Justin Allgaier ‘peaking at the right time’ ahead of battle vs Xfinity ‘Big 3’

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By Justin Allgaier‘s own definition, 2019 has been a “terrible” and “miserable” year for the Xfinity Series driver.

That’s not the kind of descriptive words you would expect to hear from one of the four drivers who will compete for the Xfinity title Saturday in Miami (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

But in the immediate aftermath of his win last weekend at ISM Raceway – which snapped a 39-race winless streak – that’s exactly how the JR Motorsports driver summed up the previous 31 races.

He did so while referring to his career-best stretch of 16 straight top-10 finishes.

“I still view this as a terrible year,” Allgaier said. “I don’t mean that in a bad way. Right, but compared to last year we just executed better. We had speed when we needed it. And things fell our way. The definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation. The weekends we’ve been prepared, the opportunity hasn’t been there. The weeks we’ve had the opportunity, we may not have been prepared. Today we had both.”

The veteran missed out on the Championship 4 last year, a result of a “miserable” experience in the playoffs where he was eliminated in the second round despite five wins in the regular season.

Now he’s back in the final round for the third time in four years and feels he and his No. 7 team are “peaking at the right time” as he prepares to face off against the “Big 3” of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and defending champion Tyler Reddick.

Together the “Big 3” have won 20 of 32 races this year.

“A lot of the story lines this year have been surrounding the other three contenders and they’ve been really strong and they’ve won a lot of races,” Allgaier said in a media release. “You can’t count us out. We’re going into this weekend with a new mentality and a new energy and we’re going to have a shot at winning a championship.”

Allgaier admitted Saturday he could have “easily” made the championship round had he finished second at ISM Raceway. But going to Miami with a win on his record has a dynamic impact on his mindset.

“If I would have gotten chased down by Cole (Custer) at the end and gotten passed, mentally that’s going to defeat you, right?” Allgaier said. “I think winning a race definitely makes next week a lot more enjoyable, and I think it puts us more in the conversation for maybe having an opportunity to go for a championship.”

Just like it was difficult for him to break the “Big 3’s” dominance in the regular season, Allgaier acknowledges the task before him Saturday if he wants to give JR Motorsports its third consecutive Xfinity title and its fourth in six years.

Reddick and Custer have won the last two races in Miami. Allgaier has never finished better than sixth in nine Xfinity starts on the 1.5-mile track.

“It’s going to be hard to beat them, there’s no question about it,” Allgaier said. “So I’ve got to do a better job of figuring my program out and what I can do to be a better asset to our team.

“I’ve been in this scenario a couple of times. This week’s going to be full of studying. Because I know we’ve got three competitors that I’m racing against that equally are ready to compete next week. Mentally they’re ready, they’re physically ready, they’re (in) fast race cars. They’ve had the speed all year in their cars. They’ve made a lot of mistakes. But they’ve had the speed.”

But Allgaier insists after his “miserable” year there’s “no pressure” on him in his effort to finally break through for a NASCAR title.

“It’s funny because the last couple of years, the years I’ve put the most pressure on myself are the ones that have been the worst,” Allgaier said.

One sign of his mindset?

Right before he left victory lane Saturday, his crew chief Jason Burdett jokingly asked him what they were going to do the following weekend in Miami.

Replied Allgaier: “We’re going to have fun.”

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Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

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Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.

 

Fans not allowed at Las Vegas races

Fans not allowed
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.

A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.

“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.

“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19.  While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige.  We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”

Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.

The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at  7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.

Pit crew change for Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson teams

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.

The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.

Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.

MORE: Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, forecast, lineup

Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.