Race Weekend Central

Xfinity Breakdown: Justin Allgaier Tames Darlington for 3rd Time in His Career

Justin Allgaier wouldn’t be denied of a win this time after leading 119 of 147 laps in the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Crown Royal Purple Bag Project 200 at Darlington Raceway Saturday (May 11).

Allgaier took the lead when the race went back to green from a competition caution and only lost the lead during a round of pit stops at the end of stage one. His No. 7 was just too good to surpass, as he held off advances from Austin Hill and others on restarts and set sail to victory.

Hill settled for second, while polesitter Cole Custer, who led the opening 21 laps, took third. Allgaier’s JR Motorsports teammate Sam Mayer was fourth, and part-time Joe Gibbs Racing driver Aric Almirola rounded out the top five.

See also
Justin Allgaier Dominates at Darlington for 1st Win of 2024

Winners

Allgaier finally got the monkey off his back and took home his first win of the season. It was one of those races where everything just clicked for him and the No. 7 team, as the pit crew was on point (especially on the money stop). His car was quick off the bat, and once he got clean air, he never looked back.

It was the Illinois native’s 24th Xfinity win and his first since last fall at Martinsville Speedway. Allgaier had come oh so close to earning a win quite a few times this year, which makes this one that much sweeter. From crashing out from the lead with less than 10 laps to go at Phoenix Raceway, to a rain caution ruining his day at Dover Motor Speedway, Allgaier lost the lead in many ways.

But a date with the Lady in Black was just what the doctor ordered for the No. 7 team. With a win under his belt, Allgaier now looks to continue his momentum on Memorial Day weekend.

Hill tried several different ways to get past Allgaier on restarts, but he just couldn’t get by him. Still, a second-place finish got the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing team back on track after finishing outside the top 10 in three of the previous four races coming into Darlington. It’s his best finish since Circuit of the Americas and his sixth top five and eighth top 10 of 2024.

The run showed that although Hill’s primary strength is on superspeedways, he can still wheel it on an egg-shaped 1.366-mile track that’s rough on tires.

See also
Cole Custer Recovers to Finish 3rd at Darlington After Botched Pit Stop

Custer, meanwhile, had quite the opposite day from Allgaier and Hill. He started off strong from the lead in the front of the field, but pit road gremlins threw wrenches in his plans to keep the first position.

His crew had a problem with the air gun during the competition caution, causing a lengthy pit stop. Not only that, but Custer had to return to pit road to secure lug nuts. Because of that, he dropped all the way back into the 30s.

Custer never gave up, though, and worked his way back up into the top 20 by the end of stage one. He kept going through the field steadily and after some late yellows, he made it into the top five before ultimately crossing the line in third.

Custer currently has the longest top-10 streak of active drivers with his ninth top 10 at Darlington. It could eventually turn into his second straight championship, if he keeps up the strong runs. We shall see.

Another driver who earned a good result was Parker Kligerman, who finished sixth after reporting power steering issues earlier in the race. He went on an alternate pit strategy after a caution came out about five laps after stage three began under green.

Another yellow flag came out around lap 123 just when Kligerman’s fresh tires were helping him work his way back through the field. But the No. 48 throwback to his team owner Scott Borchetta was fast enough to get up to sixth by the end of the race. It was his fourth top 10 of the year and first since Richmond Raceway.

A couple other drivers I want to give a shout out to are William Byron and Anthony Alfredo, who finished 11th and 14th, respectively. Byron overcame a flat tire that sent him a couple laps down, as well as a last-place starting position, to nearly snag a top 10.

Alfredo, meanwhile, began the event in the top 10 thanks to the metric formula used when qualifying rained out on Friday. He’s currently 10th in the standings and has only finished outside the top 20 twice in his No. 5 Our Motorsports car. The Connecticut native will be one to watch during the summer months.

Losers

Electrical problems plagued AJ Allmendinger late in the race, which turned a really good day south for the No. 16 Kaulig Racing driver.

Allmendinger finished fourth in stage one and sixth in stage two and was well on his way to getting another good result. However, during a caution, he had to come down pit road when his car lost some power. The team attempted to repair it, but the problems returned, and they sent him to the garage to finish fixing it. Allmendinger ended up 20 or so laps down and finished 35th.

Allmendinger has just one top five so far and five top 10s, but things were looking up for him recently. Allmendinger had two top-10 finishes in the three races entering Darlington – a fourth at Texas Motor Speedway and a sixth at Dover. It’s certainly a disappointing day for one that started out so good.

Sammy Smith was the odd man out this weekend for JRM after a low tire sent him down pit lane under green in the closing laps. While he does have six top 10s this year, he sits in 13th in points, outside the playoffs. He’ll need to put together some better results if he wants to get above the cut line.

Some of the underfunded drivers had rough endings as well, including Hailie Deegan, Parker Retzlaff and Ryan Ellis. First, it was Ellis who saw his day cut short after he lost a drive shaft. Last place was not where Cole Trickle, I mean, Ellis wanted to be.

Deegan’s run ended after her left rear tire got cut and shredded the left rear quarter panel. Per Deegan, the tire went down after contact from the No. 07 of Patrick Emerling, and the door foam was gone out of her car, so she couldn’t continue.

As for Retzlaff, he appeared to blow an engine in his Harry Gant throwback (which was also one of my favorites, mainly because of the little details). Strangely, at the same time, Kyle Sieg spun a few spots further behind Retzlaff.

It’s Retzlaff’s fifth result of 30th or worse, which is rough considering the team brings some speed during qualifying occasionally (he won the pole at Richmond). He’ll look to turn it around at the next 1.5-mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Fuel for Thought

Just how important was it for Allgaier to get rid of those late-race troubles that seem to appear from thin air? Fairly important, I’d say.

Allgaier is now fifth in the standings thanks to sweeping all three stages and one of five Xfinity regulars with a win. He’s tied with Jesse Love in points, so the more that JRM can get the No. 7 to stay and finish up front, the further up Allgaier will be when the playoffs roll around.

“But the playoffs don’t start until the end of September.”

I know, but we see how well RCR and JGR have been running so far this year. Allgaier needs to score all the playoff points he can get to be sure he’ll move on through the rounds and into the Championship 4.

I mean, the way he’s been dominating several races and leading laps late, he should be a contender for the title. And since he’s going to a track where he won last year, I feel the best is yet to come for Allgaier.

Throwback Scheme of the Week

There were so many good ones this year, but one of my favorite designs was Custer’s orange and black tiger-striped Haas car.

The scheme resembles Johnny Sauter‘s car from 2006. Before the Craftsman Truck Series race, I would’ve said that it was rare to see tiger stripes on a NASCAR vehicle. However, Taylor Gray also sported one Friday night that was similar to Mark Green’s No. 63 Superflo Xfinity car from 2000.

Still, Custer’s was a great scheme that stood out in the pack.

Other notables were Alpha Prime Racing’s throwbacks to Cole Trickle and Kyle Petty, Chad Finchum‘s No. 35 homage to Kevin Harvick, and Shane van Gisbergen‘s No. 97 tribute to Marcos Ambrose.

Where to Next

Xfinity teams will have another week off before heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the BetMGM 300 on Saturday, May 25. Allgaier won last year’s event after the race was postponed twice to Monday.

Television coverage for this year’s event is set to begin at 1 p.m. ET on FOX, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.

About the author

Joy joined Frontstretch in 2019 as a NASCAR DraftKings writer, expanding to news and iRacing coverage in 2020. She's currently an assistant editor and involved with photos, social media and news editing. A California native, Joy was raised as a motorsports fan and started watching NASCAR extensively in 2001. She earned her B.A. degree in Liberal Studies at California State University Bakersfield in 2010.

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