Tight Handling Issue Plagues Allgaier in California, but 9th Place Finish Moves Him to 3rd in Driver Points
An ill-handling race machine made for a long and difficult weekend in Fontana, CA for Justin Allgaier and is BRANDT Professional Agriculture/Northeastern Supply race team. Only persistence during the third and final segment of Saturday afternoon's Service King 300, NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway and a big call by Crew Chief Jason Burdett enabled Allgaier to walk away with a top ten finish.
Allgaier's bright red #7 Chevrolet ran tight from the minute the cars took to the track for their first practice session on Friday and pretty much everything Burdett and crew threw at the race car made little difference.
Allgaier qualified at a season-worst 20th, and during the first, 30-lap segment, fresh tires, a track bar adjustment and tire pressure changes failed to help much and the #7 finished the segment in 15th place and out of the points.
During the second segment, Allgaier thought that some of the adjustments were beginning to show signs of helping as Justin charged from 19th to 13th when that segment ended, again out of the points but with some hope for the race's third and final portion of 90 laps around Auto Club Speedway's fast and wide, 2-mile oval.
The crew continued to work hard making adjustments during a couple of pit stops during yellow flag situations, Justin each time rallying from deep in the pack to cruise into the top 15.
The #7 had climbed up to 8th place when another caution flag flew with 56 laps remaining, and while most of the lead lap cars remained on the race track, Burdett called Allgaier to pit road for another, 4-tire pit stop, a full tank of fuel and more adjustments with hopes that Justin had enough to finish the race and without having to pit again.
A few laps later, NASCAR unfurled another yellow flag for a 2-car incident in turn one involving the cars driven by Cole Custer and Ryan Seig. Some of the leaders elected to pit to get at least fuel to be able to finish the race without running out, and with Justin staying on the race track, that decision to pit earlier helped push Allgaier into 2nd place from where Justin would re-start for the final 36-lap run.
Despite the car's persistent poor handling, Allgaier held his own over those final laps and was able to salvage a 9th place finish behind race winner Kyle Larson. Three more Monster Energy NASCAR Cup veterans finished behind Larson in the running order in Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and rookie Erik Jones. Allgaier's JR Motorsports teammate William Byron, making his first start at Auto Club Speedway, was the top finishing Xfinity Series regular in 5th.
"I'm proud of this race team for never giving up today," Allgaier said. "We battled an ill-handling car the entire day, but they just kept working to try to make it better. And with great strategy and pit stops, we were able to bring our Camaro home with a solid top 10. We'll go back home and regroup with a week off and get ready to Texas," he added.
Despite his problems, Allgaier was able to improve a position in the driver point standings to 3rd behind teammates Elliott Sadler and Byron. Sadler holds a 17-point advantage over Byron and 46 over Allgaier who does have that victory last week at Phoenix that all but guarantees the #7 with a spot in the first round of the season-ending Playoffs.