In up-and-down season, Justin Allgaier gets reward in special helmet

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Justin Allgaier is having an odd year in the Xfinity Series and he’ll end that year with an odd, special helmet.

At first glance, the JR Motorsports driver is having arguably the best season of his NASCAR career.

Through 14 races he’s the only Xfinity regular with two wins – his second win in 2017 didn’t come until race 26.

Allgaier leads the series in laps led with 458 (Kyle Busch is second with 225), and with seven top fives he’s in position to exceed his 2017 total (10).

But then you take a closer look.

Allgaier has four DNFs, three more than at this point last year. His average finish is 12.7, compared to his total of 11.5 at this point a year ago.

Also he enters Saturday’s race at Chicagoland Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) sixth in the standings, a result of a 25-point penalty following his Dover win for a post-race inspection violation. He would be fourth without the penalty.

“The good stats are better than they’ve ever been,” Allgaier told NBC Sports. “But the bad stats are really hurting us. .. I’ll be honest, I’ve made some mistakes this year that I have been frustrated at myself for making. But on the flip side of it, I think the speed has come because we’ve laid it all out on the table. We’ve pushed ourselves to be the best team we can be. I think from my standpoint those crashes have been tough.”

Three of Allgaier’s four DNFs have been the result of crashes. Those came at Daytona and in consecutive weekends following his Dover win at Charlotte and Pocono. He finished in the top 10 in both stages at Charlotte and Stage 2 at Pocono before his wrecks.

“I think I’ve learned more this year in the DNFs and the odd races than I’ve probably learned in the last four or five years in all of the good races,” Allgaier said. “The worst part is those bad ones, the running position of where we were running whenever we crashed would have easily takes some of the heartache out of what we’ve had to go through. I think that’s what makes or breaks a season, is being able to overcome those bad days and push yourself forward. Our team has been very resilient. I’m excited about the playoffs. We’re in the playoffs, we can keep pushing hard. I think once we get to the playoffs, I think we’re going to have a great shot at making our way back to Homestead and trying to go for that championship again.”

Ahead of Allgaier in the standings are Christopher Bell, teammate Tyler Reddick, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and points leader Elliott Sadler.

Bell and Reddick are the only drivers out of that group who have won this season.

Even with his two wins and other impressive stats, Allgaier feels his No. 7 team is overlooked compared to the younger drivers and his teammate in Sadler.

“Oh, 100 percent,” Allgaier said. “But I’m OK with that. I’m not the type that needs the glitz and the glamour really of being the favorite. … I think a lot of times I work better whenever there’s no pressure. You just go out there and you do your job and if you run good, you run good.”

All the pressure on Allgaier to make the playoffs has been eased following his win at Iowa two weeks ago. Allgaier’s team had briefly qualified through his Dover win before NASCAR’s penalty.

Allgaier isn’t the only one happy that he’s actually in the playoffs. His daughter Harper has a special reason to see her dad going for the championship.

Last year, during his team’s celebration for winning the regular season-finale at Chicagoland, Harper surprised Allgaier with a helmet she painted for him to use during the seven-race postseason.

Affinity for artwork runs in the family. Allgaier is a graphic design enthusiast who made the decals for his own race cars throughout his career. He caught the bug from his father, who taught him to draw in 3D, and his grandfather, who made figures out of tree bark and even made a drawing of him winning the Daytona 500.

Allgaier promised Harper he’d let her design his helmet again this season if he made the playoffs.

“I’ve basically told her she has free rein,” Allgaier said. “I’ve always been into that. I’ve always been into my helmets. To see my daughter kind of take that serious and really enjoy that time was cool to me. I’m open to whatever she wants to try to do. I think it’s going to be really cool whatever they come up with. We’ll see how it plays out. I know she’s already got some ideas. She wants a unicorn on there, which I thought was a little interesting. She wants lots of glitter. I feel the next one is going to have lots of glitter on it.”

 

 

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval

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Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.

NASCAR Power Rankings: Chase Elliott leaps to the front

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A slick late-race move by Chase Elliott carried him to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway — and back to the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Elliott is the only driver with five victories this season. No one else in the playoffs has more than two (Tyler Reddick, eliminated from the championship hunt, has won three times).

Elliott, already qualified for the Round of 8 with his Talladega win, will be among the favorites in Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Here’s how the rankings look approaching the end of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — Elliott’s power move to win at Talladega was quite impressive and gave him four top-five finishes in the past 10 races. Clearly, he has re-established himself as the championship favorite.

2. Denny Hamlin (No. 1 last week) — Hamlin drops a spot despite a strong run (20 laps led and finishing fifth) at Talladega. Count him in the hunt for an elusive first championship.

3. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Blaney simply will not go away despite continuing as the playoffs’ only winless driver (not including the Texas All-Star Race). He was victimized by Chase Elliott on Sunday at Talladega, finishing .046 seconds short of victory and a push into the next round.

4. Kyle Larson (No. 2 last week) — Superspeedway racing generally is not Larson’s strong point. He finished 18th Sunday despite leading eight laps and being in the front group much of the day.

5. Joey Logano (No. 4 last week) — Logano had an unusually poor performance at Talladega. He was involved in an early-race accident and struggled much of the rest of the day, finishing 27th.

MORE: Elliott celebrates, Logano laments

6. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain tied Aric Almirola for most laps led (36) at Talladega and has been consistent as of late with three finishes of seventh or better in the past four races.

7. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron’s worst news last week came off the track as he was penalized by NASCAR for dumping Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas. He finished 12th at Talladega.

8. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe is quietly making the case that he could make the Round of 8 and challenge for the title.

MORE: Winners and losers at Talladega

9. Daniel Suarez (unranked last week) — Suarez maneuvered through the Talladega draft with style and came home eighth. He has three top 10s in the past seven races.

10. Christopher Bell (No. 6 last week) — Bell had a rough day at Talladega and will be looking to Sunday’s race at the Roval for redemption.

Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).