Following his win at the Food City 300 last Friday (Sept. 15) at Bristol Motor Speedway, Justin Allgaier broke the news that he is returning to JR Motorsports in 2024.
There had been rumblings that Allgaier was leaving JRM and taking long-time sponsor Brandt with him. However, Allgaier promptly put an end to that speculation.
Having been a constant in the mid-tier series for almost 15 years (except for two years in the NASCAR Cup Series), is Allgaier making the right move remaining the opening act for the headlining Cup Series?
This week Steve Leffew and Andrew Stoddard breakdown the motivations and misgivings behind the decision in 2-Headed Monster.
Allgaier Making Correct Career Move
Allgaier has done well in the Xfinity Series, driving for JR Motorsports since 2016. With a long-running relationship with his sponsor Brandt and a resume full of success at the Xfinity level, Allgaier had to be on the short list for some of the openings in the Cup Series.
If you’re Matt Kaulig, who would you rather have driving the No. 31 Cup car, Daniel Hemric or Allgaier? Both drivers bring some funding. Allgaier is a proven winner, with 22 Xfinity wins and counting. Hemric has one win in all three national series. Kaulig probably wasn’t the only team that had interest in acquiring Allgaier to drive on Sundays. The opportunities in the Cup Series were not going to be good career moves for a driver who likely has less career in front of him than behind.
This was the right career move for more reasons than meet the eye.
Allgaier will turn 38 during the 2024 NASCAR season; he has two daughters, ages 10 and 2. The schedule in the Xfinity Series is more family friendly, with five additional off-weekends per season. Allgaier is a well-known family man who, back in 2021, said he would not miss the birth of his second child even if it meant being ruled ineligible for the playoffs.
The Xfinity Series gives him Sundays off and more weekends at home.
Who doesn’t love winning? At this stage in his career, Allgaier likely knows he isn’t going to be able to win a Cup championship in any ride available to him. By staying in the Xfinity Series and driving for JR Motorsports, he has a car capable of winning every weekend, and he has a great chance to become a champion.
The HScott Motorsports experience from 2014-15 provides a decent example of how a Cup effort with a team like Kaulig could go. In those years, his best finish in the standings was 29th and he scored one top 10 in 71 races. Ouch. In each of the last four seasons, Allgaier has finished fifth or better in points. With his win last weekend at Bristol, he has a real shot at a title again this season. ‘Little Gator’ made a career move that allows him to win a championship.
It’s not uncommon to hear fans and drivers say the best racing of the weekend comes courtesy of the Xfinity Series. The Next Gen Cup car has put on good racing at some tracks and lackluster racing at others. Allgaier has done well at just about every style of track lately, but he is particularly proficient at short tracks, flat tracks, and road courses. Coincidentally, those tracks seem to be putting on the poorest show in the Cup Series. By staying where he is, he gets to race in a series where his strengths can shine through.
In late July of this year, NASCAR announced a jaw-dropping seven-year deal for the Xfinity Series to be broadcast exclusively on the CW. The deal was reportedly worth $115 million per year, which is said to be nearly three times more lucrative than the Xfinity Series piece of the current deals with FOX and NBC Universal. This likely means more lucrative opportunities for drivers, and more exposure of their efforts, courtesy of the CW’s nationwide free availability.
Granted, Allgaier hasn’t announced any plans for 2025 and beyond yet, which is when the CW deal will begin, but he stands to benefit as much as anybody from this new deal is he keeps his place with a top-tier team into the new deal.
We’ve covered the benefits for family life. We’ve discussed the ability to win races and championships. We know about his prior forays into Cup and how those played out. We touched on the quality of racing in the Xfinity Series. The new deal that will help grow the series. What else could a driver want? Respect.
Allgaier is currently the most respected driver in the Xfinity Series. He races clean, he wins, and has been around the block. He has the talent to run with the top prospects who pass through on the way to the Cup Series and earns their respect on and off track. Check out this tweet from part-time Xfinity Series driver Brad Perez after Allgaier won at Bristol.
a @J_Allgaier win is everyone's win— bread perez (@bradxperez) September 16, 2023
When I had a chance to sit down with Perez at Road America, he lauded Allgaier’s embrace of the mentor role in the series. When Perez failed to qualify for a race in 2022 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, he was shocked when Allgaier approached him to give a pep talk and some pointers. Perez didn’t think Allgaier even knew who he was, but yet there he was, offering support and encouragement. The mentorship of a big brother would be reduced to near-zero in the Cup Series, but in Xfinity, he is universally respected and looked up to.
Knowing all of this, why would he ever leave? – Steve Leffew
Allgaier Needs to Give the Cup Series One More Shot
While sticking with JRM and the Xfinity Series is not a bad career move for Allgaier, I do not think it was the best career move for the veteran driver.
With the exception of a championship, Allgaier has accomplished all he can in the Xfinity Series. He has won 22 races on a wide variety of tracks, collected 258 top-10 finishes in 432 starts (a 59.7% percentage), and finished in the top five in points eight of the last nine seasons. A perennial contender, fan favorite, and generally regarded as one of the “good guys” in the industry, Allgaier has all the tools to take the next step.
The stats speak loud and clear: Allgaier earned another shot at the Cup Series.
Assuming Allgaier wanted to stay with Chevrolet, there were certainly some open Cup rides in the Bow Tie stable this silly season. The Kaulig Racing No. 31 team has shown flashes of competitiveness with Justin Haley, and while the Spire No. 77 has been a backmarker this season, the team elevated its game in the No. 7 with Corey LaJoie, particularly with new partner Gainbridge coming onboard to inject some much-needed capital into the equation. A new, steady veteran presence behind the wheel could be the secret ingredient for these teams to take a step forward, and Allgaier definitely fits that bill.
Furthermore, Allgaier brings something to the table that Cup Series owners crave: established sponsorship. Brandt has been with Allgaier through thick and thin since 2011, and Allgaier could have used that sponsorship as leverage to land a Cup Series contract. Bringing in a driver/sponsor combination with such a deep connection to each other would have been a boon for Cup Series teams seeking drivers.
Now, those on the other side might argue that Allgaier had his chance at the Cup Series and did not do anything with it. Yes, Allgaier ran two full Cup Series seasons in 2014 and 2015 with only one top-10 finish, but that was in the phenomenally sub-par equipment of HScott Motorsports, a team that wound up folding the very next season in 2016. In my mind, that does not constitute a fair shake in the Cup Series.
That same car had Clint Bowyer questioning his life decisions in 2016.
Hypothetically, let us say that Allgaier takes a Cup ride, it does not go well, and he and the team part ways after two or three seasons. A quality Xfinity Series ride would be just one phone call away. JRM would likely welcome Allgaier back with open arms, or another top-flight Xfinity team like Kaulig Racing or Richard Childress Racing would sign him in a heartbeat.
Yes, Allgaier is a family man and the Xfinity Series schedule is more accommodating towards family time. But Allgaier is also something else: a competitor, and a competitor wants to race the best and beat the best.
Most argue that racecar drivers peak in their late thirties, and at 37 years old, Allgaier is smack in the middle of that age bracket, no baggage and in the prime of his racing life. Now would have been as good a time as any to make one last leap to the Cup Series. If Allgaier had taken a Cup Series ride, I could have easily seen him competing for a playoff spot in 2024. – Andrew Stoddard
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