Justin Allgaier balancing teammate dynamic while fighting for wins

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Through three races, JR Motorsports has been the class of the Xfinity Series field and its drivers sit first, fourth, fifth and ninth in points.

Yet the four-car operation remains winless. Noah Gragson, Justin Allgaier, Josh Berry and Sam Mayer have each contended for wins and led laps, but none has gone to Victory Lane this season.

What’s worse: those races have featured disgruntled teammates. On a restart with 20 laps to go last weekend in Las Vegas, Allgaier lined up as the leader in the outside lane with Gragson tucked behind him. But instead of a helpful push from his teammate, Allgaier found himself stuck in the middle three-wide exiting Turn 2 while Gragson motored to his outside for the lead.

One week earlier, Allgaier found himself in the outside wall at Auto Club after slight contact from Berry at the exit of Turn 2 (coincidentally, also with 20 laps to go).

Balancing each teammates’ emotions while also contending for victory has been an “interesting” dynamic for the veteran of the team in Allgaier.

“Very rarely do you have all four cars or all the cars in one organization that are equally capable of running up front and battling for wins,” Allgaier said in a Wednesday Zoom availability. “And I think managing that, it’s been a challenge because obviously, we all want to win for our teams and for our sponsors and for everybody. But managing that, I think, is a really tough situation, especially knowing that we could easily have four cars in that (Championship 4) when it comes down to getting later into the year when we go back to Phoenix.”

The choose rule dictated the final restart with five laps to go last week in Vegas. As the leader, Gragson opted for the outside lane while Ty Gibbs chose the inside of the front row. Daniel Hemric in third followed Gragson high. In fourth, Allgaier found himself in a box.

If Allgaier went to the outside lane, he would be third in line and have at least four cars to carve through. The inside gave him the chance to line up right behind the front row and more realistically fight for the win — even if it meant pushing a rival car past his teammate.

“When Daniel chose the outside, really, at that point, the only option was to take the bottom behind Ty,” Allgaier said. “The options were either go to third or fall all the way back to sixth.”

In the end, it was Gibbs who pulled through for the victory, thanks in large part to a helpful push from Allgaier’s Chevrolet.

Allgaier, now winless in his last 27 starts, couldn’t help but notice frustration from fans on social media who thought he ditched Gragson to work against him. In reality, Allgaier, who led a race-high 62 laps, was fourth and was trying to maximize his results.

“One of the things that we’re very adamant on (at JRM) is we’ve got to push each other and help each other,” said Allgaier, who finished fifth in Vegas. “But at the end of the day, when it comes down to trying to win a race, you got to go out there and if you feel like you have a shot at winning the race, you’ve got to do everything you can to try to win. …

“I felt like at the end of the race there, we still had a shot at trying to win. And not that I didn’t want to see (Gragson) win — I was hoping that he would win. But at that point, my best option was to push (Gibbs) not even just to try to get the win, but to limit the damage of how far back we fell in that last restart.”

Gragson is the series points leader after an astounding start to the season with finishes of third (Daytona) and two runner-up efforts (Auto Club, Vegas). Fourth is Allgaier, fifth Berry and ninth Mayer.

The series shifts to Phoenix, which has historically been one of Allgaier’s best tracks. As noted in a JRM press release, Allgaier ranks first in laps led (493), laps run inside the top 15 (4,264) and in fastest laps run (298) according to NASCAR’s loop data statistics.

Don’t let his winless streak fool you either. Since last winning in May 2021 at Darlington, Allgaier has netted 16 top fives and 23 top 10s, including a current streak of 15 straight. His last finish worse than 12th came at Mid-Ohio in June 2021, when he finished 35th.

The last time Allgaier had 15 consecutive top-10 finishes, back in 2019, the Illinois native didn’t win either. But he did score his 16th straight top 10 with a win the next week at Phoenix.

This year, though, Allgaier feels he’s been the organization’s weak, citing poor qualifying (an average start of 17.7) and the speed with which adjustments need to be made between practice and qualifying. That hasn’t dampened his expectations heading back to Arizona.

“Phoenix is kind of the one place that everybody feels at home,” Allgaier said, “whether that’s Jason Burdett, my crew chief, or any of our guys on our team. … We’ve all got a great comfortability whenever it comes to going to Phoenix, and I think we have the opportunity to go there and to run good.

“It’s obviously changed a lot since they originally put on the PJ1. Now we have the resin. It’s going to be interesting to see kind of what it races like. But I think, as a team and as an organization, that’s been a great racetrack for us, and especially our No. 7 team. So, we’re going to go there, we’re going to give it the same effort we’ve been giving it all year.”

The Xfinity race is set for Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1.

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

 

 

 

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.