Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: Justin Allgaier Lost 100 Points to Lady Luck

Go back to January of this year.

Tell any NASCAR Xfinity Series driver that after 10 races, they’d be fifth in points.

They might not admit it, but I think any one of them would be satisfied — with one notable exception.

Justin Allgaier spent the bulk of last season second or third in points. He made the Championship 4.

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When the dust settled, it was Cole Custer being crowned as champion. Allgaier looked on as the runner-up. It was the sixth time the Riverton, Ill., native finished second or third in the points. His first championship would have to wait at least one more year.

Enter 2024. At Daytona International Speedway, Allgaier’s season got off to a solid start. He led seven laps, collected points in both stages and brought the car home in the top 10. It wasn’t anything flashy, but he avoided a bad finish that can so easily happen at Daytona and left fourth in points.

The following weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Allgaier had a good run going. He again scored points in both stages. Coming to the overtime restart, he ran out of gas and crawled to pit road for fuel, finishing 28th. A good run gone bad. Before losing fuel, he was running fourth. The result was scoring 24 fewer points than he would’ve had he brought it home fourth.

Next up, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Allgaier started in the back due to a tire issue in qualifying. Seventh in stage one, fourth in stage two. The team elected to run long during a green flag pit cycle, hoping to catch a lucky caution. It never came. He led 11 laps late in the going, but once he made the final pit stop, he was relegated to a 10th-place finish.

If you’ve followed the series this season, you remember what happened at Phoenix Raceway. He was dominant late in the going and led a total of 52 laps. He had extended his lead out to three seconds over Chandler Smith. With five laps to go, disaster struck.

“Not a lot of good emotions to be honest with you at the moment,” Allgaier said afterward.

Calm and collected, it seemed to be a matter of bad luck. Chalk it up to a fluke.

“I definitely had to have run something over,” Allgaier said. “Wear-wise, there is no way we were wearing the left rear far enough to do that.”

The flat tire caused Allgaier to spin and hit the wall hard, ending his day. A snooze-fest of a win turned into a 29th-place finish. This was a loss of 32 points compared to if he had won the race.

Circuit of the Americas was next. Allgaier was penalized at the end of the first stage for cutting a corner. The usually calm veteran driver blew off some steam on the radio.

“Tell NASCAR I’d love to have a meeting with them post-race about how inconsistent they are on their calls,” Allgaier said on the team radio. “This is some B.S. right here.”

Frustration was starting to build from a series of good weeks gone bad. Allgaier never rebounded from the penalty, scored zero stage points and finished 13th.

At Richmond Raceway, we start to sound like a broken record. Started fifth, points in both stages. Led 28 laps. Stayed out long on old tires and faded late, finishing 11th.

We finally got a glimpse of what Allgaier is capable of at Martinsville Speedway, but even that weekend presented its share of adversity. Starting from the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments, Allgaier took the lead under green and won the second stage. He went on to survive the high attrition and finished fifth. After seven races, he finally had a top five.

As we get closer and into your more recent memory, you may remember Allgaier dominating at Texas Motor Speedway. He led the most laps, by far, with 117. Nobody else had more than 26 laps led. In the final stage he came into the pits leading and came out third. Then, a poor restart saw him fall back to eighth. Eventually, Allgaier recovered to finish third.

A second consecutive top-five finish, but for the second time this season, he left the track knowing he had been the dominant car but wasn’t able to close the deal. The difference between winning and finishing third? Six points.

If you’re still following along, there have been some low points. Phoenix, Atlanta and COTA to name a few.

Talladega Superspeedway brought Allgaier to a new low. He qualified 16th but quickly moved into the top 10. On the last lap of the first stage, he was running fourth when he was spun by Riley Herbst. He crashed hard into the inside wall. From fourth to last. No stage points scored, and just one single point awarded for his 38th-place finish.

It was a scary wreck. Fortunately, Allgaier was uninjured and able to give an interview after the fact. We can’t say he would’ve finished where he was running — it is Talladega, after all. For the purposes of our exercise here, lets estimate him finishing a modest 15th if not for the wreck with six stage points scored. In that scenario, instead of one measly point, he would’ve scored 28 points. 27 points lost, conservatively.

That brings us to last week — the straw that broke this camel’s back and motivated your humble author to write this story. Allgaier had a poor finish in one of the most bizarre ways imaginable.

It was as he said, “A comedy of errors on all sides.”

Rain had threatened for the entire race. With 40 laps remaining, Allgaier ran second and was closing in on Custer for the lead. The yellow flag came out for rain, and it appeared to most onlookers and anyone with access to a radar that the monsoons would ensue. Dover doesn’t have lights, so with the race well beyond halfway, it seemed likely the race would end prematurely due to rain. Allgaier was poised to get his best finish of the year.

But mother nature and lady luck decided to team up and literally rain on Allgaier’s parade.

The red flag did wave, but only temporarily. Somehow, the heavy rain never came.

After a short delay, the race resumed with Allgaier running second to Custer. By this point, both drivers on the front row were very low on fuel. Custer came in for fuel despite pit lane being closed, and subsequently served a penalty. Unwilling to sacrifice track position with still-questionable weather, Allgaier stayed out.

Initially, when the yellow came out for rain, it seemed like it might be a quickie yellow. The field was given one to go to green, went through the choose and got ready to restart. Then the rain intensified slightly and NASCAR decided to bring the cars down pit road and throw the red.

When racing finally resumed, Allgaier had assumed the lead from Custer and went high above the choose “cone” as if he was choosing the top lane. Confusion started to set in among drivers, fans and even the TV booth.

The problem was, Austin Hill was already on the outside of row one, and the choose Allgaier thought he participated in never actually happened. He became furious in the car but was forced to restart from the inside of the front row.

After the restart, Allgaier was soon punted by Hill and faded back to fourth. The caution came out for a spin by Brandon Jones, and Allgaier finally cried uncle, came down pit road and got new tires and fuel.

He then found himself in the middle of the pack but still had about 20 laps to salvage something. Climbing back up the beloved scoring pylon, Allgaier rose as high as sixth. He sustained some damage on a restart when Hill spun, which caused Sheldon Creed to run him into the wall while attempting to evade Hill. This caused a bad tire rub on the No. 7 Chevrolet.

The final result? 17th. With a tablespoon of anger, a quarter cup of frustration, a pinch of bewilderment and a dash of bruised ego. It was more of the same for the 38-year-old in his season from hell. Still fifth in the standings, but nonetheless, a season from hell.

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Now, let’s circle back to those point tallies. 24 points lost at Atlanta, 32 at Phoenix, six at Texas and 27 at Talladega. Add in the 11-point differential between sixth and 17th at Dover and you reach a grand total of 100 points lost to circumstance and bad luck.

Despite everything, Allgaier’s fifth-place points position is 81 points out of the lead. If he had a little bit of luck, he’d have at least two wins and be the points leader.

For an Xfinity Series regular, Allgaier is old. Among those in contention for the playoffs, only AJ Allmendinger is older. You have to wonder how many more years Allgaier has left in the tank. With young Chevrolet phenoms like Carson Kvapil, Christian Eckes, Rajah Caruth and Connor Zilisch coming up through the pipeline, Allgaier’s years left in a top-tier ride can probably be counted on one hand.

One Las Vegas sportsbook has him at +500 to win the championship, fifth-most likely to do it. If I was a betting man, I would take those odds. This streak of bad luck and comedy of errors can’t last forever, can it?

For the modern-day silver fox of the Xfinity Series, after so many close calls in his career, this could be his last best chance to make it happen. To do so, he’ll need a little mercy from lady luck, and that might be all it takes.

The next test? Darlington Raceway. The Track Too Tough to Tame has been one of Allgaier’s best tracks over the years. In 17 starts there, he has two wins and 13 top 10s.

We’ll take a weekend off before heading to the Lady in Black. For Allgaier’s sake, lets hope she’s kinder than lady luck has been this season.

About the author

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

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Ted

Nascar screwed up on the restart with Hill. The caution lights came back on pace car and Custer went to pit. At that point, Allgaier assumes the lead. Once the lights went out with one to go, Allgaier, the leader, is now allowed to choose. Had the lights not come back on, he would not have been able to choose his lane. That was his beef with Nascar.

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