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Xfinity Series Spotlight: Justin Allgaier on Disney World, first cars and bad pre-race meals

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When it comes to traveling in the NASCAR community, Justin Allgaier calls himself a “weird one.”

“(I) really enjoy traveling and going to the race track and having that normalcy,” Allgaier told NBC Sports this month.

NASCAR has one of the shortest offseason in sports, but Allgaier, who drives JR Motorsports’ No. 7 car in the Xfinity Series, objects to the term “offseason.”

“It should be called the non-racing season because I’ve been home probably less than 15 days since Homestead,” Allgaier said.

Since last year’s finale, the 30-year old driver has raced in Brazil and in the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the middle of that he squeezed in a trip to Walt Disney World with his wife and daughter, who is 3 years old.

“I’m glad we did because just watching her give the princesses hugs and seeing the eyes closed and enjoying every moment of the hug, ok, that was totally worth the money we spent to come here,” Allgaier said.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: How old were you when you first to Disney World?

Justin Allgaier: I have no idea how old I was. I know we raced there. I raced quarter midgets there one or two years and was fortunate enough to win there. I can say I actually won a race in Disney (World). That was in the mid to late-90s.

NBC: At the race track they used to have there?

Allgaier: This was actually in a parking lot. It was quite the experience.

NBC: Do you remember the first time you saw for your face or name on merchandise?

Allgaier: Yes, I was probably 7 or 8 at the time. A company we were associated with printed T-shirts. And what’s really crazy about it is that my dad still wears that t-shirt to this day in his everyday wardrobe and it’s lasted. He literally wears it once every week and half to two weeks. It’s so funny to see that shirt because it brings back a lot of really good memories.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 23: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the Dash for Cash at the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
 Justin Allgaier celebrates after winning the Dash for Cash at the Xfinity Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23, 2016. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NBC: What’s the design of the shirt?

Allgaier: It’s a picture of my quarter midget that I drove and it’s got my name on it. My name’s in purple and it’s got the car which is red, white and blue. To this day it’s still one of my favorite design T-shirts. It’s a true racers t-shirt. it’s got racing style. I just remember, ‘how cool is this I have T-shirt with my name on it?’

NBC: What was your first street car?

Allgaier: A 1995 Camaro Z-28, red. I bought it at an auction.

NBC: How much was it?

Allgaier: $4,000. … I was 14 at the time when I bought it. My dad had promised me that he would buy half of whatever I would want to buy for my first car. That was our agreement. He’d buy half of it. I had up to I think it was $5,000 he would spend. Once he bought that, I had to cover my own insurance, my own gas. That was kind of the deal. I totally undersold it, right? He would pay up to five (thousand), so I could have bought a $10,000 car and ended up buying a $4,000 car, which was not very smart. I remember bidding at the auction and the auctioneer took two or three bids of mine and then he stopped the auction, this is like a car dealer auction, so there’s people everywhere. He stopped the auction and said, ‘Is he allowed to bid?’ My dad said, ‘He’s holding up his hand isn’t he?’ The guy then said, ‘Alright then, let’s keep going.’

So I bought this car and that was my first. My dad regretted it though, because we went outside and they had a little side road you could test drive cars on and not being 16 I couldn’t drive it on the street, but I was able to go drive it on a side road and it had been raining. A Camaro Z-28 is plenty fast enough for everybody, let alone a 14-year-old kid. But I had been racing up until that point, I’d been racing late models. So I gassed this thing up, spinning the tires, sideways, drifting it down this road. My dad realized rather quickly that a Camaro Z-28 was a bad plan for a young kid.

NBC: Have you ever named a car?

Allgaier: Oh yeah, all of my dirt cars get named and always have since I can remember. So last year we had “Darla” from Little Rascals. We had “Happy.” The car I ran at the Chili Bowl this year was named “Aligator.” We’ve had all kinds of them.

NBC: How’d you get Aligator?

Allgaier: Typically we let the car builder, whoever it is, name them. The car builder that built that car, his nickname is “Flea.” That’s what everybody knows him by and he named it for me, he named it “Aligator.”

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 15: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 15, 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Justin Allgaier enters his second season of driving the No. 7 for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

NBC: You and “Aligator” went for a ride at the Chili Bowl. Your wife posted an Instagram video of your tumble. What was that like from your perspective?

Allgaier: That ride honestly, in the olden days when I wouldn’t have had the safety gear that I had, probably would have hurt pretty badly. I wasn’t even sore the next morning. I didn’t have a bruise, I didn’t have a headache, I didn’t have nothing when I woke up the next day. I was pretty pumped on that fact.

NBC: What’s your least favorite part of race day?

Allgaier: Making time to eat. Because I don’t think about it and then I get to the car and I’m starving. You’re so busy on race day that don’t ever think about it and you got all these things going on. Then I get to the car and we’re starving. So then you try to cram food down, which is never a good idea, or you just don’t eat and you’re miserable. Lunch is probably the worst part of race day.

NBC: What’s your typical pre-race meal or favorite one?

Allgaier: For me, chicken. Any type of grilled chicken. My truck driver Matt is an awesome chef. Not only is he a good truck driver, he’s a great chef as well. He cooks chicken and all kinds of fixens on the side. Usually I’m trying to raid the hauler before the start of the race to get something good. But ideally something that’s not super heavy. I did try Italian Polish sausage one time.

On the way to driver intros I was starving and it was the only thing I could find and I ate two of them on the way to driver intros at Talladega one year. That was the longest, worst race I’ve ever had in my entire life. My stomach and my heartburn was so bad in the car I could hardly even concentrate on driving.

 

Picture Perfect: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race topped only by family photo

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RICHMOND, Va. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. smiled when he walked to his Xfinity car for the first practice at 8:30 a.m., when he worked later in the day in the NBCSN booth, when he stood next to wife Amy and daughter Isla before the Xfinity race and when he climbed from his car after winning a stage, leading 96 laps and finishing fourth.

The last time Earnhardt had this much fun in a car?

“When I was racing late models in the ‘90s probably,” Earnhardt said on pit road. “I had a lot of fun in the late ‘90s running the Xfinity Series (but) I didn’t know how good I had it. (In) the Cup garage, it’s so damn cutthroat it’s hard to have fun in there.”

Friday, he oozed energy. Earnhardt spoke as quickly as his Chevrolet ran. He laughed. He bobbed. He raised his hands.

He took it all in just as the fans did at Richmond Raceway. They rejoiced when the No. 88 led. They roared when he was introduced before the race and exclaimed as he stood on pit road after running 250 laps. They followed their pied piper as he walked down pit road to the media center. Halfway there, he diverted his path so he could walk with them, sign autographs and take selfies.

Other than a win – which went to Christopher Bell – the day couldn’t have been much better. Especially since he sought to manage expectations by saying before practice began that he hoped to score a top-10 finish.

“You just can’t assume you can miss eight months, 10 months and come in and win, much less run in the top five,” he said.

As the day progressed, a top-10 finish would be almost a disappointment.

Earnhardt was fast during the day, qualified second and put himself in position for a strong run.

“Right around three-quarters of the way through that race, I’m like, ‘Man if I don’t win now I’m going to be disappointed,’ ” Earnhardt said. “I had backed myself into a corner with my expectations getting too high. It’s easy to be disappointed that we didn’t win because we should have, but I didn’t do a good job on that one restart. I just spun my tires.”

Even so, Earnhardt called it a “fun night” and noted the challenges for JR Motorsports to bring a fifth car to the track, especially with three of the organization’s drivers competing in the playoffs: Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler and Tyler Reddick.

Yet, the car for the boss proved to be the best. Earnhardt even won a stage, which he noted on the radio to his team after it happened.

“I never won a freaking stage before. It’s kind of embarrassing to be honest with you,” Earnhardt said with a smile. “It felt good. I had fun doing it.”

That feeling, though, couldn’t compare to what he felt before the race when he stood with Amy and Isla for pictures in front of his car.

“Being with Isla, that meant a lot to me,” Earnhardt said of his 4-month old daughter. “I don’t know what she’ll think of my racing career and how that will register with her since she won’t have experienced any of it. We got to have one race together. Pretty important moment for me.”

But it might not be the last. Earnhardt talked about running another race next year. He might return to Richmond or go to Atlanta.

That’s for another day.

On this day, after he had given his fan base and himself one more memory, there was still something else to do.

“I can’t wait to get back to the (motor home),” he said.

And celebrate his accomplishment with his wife and daughter.

 and on Facebook

Results, point standings after Xfinity playoff opener

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Christopher Bell punched his ticket to the second round of the Xfinity playoffs by winning Friday’s race at Richmond.

It’s Bell’s fifth win of the season.

He beat Ross Chastain, Daniel Hemric, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Tifft.

Earnhardt led a race-high 96 laps and won Stage 2 in his first NASCAR start since last year.

Click here for the results.

Points

With his win, Bell is the only driver who doesn’t have to worry about next weekend’s race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

He’s the first driver to lock a spot in the second round of the playoffs.

While Bell leads the standings, Hemric is second (-28 points).

The top five is completed by Justin Allgaier (-34), Chastain (-37) and Sadler (-38).

Austin Cindric (-62) and Ryan Reed (-63) are in the 11th and 12th spots.

Click here for the point standings.

Christopher Bell wins Richmond Xfinity race; Dale Jr. places fourth

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Christopher Bell opened the Xfinity Series playoffs with a win in Friday night’s race at Richmond Raceway.

Bell took the lead from Matt Tifft on a restart with 14 laps to go and didn’t look back, as he beat Ross Chastain, Daniel Hemric, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tifft.

The win is the fifth for Bell this year and the first in seven races. He completes a sweep of the season’s races at Richmond. It’s also his first win from the pole.

“It’s not very often that you get to win with a car that’s not a winning car, we’ll take it,” Bell told NBCSN. “Man, I’m just pumped.”

Earnhardt, who made his first NASCAR start since retiring from full-time Cup competition 10 months ago, led a race-high 96 laps and won Stage 2.

“It got my expectations all messed up,” Earnhardt told NBCSN. “I was like, ‘Dang, I got to win now.’ We didn’t have the car at the end. Restarting on the outside is kind of tough. … We’ll try to do another one next year and see where we go.”

Elliott Sadler finished sixth in his last start at his home track.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

MORE: Results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Ross Chastain placed second after having to start from the rear for unapproved adjustments. It was his third and final scheduled start for Chip Ganassi Racing … Ryan Reed placed 10th after also starting from the rear for unapproved adjustments. It’s his first top 10 in six races.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Ty Majeski wrecked with three laps left in Stage 2 following contact with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ryan Reed. It’s the 11th DNF for the No. 60 team this season due to a wreck … Katherine Legge placed 28th after causing two cautions in the final stage … No. 1 seed Justin Allgaier wrecked out from contact with Cole Custer on a restart with 25 laps to go.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT No. 1: “That’s the first stage win of my career.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. after winning Stage 2.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT No. 2: “To be the last time on this track, I don’t have a win, but I have a lot of great memories here.” – Elliott Sadler, who competed in his last race at his home track.

WHAT’S NEXT: Drive for the Cure 200 on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval at 3 p.m. ET Sept. 29 on NBCSN.

Daniel Suarez trying to find his place in Silly Season

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RICHMOND, Va. — Daniel Suarez, expected to lose his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing after this season, says he has options but isn’t willing to reveal them.

Suarez is looking for a ride because reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn are expected to move to the No. 19 team with Furniture Row Racing closing operations after this season.

That leaves Suarez on the outside at JGR.

“I don’t really have anything good to say,” Suarez said after qualifying fifth Friday. “When you don’t have anything good to say, it is better not to say anything.”

Suarez removed a reference Joe Gibbs Racing from his Twitter profile this week. Asked about that Friday, Suarez laughed and said: “I’m a driver. I like my family. I like classic cars. That’s what I put in there.”

As for where he might race next year, Suarez said: “We’re talking to a lot of people. I’m sure good things will come our way.”

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas said last week at Las Vegas that his team has talked to Suarez’s group about the No. 41 car. Kurt Busch’s contract expires after this season with the team, which creates the opening in the No. 41 car. 

Reports have stated Kurt Busch could be headed to the No. 1 team at Chip Ganassi Racing and replace Jamie McMurray.

Another option for Suarez could be Leavine Family Racing. Kasey Kahne won’t return to the No. 95 after this season and car owner Bob Leavine has expressed an interest in aligning with Toyota.

One place that doesn’t appear to be an option is Roush Fenway Racing, which is expected to announce Saturday that Ryan Newman will join the team to drive the No. 6 car next year. Newman’s departure would create a vacancy with the No. 31 car at Richard Childress Racing after this season.

Suarez was encouraged by his run Friday at Richmond Raceway and optimistic about Saturday night’s Cup race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“Definitely the best car I’ve ever had here at Richmond,” he said. “So hopefully I can take advantage of it (Saturday).”

If he can, he could score his first career Cup victory.

We know we can do it,” Suarez said. “Not making the playoffs wasn’t good for us. We had way, way higher expectations than the job that we have done. We have had a lot of different issues though the year. Sometimes things don’t work out.”