to Allgaier and team) is really special."
Allgaier qualified his bright red #7 Chevy in the 5th position but roared into 2nd place in just two laps in the race's first, 60-lap segment. Despite informing Crew Chief Jason Burdett of a little tightness in his race car through the middle of the turns, Allgaier was able to hang with then leader Jones and eventually bypassed the Toyota driver on lap 20 for his first lead of the day. Unfortunately, the tightness worsened and Allgaier dropped back to 6th by the end of the segment, good for five driver points.
The #7 pitted on lap 61 for four new tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment in an attempt to loosen up the car. The team's efficient pit stop vaulted Allgaier's Chevy into 4th place for the start of the second, 60-lap segment, It took Justin just one lap to move into 2nd place and nine more to re-take the lead that he held until lap 109 when a charging Blaney moved the #7 slightly up the race track enough to slide underneath to assume command. Blaney was able to hold onto the top spot for the remaining laps of the second segment while Allgaier finished 2nd to qualify him for the Xfinity Dash 4 Cash bonus run in the final, 80-lap segment. It also gave Justin nine more driver points.
After pitting for fresh rubber, fuel and another wedge adjustment, Allgaier re-started the final segment in 4th place. Again, it took Justin just a lap to move into 2nd, and when the race re-started following a caution period on lap138, the #7 used the inside lane to get past Dillon for the lead and set the tone for the final lap action that showed Allgaier would not be denied. In all, Allgaier led the race five times for a race-high 85 laps and earned a total of 54 driver points to jump into 4th place in the Championship Driver Point Standings, 29 behind teammate and point leader Sadler.
Allgaier, who now has four, career Xfinity Series triumphs in 211 races, last visited an Xfinity Series Victory Lane in August of 2012 when he won a road course race in Montreal while driving for Turner Motorsports. Having won so early this season gives Allgaier an automatic spot in the first round of the 12-driver Playoffs that will encompass the final eight races in determining the 2017 Xfinity Series driving champion. The victory will enable Allgaier and team to now race for wins more definitively knowing that they have already qualified for the Playoffs. This should help them knock on Victory Lane's door more in 2017 and to try and kick it in again.