Jason Burdett

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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NASCAR penalty report after New Hampshire

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Two Xfinity Series crew chiefs were fined for rules violations in this week’s NASCAR penalty report.

Mike Shiplett, crew chief for the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driven by Cole Custer, was fined $5,000 for improperly installed lug nuts.

Also Jason Burdett, crew chief for the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Justin Allgaier, was also fined $5,000 for improperly installed lug nuts.

There were no other penalties assessed in either the Xfinity or NASCAR Cup series.

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As weather heats up, Justin Allgaier feels ‘like myself’ on track

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Two weeks ago defending Xfinity Series champion Tyler Reddick sounded a warning.

“Definitely, as we get into the summer stretch you can’t forget about Justin Allgaier,” Reddick told NBC Sports. “Trying to forget about him is exactly when we’re going to get in trouble and that’s when he’s going to pop his head back into the race and make himself known.”

Reddick almost ate his words last weekend on a hot and humid day at Charlotte Motor Speedway when he had to fend off a charge from Allgaier over the final 14 laps.

Allgaier emerged from a field that had been picked apart as many drivers – Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer and Brandon Jones – fell out of contention or the race due to contact with the wall and the resulting cut tires.

Allgaier couldn’t catch Reddick, but he earned his fifth top five of the season, all of which have been in the top three. He enters this weekend’s race at Pocono with consecutive runner-up finishes.

This current stretch was preceded by one where the JR Motorsports driver failed to finish better than ninth over five races, including at Bristol where he led 138 laps and fell out with a right front hub failure.

“You know what’s disappointing is we had way more speed at the beginning of the year and we didn’t have the finishes to show for it,” Allgaier said after Saturday’s race. “Now I don’t feel like we’re quite as fast, but we’ve got the finishes to show for it.

“This team has got a great effort, a lot of instinctual effort. I think that’s what’s saving us right now. We got a really solid crew. These summer months when it’s hot and slick like this, that’s when I feel like myself, personally, but also JR Motorsports excels. So I’m looking forward to the summer.”

Allgaier and the rest of the Xfinity Series won’t have to experience the heat they did in Charlotte this weekend at Pocono. The high Saturday is forecast at 75 degrees by wunderground.com.

Allgaier will try to improve his record at Pocono. In three Xfinity starts, he has two DNFs for wrecks and a second-place finish in 2017 after he led 13 laps.

He does have an ARCA win at the “Tricky Triangle” in 2008.

“I love racing at Pocono,” Allgaier said in a media release. “(Crew chief) Jason Burdett and our No. 7 Klondike team have done a really good job there in the past. I really like racing at tracks that are unique and aren’t necessarily your standard shape. You really have to think through all three corners. To be good in Turn 1, you’re going to struggle a little in Turn 2 and Turn 3 and vice versa. Figuring which corner you’re willing to give up a little bit of speed in order to gain the speed on the other corners is so important. I’m excited for this race. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Should Allgaier break through on the Pennsylvania track, it would be just his second win in 55 Xfinity starts on tracks 2 miles or larger. The first came last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (which inspired the design of Turn 2 at Pocono).

An Allgaier win would also be just the second for JRM in 2019.

It hasn’t found victory lane since Michael Annett won the season-opener in Daytona.

JR Motorsports announces driver, crew chief lineup

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JR Motorsports announced Monday the driver, crew chief lineup for its four Xfinity Series entries this season, including two returning drivers.

The entries include the full-time efforts of veterans Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, in addition to rookie driver Noah Gragson.

Alllgaier, the senior driver with the team at four years, will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet under the direction of crew chief Jason Burdett, who has led the team since 2015.

At 32, Allgaier is the oldest driver at JRM. He’s older than Annett by 18 days.

Annett is back in the No. 5 Chevrolet for his third season with the team. He is paired with crew chief Travis Mack, who took over crew chief duties on the No. 5 for 13 of the last 14 races in 2018.

Gragson makes the move to the Xfinity Series after two seasons in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Gragson will step into the No. 1 Chevrolet to replace Elliott Sadler who stepped away from full-time racing after 2018. Gragson will have crew chief Dave Elenz and the crew that worked with champion Tyler Reddick in 2018 on the No. 9 team.

The No. 9 team will be a multi-driver effort this season anchored by eight races with Zane Smith in the cockpit. The team will be led by first-time crew chief Taylor Moyer. Moyer joins JRM after four years with Hendrick Motorsports as a race engineer for Kasey Kahne and William Byron.

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Justin Allgaier no longer qualified for Xfinity playoffs after Dover penalty

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Justin Allgaier‘s win in last weekend’s Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway will not qualify him for the playoffs after a violation was found on his No. 7 Chevrolet after the race.

NASCAR stated in its penalty report Wednesday that the truck trailing arm spacers and pinion angle shims were not in complete contact with corresponding mating surface.

As a result, crew chief Jason Burdett has been fined $25,000 and suspended from the next two points races for the L1 infraction. Allgaier has also been docked 25 points and the team loses 25 owner points.

Allgaier was second in the season standings with 368 points. He is now tied with Daniel Hemric for fourth with 343 points.

NASCAR confirmed Allgaier will keep his $100,000 Dash 4 Cash earnings.

JR Motorsports will not appeal the penalty. Burdett’s replacement will be determined next week.

JRM released the following statement from General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller.

“As a highly competitive race team that challenges for wins each and every weekend, we’re deeply disappointed and frustrated in today’s ruling. We strive to produce race victories for JR Motorsports’ partners, fans and employees while adhering to the rulebook. To that end, the No. 7 team put on a winning performance in Saturday’s race and received damage on the last lap that we believe contributed to this infraction. We will never fault ourselves for that.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 team was also hit with a penalty for the splitter on Jeb Burton‘s car not meeting specification during inspection Friday. Crew chief Nick Harrison has been fined $10,000 and car chief Michael Scearce has been suspended from the next points race for the L1 violation.

Burton finished 12th in the race.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Todd Gilliland‘s crew chief, Wes Ward, was fined $2,500 for one unsecured lug nut on the No. 4 Toyota.