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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.

 

NASCAR America at 6 p.m. ET: Las Vegas recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will look back at the weekend’s racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Steve Letarte will be joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

After Las Vegas incidents, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson look for Richmond rebound

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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas leaves Chip Ganassi Racing with a mixed bag of potential strategies to develop heading into the next race, this Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.

Kurt Busch, the first NASCAR playoff champion in 2004, was involved in a wreck at Vegas with eventual race winner Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 189 that knocked him out of the event, ending with a last-place finish of 39th.

We were trying to go for the same spot in the middle, it wound up four-wide, got a fender rub and our day’s done,” Busch told NBCSN after he left the medical center. “It just happened that fast. Everyone wants to try to get to the middle and that’s where you make up the most spots and Truex and I were going for the same piece of real estate.”

As a result of the poor finish, Busch finds himself in 14th place among the 16 playoff contenders, a distant 63 points behind points leader Truex Jr.

How Busch rebounds at Richmond will go a long way toward determining whether he will advance to the Round of 12 following the Roval elimination race at Charlotte in two weeks. Busch is currently 14 points behind 12th-ranked Aric Almirola, but he is also only 12 points ahead of 16th-ranked Erik Jones.

There’s no question Busch is in need of a big comeback at Richmond, a track that he has had decent success at, including two wins (last time was in spring 2015), seven top five and 15 top-10 finishes in 37 career Cup starts there.

A win would immediately wipe out the Las Vegas nightmare and push Busch into Round 2.

And then there’s teammate Kyle Larson, who had a car that looked like it could challenge for the win at Vegas. But a costly pit road penalty — a behind-the-wall crew member trying to grab tires back over the wall slipped, touching the ground on pit road — pushed Larson back and he wound up playing catch-up the rest of the race. He settled for an eighth-place finish that potentially could have been a top five showing had it not been for the penalty.

Our car was better than what I thought it was going to be,” Larson said. “We were able to battle up front there in the second stage. Then, we had the pit road penalty and had to come from the back.

The restarts were crazy and I was just being safe. It probably cost us a little bit, but we still got a top-10 out of the day and some decent stage points. So, all-in-all, it wasn’t a bad day.”

Busch has one win this season, while Larson is still looking for his first.

Our cars have definitely been good enough to win, we just have to put the whole races together at this point,” Larson said. “We want to win. We’ll keep working at it and hopefully we can knock one out before the season is over.”

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Best of the rest: How non-playoff drivers did in Las Vegas

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The Cup playoffs began Sunday night in Las Vegas, and the playoff drivers made their presence known by occupying every spot in the top 10.

But what about the rest?

The first 16 spots were not filled by the 16 playoff drivers. In fact, playoff drivers only made up 13 positions in the top 20.

Here’s a look at the top-finishing drivers who are not contending for the championship:

Jimmie Johnson – finished 11th

With him not participating in the playoffs for the first time in his career, the spotlight wasn’t focused on Johnson very often Sunday.

But the Hendrick Motorsports driver finally put together his first complete run six races into Cliff Daniels’ tenure as his crew chief.

It was their first race together to not be involved in some sort of incident and it saw Johnson earn his first top-15 finish with Daniels. It’s only his second top 15 in the last nine races.

Austin Dillon – Finished 12th

The Richard Childress Racing driver earned his second straight 12th-place finish and his third consecutive finish of 12th or better.

He’s earned a top-15 finish in four of the last five races. That’s after only having one in a 12-race stretch.

Dillon also finished sixth in Stage 1.

“When the caution came out on Lap 180, we pitted to take another swing at loosening up this Chevy,” Dillon said. “Unfortunately, we had an uncontrolled tire penalty but it did allow us to come back down pit road to top off with fuel and adjust on the car more. We got the car better and made a good strategy to stay out for track position during a late caution to pick up additional spots.”

Paul Menard – Finished 14th

Menard took part in his first race since announcing last week that he would retire from full-time competition after this season.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver kicked-off his final 10 races for the team with his sixth top-15 finish in the last nine races. He finished outside the top 15 just once in his last 11 starts at Las Vegas.

Ty Dillon – finished 16th

The Germain Racing driver earned his best finish at Las Vegas in five starts (previous was 24th).

Dillon has finished 20th or better in six of the last nine races.

Daniel Hemric – finished 17th

The rookie driver earned a top-20 finish after two straight DNFs for wrecks. He has only three top 20s in the last nine races.

“Our handling balance would swing a lot from being really tight and then halfway through the run it was like a light switch and I would get super, super loose,” Hemric said. “We got that better throughout the race and back to where I could run more throttle, which allowed us to move forward into the top 10 and be more aggressive on restarts and make some hay during those time. On that last green flag stop we just got a little too free to where I couldn’t make the most time coming off pit road and just struggled a bit on that last run.”

Chris Buescher – finished 18th

The JTG Daugherty Racing driver extended his streak of finishes inside the top 18 to 16 races. The streak began at Kansas Speedway on May 11.

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Brad Keselowski rebounds to ‘steal’ third-place finish in playoff opener

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Usually when you see a race car on pit road with its hood up in the middle of a race, it’s a sign that a team’s race is over or will be soon.

It’s not typically a prelude to a third-place finish.

But that’s what happened to Brad Keselowski in Sunday’s Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The adjustments made to his No. 2 Ford on pit road during the Stage 2 break, including adjustments to the front suspension, helped cure what was a “miserable” first 160 laps for Keselowski.

“Nothing I was doing was working,” Keselowski told NBCSN after his top-five finish. “We were losing spots to everybody out there.”

Keselowski, the race’s defending winner, qualified 18th. But while his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano went from 22nd to first in 34 laps, Keselowski was “just kind of bleeding positions.”

“I am disappointed we didn’t start the race any better than we did but very proud that we didn’t freak out and everyone kept their head on their shoulders,” Keselowski said.

After Stage 2, Keselowski pitted from 13th. He would pit twice under the caution before the start of the final stage.

“The team worked on it really hard there and got us back to a spot to where we could kind of almost steal a win,” Keselowski said. “I thought for a minute we might be able to.”

Keselowski thought if he had gained one or two spots on the final restart with 71 laps to go, he might have been the winner instead of Martin Truex Jr.

Instead, “we kind of stole a third place today,” Keselowski told NBCSN. “I guess I can’t complain. … Decent recovery, great fight. That’s kind of what these playoffs are about. Minimizing your bad days. That’s what we were able to do.”

Keselowski’s finish is his ninth straight top 10 at Las Vegas. He hasn’t finished worse than seventh on the 1.5-mile track since 2012.