FORT WORTH, Texas – In 433 starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Justin Allgaier has only won 10 poles.
So, when he set a mark of 185.008 mph during Saturday (Sept. 23) morning qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway, it became abundantly clear that he had a rocketship of a car.
That was exactly the case for the first half of the race, as Allgaier won the first two stages and led 96 of the first 114 laps.
But a tire debacle late in the going would prove to be the undoing of his Texas domination.
It was on lap 115 that Allgaier ran into the first hurdle of the afternoon. Allgaier had a poor restart and got loose in turn 2, which led to Chandler Smith tapping the back of the No. 7 car. In one turn, Allgaier parachuted from the lead to 15th.
The No. 7 elected to pit for tires under a lap 120 caution and he cut his way through the field by driving from 18th to fourth in a span of 30 laps. Crew chief Jim Pohlman had Allgaier run long while green-flag pit stops were underway with just under 50 laps to go and that worked to perfection with a lap 161 caution that put Allgaier in the lead and trapped his closest competitors a lap down.
The comeback was not meant to be, however, as a caution with 20 laps to go brought the frontrunners to pit road. All the frontrunners, except for Allgaier, that is, as the strategy call for tires on lap 120 left the team down a set to the rest of the field. And in a 10-lap shootout, Allgaier’s dominant car proved to be no match for fresh rubber, as he fell to fifth after leading 133 of the race’s 200 laps.
“You just got to execute,” Allgaier said. “And today we executed well. We just got caught behind the eight ball a little bit with the strategy because of whatever was going on there in turn 1 and 2. I felt like I was going to crash [after lap 115], and it’s partially my fault. I should have just let it ride out. But we came and took tires. And ultimately, that was kind of the difference maker today.
“So again, I’m proud of the effort. I can’t be disappointed in the effort that we put in. This car was phenomenal and we’ll just have to go to the next one and try to do better.”
Even though Allgaier said in hindsight that it would’ve been better to not pit on lap 120, he praised his team for the strategy and made clear that they made the right call given the circumstances.
“I mean, hats off to Jim Pohlman and the whole No. 7 team,” Allgaier said. “They obviously put a lot of effort into the strategy and you never want to get off on strategy if you don’t have to. If you’re out front, you’re leading laps and you can maintain the same strategy as everyone else, it kind of works in your favor, right?
“But when we got off … that strategy to stay out and to not worry about if they were going to catch us on tires really worked in our favor, and then as it transitioned, the last caution was kind of the nail in the coffin for us. But I did feel like we had great pit stops all day and we knew what we did in the moment was the right thing. It just didn’t work out for us.”
It wasn’t a defeat without hard feelings, however. It was a battle between Allgaier and Parker Kligerman with eight laps to go and Kligerman’s No. 48 had the upper hand with new tires. In the bid for his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win, Kligerman went too deep into turn 3 and barely clipped the No. 7 car to Allgaier’s displeasure.
“I mean, sure, going for the win at that point, he obviously had a huge tire advantage over us,” Allgaier said. “And that was my biggest frustration is he drove it in there way deeper than he should have, knowing that it was going to get free.”
Allgaier also went over to have a chat with seventh-place finisher Austin Hill, essentially clarifying what had happened when Hill got stuck behind the No. 7 car after Allgaier bounced off the wall.
“When the No. 48 got me out of the groove coming off of [turn] 4 there, I about knocked the fence down just trying get out of the way and pulled right,” Allgaier said.
“Spotter said the No. 21 was coming on the bottom, so I moved right to get out of the way and unfortunately, he shaded right to go around the outside and ended up kind of getting blocked out of the deal. I just told him we race really well together all season and there’s no intention there of blocking. Doesn’t help me, and at that point, I’m 50 mph off the pace.”
After Allgaier lost the lead, all he could do was bring the car home in one piece. And with how fast the car was, it might come in handy at intermediate tracks later this year.
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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