Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: Does Justin Allgaier Deserve Another Cup Opportunity?

1. Did Justin Allgaier prove he belongs in the NASCAR Cup Series?

One of the most unfair labels placed upon the shoulders of a driver is to call them a career NASCAR Xfinity Series or NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver.

Just because a driver does not move up and have success in the NASCAR Cup Series does not make them a lesser driver. Having talent is not enough, you also need the situation that the driver is moving into to be solid ground.

Let’s take an alternate history arc. What if Joey Logano does not get a second chance in the Cup Series after his sart with Joe Gibbs Racing? Is he branded a bust? Ron Hornaday Jr. is one of the best drivers in the history of the Truck Series. To tag him as a lesser driver because he did not succeed in subpar equipment is foolish. The same goes for drivers like Randy LaJoie and Jason Keller, who were successful in the Xfinity Series but never quite had the factors line up for them over time in the highest level of NASCAR.

That’s why one of the things lost in Sunday’s (May 26) Coca-Cola 600 is the job that Justin Allgaier did. Getting into a car on a one-off chance is not easy. It does not matter how good the equipment is; you can’t press a magic button — even at Hendrick Motorsports. We saw that last year when Corey LaJoie filled in for Chase Elliott at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and languished to a finish of 21st.

But Allgaier seemed to click with the No. 5 team, finishing 13th as rain ended the race early. Allgaier if nothing else proved a point at Charlotte Motor Speedway that even if it’s a part-time role, he should indeed be on a short list for any team looking for a new driver to step in.

See also
Justin Allgaier Holds Down Fort for Kyle Larson, HMS with 13th-Place Showing in Coke 600

2. A 600-mile race should stand on its own merit

The Coca-Cola 600 — the advertised distance, at least — is the longest race of the Cup season. It’s the truest test of endurance in the sport.

Make no mistake. It’s a crown-jewel event and always will and should be. This is not just any race, it’s the longest one. In most years, you find out who can dig the deepest in the final 100 extra miles than any other race on the schedule.

The race will always be in the shadow of the Indianapolis 500, and that’s OK. The longest race of the season should stand on its own merit. But you have to wonder how much of that test of grit and mettle means.

The Coca-Cola 600 and Indianapolis 500 are both staged on Memorial Day weekend. Both have their solemn and stirring pre-race ceremonies, though some of the military exhibitions put on at Charlotte have stirred plenty of ear drumsas well.

But while the Indy 500 solemness of honoring the lives of those who have died serving the United States, the Coca-Cola 600 takes a different tone. Whether it’s stopping the race for a moment of silence or in-race video vignettes about those honored on racecars, the question has to be raised: what’s the focus of the sport’s longest race?

That’s something that NASCAR and its TV partners have to grapple with and something that could be interesting with this race being on Amazon Prime next year.

3. Can NASCAR afford to let the garage self-police itself?

Multiple days after the post-race melee between Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch at North Wilkesboro Speedway, it was still the talk of the garage on Saturday at Charlotte. One needs only to look back at what drivers had to say during media availabilities for proof of that.

But if you thought that drivers going after one another was finished, you were sorely mistaken. Austin Hill took care of that, as the racing between him and Cole Custer escalated to Hill trying to wreck Custer down the backstretch of Saturday’s (May 25) Xfinity race.

Both of these incidents have one very rigid thing in common: that NASCAR is apparently waiting on the garage to self-police itself in 2024. The question is, will it do so before series officials step in to slam down an iron fist?

Yes, Stenhouse was hammered with an eye-catching fine, but for a team seeking a postseason spot, that does not hurt as much as a race suspension would. Think back to the fight between Stenhouse and Busch. The driver of the No. 47 told the whole world on camera what he was going to do. Despite that, Stenhouse was very clearly waiting on Busch post-race to carry out his intentions. If NASCAR officials were truly bothered by those intentions, wouldn’t the prudent thing be to have multiple people in place to prevent a melee?

In the case of Hill, Saturday was not the first time Hill had an issue with someone on the track. Time will tell if his racing of Custer warrants a penalty. If it does not, the Xfinity garage has two choices: let Hill anger everyone to the point of exacting vengeance in the postseason or do something about it now. That’s a problem that this series has with a lack of veterans compared to previous years.

See also
Xfinity Breakdown: Chase Elliott Wins Charlotte as Austin Hill Loses His Cool Again

4. Politics out of racing? Good luck with that

Try as NASCAR might, it can’t keep politics out of the sport. Sure, it can ban political advertising, but it can’t do anything about the leaning of individuals and other very visible people in the sport.

That was very evident this Sunday at Charlotte with former President Donald Trump in attendance for at least part of the race. Anytime that someone well-known is at the track, photos will quickly be posted. This time was no different.

Charlotte cannot be blamed for posting about the former president being at the Coca-Cola 600. It sure drives social engagement and having a very visible person at an event is a huge deal, no matter who they are.

It’s of note that NASCAR itself did not post about the former president being in Charlotte.

If you desire to wade into social media comments, you will find, unsurprisingly, a lot of people love the fact that Trump was at the race and others loathe it.

The challenge is this. Any person you talk to has a sense of what they like and don’t like. NASCAR does not need to get into the business of telling its own stakeholders, even a seven-time champion like Richard Petty, who can post pictures of and not of and who to invite and not invite.

Like it or not, we live in a divisive time. Politics is a huge part of that, and it’s too much to ask people to switch that button off at the ticket window.

5. Does the Xfinity Series really need two West Coast Swings?

Two thousand eight hundred. That’s a rough estimate of how many miles NXS teams have to go from last weekend at Charlotte for this weekend’s standalone race at Portland International Raceway. Although it helps that they will race at Sonoma Raceway the following weekend, the question should be raised of how practical it is for this series to have a West Coast Swing part two.

If this was the Cup Series, it would be one thing. But when you get past the JR Motorsports and JGRs of the Xfinity Series, there are those such as Alpha Prime Racing and JD Motorsports that frankly don’t have the same budget with which to work.

For these teams, what’s the value of going to the West Coast and back twice in five months? If you want to run a standalone event near another Cup companion track, Road America is sitting there ready to bookend the Chicago street course.

There are ways to help teams in one of NASCAR’s lower series contain costs. Two West Coast Swings in the first half of the season are not one of them.

About the author

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Brad joined Frontstretch.com in 2020 and contributes to the site's 5 Points To Ponder column and other roles as needed. A graduate of the University of Georgia's Henry W. Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he has covered sports in some capacity for more than 20 years with coverage including local high school sports, college athletics and minor league hockey. Brad has received multiple awards for his work from the Georgia Press Association.

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Christopher

Regarding Justin Allgaier, while he might deserve a chance, the reality is ‘deserves’ have nothing to do with it. Money does. Also, Allgaier himself has stated that he’s quite content in the Xfinity series, with its less onerous schedule which means more time with his wife and kids. If JRM ever acquired charters and went Cup racing, Allgaier would be a prime candidate for a ride. But that won’t happen because JRM has repeatedly stated they will not spend 30-60 million for charters.

DoninAjax

NA$CAR should pay Jr. to have a Cup team! It would make a LOT of cents for them.

janice

not so…..johnson bought into petty, gordon is part of hendrick. people would see that as nascar owning a team and man, wouldn’t the keyboard warriors go at it if the team won a lot or needed waivers.

besides hendrick throws money to jr for his xfinity teams as well. be interesting to see what happens to shr. with how the economy is, not too many people have a couple million laying around to invest in a money pit.

Echo

The economy is up so not sure what your talking about. Look at NBA salaries and other top sports stars, gobs of money, same for rap stars etc. it’s going to be interesting seeing what SHR gets for those chargers. Remember what they paid for them, not near 40 million.

Kevin in SoCal

A one-off race doesn’t make a Cup career. Just see how Josh Berry is doing this year after finishing second last year at Richmond.

Also, as said by Christopher, Allgaier is happy where he is with the less demanding schedule and his Sundays off with his family.

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