Allgaier Struggles in Season Finale at Homestead; Finishes 3rd in Points for 2nd Consecutive Season

For the second consecutive year, Justin Allgaier failed to bring home a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship as he struggled to a 12th place finish in the 2017 season and Playoff finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday.

Handling issues plagued Justin for most of the race, so much so they by race's end, the #7 BRANDT/TradeMark Nitrogen/Northeastern Supply Chevrolet would finish a lap down to race winner Cole Custer who dominated the event by leading 182 of the race's 200 laps. Custer won by more than half a race track over runner-up finisher Sam Hornish, Jr. in the most dominant victory by any Xfinity Series driver this season.

Finishing 3rd in the Homestead race and claiming his very first NASCAR driving title was Allgaier's JR Motorsports teammate rookie William Byron while the two other contenders for the crown, another JR Motorsports driver in veteran Elliott Sadler and rookie Daniel Hemric, finished 8th and 34th, respectively.

The four drivers battling it out for the championship furnished a race within a race with Byron's battle with teammate Sadler for the title the only real drama after Custer ran away with the race itself. Over the closing laps, with Byron and Sadler going nose to tail or racing side by side for position, the battle turned into a classic; that is until Toyota driver Ryan Preece got into the middle of things and refused to allow Sadler to pass and continue to stay close to Byron. Preece was holding down the 3rd position in the race.

Eventually, the two cars got together with Sadler's Chevy glancing off the outside retaining wall with just a handful of laps remaining and essentially eliminating Elliott from contention as Byron took advantage of the incident between Sadler and Preece to scoot away to a substantial advantage and was never challenged over the remaining laps. The two drivers did get together in a heated discussion after the race but no punches were thrown.

Allgaier, in the meantime, qualified 16th and during the first segment moved up to 12th while reporting to several brain trusts atop his pit box that his Chevrolet was loose in, tight through the center of the corners and loose off. With Justin's regular Crew Chief, Jason Burdett, suspended for this race because of the car's failure to get through inspection last week in Phoenix, Car Chief Billy Wilburn and Jimmy Johnson's hugely successful, Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup Crew Chief Chad Knaus, were calling the shots for Justin in the finale.

When a caution flag came out on lap 20, Wilburn and Knaus elected to keep Allgaier on the race track and with the #7 holding down the 14h position only to have Justin's car fade to 19th by the end of the first segment. 

Under the stage-break caution on lap 47, Allgaier finally visited pit road and took on four tires, fuel along with both a wedge and track bar adjustment to try and correct the handling problems. A quick pit stop enabled Justin to beat a bunch of cars off pit road and the #7 would take the green flag to start the second segment in 13th place. On lap 58, Allgaier moved into the top ten for the very first time and had better fire-off speed. Justin was able to work his way into 9th place by the end of the second segment and with some hope of getting back into contention with his JRM teammates who were racing for position between 3rd and 6th place at that point in the race. 

The adjustments made to Allgaier's race machine during the second segment caution break seemed to really work for the #7 as it came to life after the lap 97 restart. By lap 103, the #7 had worked its way up to 5th, but just 10 laps later, Allgaier was now reporting that the car was "snappy at the top in turns 3 and 4". Justin was running then in the 8th position when green flag pit stops began on lap 140.

Allgaier made his stop on lap 141 for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment and by lap 155 Justin's car grabbed the 7th position, but the longer the race ran under green the worse his race car got and the #7 faded, even going a lap down to race winner Custer. Justin tried to stay within the top10 but unfortunately could not and ultimately took the final checkers in 12th place. 

"We did a good job yesterday in practice and felt like the car had good speed, “Justin explained. “Unfortunately, when we started the race tonight, we just knew something was way off. We just struggled. 

"There were moments on those restarts that we picked up quite a few spots, and we thought that maybe we had a shot to get up there and battle it out, but ultimately on the long runs we just started dropping speed and were way too loose," Allgaier added.

This year marked Allgaier's second straight entry into the Xfinity Series' Playoff's Final Four, which is a huge plus for Justin and his race team. Justin saluted his race team for their efforts last year and this season and was happy that a JR Motorsports driver claimed the championship.

"You work hard all year to get to this point (the Final Four) and obviously the goal at Daytona (at the beginning of the 33-race season) is to have a shot (at the championship) when you get to Homestead to go for the championship.

"Hats off to William (champion Byron). He did a great job. We'll get ready for next year. This team works hard and I know that we're capable of winning a championship," Allgaier added with some positivity.