Untimely Caution Fails to Derail Allgaier, as 2nd Place Pocono Finish Nets Points Lead

An untimely caution may have cost Justin Allgaier a victory Saturday in the Pocono Green 250, NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Pocono Raceway in Mt. Pocono, PA, but the aggressive yet smart driver of the #7 Allan Myers Chevrolet/Northeastern Supply Camaro and an alert crew chief combined to carve out a strong 2nd place finish. With JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler finishing the race in 4th place but unable to garner any points during the first two segments (Allgaier netted 11), Justin has assumed the points lead for the first time in 2017.

Allgaier qualified a solid 4th and was in the hunt for the win all afternoon. He finished 6th and 5th after the first two segments despite having a race car that was running tight through each of the three corners on Pocono's unique, 2.5-mile, triangle-shaped race track.

After making his pit stop on lap 56 following the end of the 2nd segment, Allgaier found himself in the 15th position as several cars had made their pit stops before the end of the 2nd segment and were thus in front for the final segment re-start on lap 57.

Allgaier, however, knew he had a fast racecar and was back in the top 10 quickly and moved up to 7th place by lap 63. Fuel mileage has regularly marked finishes of races at Pocono in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and it definitely appeared to be the case for this Xfinity Series test when teams began calling their drivers to pit road for their final pit stops for fuel and at least two tires on lap 65 of the 100-lap affair.

Allgaier grabbed his first lead of the afternoon on lap 67, and with cautions over the remaining laps a good possibility that could help a team stretch their car's fuel mileage, crew chief Jason Burdett elected to keep the #7 on the track and gamble that he had enough fuel to go to the end.

Unfortunately, that strategy went out the window when the Chevrolet driven by Brandon Jones cut down a right front tire and hit the 3rd turn wall hard on lap 80 to bring out the yellow flag.

With his strategy to try and get his race car to the end on fuel now out the window, Burdett called Allgaier to the pits during this caution for their final stop of the race for four fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. When the race re-started with just 15 laps remaining, the #7 Allan Myers Chevrolet/Northeastern Supply Chevy was saddled back in 11th place and seemingly out of contention.

But Allgaier had other plans and began his march to the front. With many of the better cars having pitted under green flag conditions prior to this final caution, Allgaier's car had fresher rubber with which to mount a final charge and within a couple of laps found his car well inside the top five.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standout Kyle Larson was leading as the laps wore down but his advantage was gradually slipping away. He was being heavily pursued by Sadler, a now 3rd place Allgaier and Brad Keselowski and with three laps to go Allgaier bypassed Sadler for 2nd and began closing in on Larson's Chevrolet for the lead.

Keselowski, meanwhile, who had the fastest race car on the track for most of the day, had recovered from an incident with Sadler a few laps earlier when the latter gave Keselowski's Ford a nudge from the rear sending his car up the track and giving Sadler's car the 2nd position at the time. Keselowski first got around three cars that bypassed him during the Sadler incident and then went after and finally back around Sadler on lap 97.

Keselowski got up to Allgaier's rear bumper with three to go, and when Justin's machine just got a little loose in the second corner, Keselowski pounced on the opportunity to grab 2nd and now make a beeline towards Larson. Keselowski's Ford Mustang then easily disposed of Larson in the first turn with two laps left and cruised to the triumph which snapped a 46-race losing streak for the #22 Penske Racing Ford. Justin, meanwhile, also got around Larson for 2nd place and easily held it to the checkers for his 4th top five and 6th top 10 finish in the 2017 Xfinity Series' first 12 races.

"I'm disappointed it's not a win, but I'm really happy to be coming away with the points lead," Allgaier said. "Jason (crew chief Burdett) made a great call (staying out on the race track with the lead rather than pit) today. We had a really fast car and I was really proud of the guys. We unloaded yesterday and didn't show it on the board per say, but we thought it was pretty good. Then this morning in qualifying, I knew we were going to have a great shop at a good finish.

"When Jason made that call, I didn't know how it was going to work out, but I was trying to play it out in my head and see how much time we were gaining or losing to the other competitors. This place (Pocono Raceway) is so big. You're watching the screens (situated around the face track) and doing what you can, but you don't really know what's going on. When the caution came out, I thought we were in trouble, but it worked out," Justin added.

The combination of his runner-up finish and segment points, and teammate Sadler's 4th place finish and his inability to score anything during the first two segments, moves Allgaier one point ahead of Sadler in driver points. It's a far cry from where Justin stood six races ago when he had back-to-back finishes outside of the top 10 and trailed Sadler by 61 points.

Justin and his #7 Chevrolet race team will seek to add to that lead this coming Saturday when the Xfinity Series moves to another big, wide and fast race track at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway oval in Brooklyn, Michigan. Check local information for TV start times.