When Justin Allgaier shows up at Daytona International Speedway for tonight’s Xfinity Series race, he won’t be the same person seen there two weeks ago.
Following the Aug. 15 race on the Daytona road course, Allgaier was not a happy man.
After finishing ninth, Allgaier stalked down pit road and “unloaded” verbally on AJ Allmendinger. The JR Motorsports driver was furious after contact with Allmendinger spun his No. 7 Chevrolet while running in third with three laps left.
The spin wasn’t the root cause of Allgaier’s eruption, it was simply the final straw for the 34-year-old driver who had just one win since September 2018 and who had led 538 laps in 2020 without a victory.
It even caused Allgaier to tell his wife, Ashley, at some point last week “I’m ready to not be a race car driver anymore” for roughly the 10th time in six months.
But that moment passed.
“I had let things just get to me and I was frustrated with the circumstances,” Allgaier told NBC Sports. “And I let things fester and I’m not good at getting things off my chest, right? Keep them bottled up inside. And so when I unloaded at Daytona, what’s interesting about that is that it actually freed me up mentally to really enjoy what I was doing. And it put me in a better frame of mind. And I actually spent all week in a better frame of mind because of that. And that might be the best part of what happened (at Daytona) is that it actually put in a better space for me to be able to be in a just better headspace when I went into Dover.”
In fact, when he led 120 of 200 laps and won Saturday’s Dover race, he was in a “better mental state … than I probably have been in the last three or four years.”
That positive state is following Allgaier into tonight’s Daytona race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
“I’m much happier going into Daytona now, knowing that we have a win,” said Allgaier, who will start fifth. “That makes life a lot easier. And I’m able to go into a race and feel like I have a good opportunity to go do the things that I need to go do and and to race the way that I need to. … To be perfectly honest, I’m excited about it.
“I don’t typically feel like I’m excited when it comes to superspeedway racing. I wouldn’t say that’s one of my favorite things in the world to do. So having the situation that I’m in now and being where I’m at, I actually feel like I’m better mentally going into Daytona than I’ve ever been. So I’m actually excited about it for once.”
And despite 12 career Xfinity wins – and that eight different JR Motorsports drivers have won at Talladega or Daytona – it will be Allgaier’s 30th attempt at a Xfinity victory on a superspeedway.
Allgaier has three top-five finishes at Talladega and four at Daytona.
Though Allgaier still contends he won the July 2016 Xfinity race at Daytona and not Aric Almirola (“depending on what camera view you look at”), it doesn’t bother him that the records books show he’s winless at superspeedways.
“I believe in my mind that every driver has (their) strengths and weaknesses and we’ve obviously got great cars,” Allgaier said. “There’s no questioning the equipment that we have at JR Motorsports and it’s not for lack of equipment that’s kept me from going to victory lane. But in my mind, I don’t believe that (superspeedways have) ever really been my strength. …
“But if we just go and do our job and we come out of there with a solid day for me that’s all I need do to be happy with it. Like don’t get me wrong. I want to go to victory lane. It’s not that I don’t want to go to victory lane. I just feel like there’s there’s a lot of factors that play into it that that don’t necessarily line up with how we finished a lot of times.”
Allgaier explained that Xfinity superspeedway races are unique compared to the Cup Series, where he made eight superspeedway starts.
“It’s just different,” Allgaier said. “There’s different drivers on a regular basis. It’s not like you have the same group of guys all the time. You’ve got different experience levels. There’s just a lot that goes into it. It doesn’t necessarily add up to where you think it would.
“I think that’s what’s probably the most interesting part of it is just managing that and managing other drivers around you and finding a happy spot.”
Allgaier hopes that happy spot lands him in victory lane again.