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Justin Allgaier: Daniel Hemric will be ‘difference maker’ for JR Motorsports

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Justin Allgaier believes JR Motorsports’ chances of success in the Xfinity Series in 2020 will be improved thanks to a less is more approach to the driver lineup of one of its cars.

The 2019 season saw nine drivers pilot JRM’s only part-time entry, the No. 8 Chevrolet, over 33 races. For Allgaier, that revolving door played at least a part in the team’s struggles, where Michael Annett won the season-opening race at Daytona and the team didn’t win again until Allgaier’s victory at ISM Raceway in race No. 32.

“We started off a little bit behind the 8-ball, didn’t quite have the speed we were looking for and that really didn’t set us up well for the rest of the season,” Allgaier said Friday night at the Xfinity and Truck Series Awards Banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center. “We just felt like no matter what we did we were stuck in that same routine week-in and week-out. We were in a little bit of a different position having the 8 car being not a full-time driver, kind of understanding that model and how we maximize that. I think we’ve done a lot better job of that in the end of the season.”

Allgaier also shoulders blame for JRM’s fewest wins since it had two in 2012.

“I just didn’t do a good job,” Allgaier said. “As a veteran of the sport and being lucky enough to be in this sport for a number of years, I needed to do a better job, not only with myself and my 7 team, but trying to help my teammates and understanding what we all needed to be better. I think as we got later into the season we started gelling a lot better and I felt like whether it was Zane (Smith) or Jeb (Burton) or any of the guys at the end of the year that were in the 8 car, Ryan (Truex), we made big strides in doing that.”

For Allgaier, a “difference maker” is on the way in the form of Daniel Hemric.

The 2019 Cup Series Rookie of the Year will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet in 21 races next year, splitting time with Burton (11 races) and owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. (one race).

It marks Hemric’s return to the series after he spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons there with Richard Childress Racing, going winless but making the Championship 4 each time before his one-year promotion to the Cup Series.

“Really having just two full-time drivers in that 8 car, between Daniel and Jeb, obviously Dale’s going to run in it too, but only one race, I think our foundation is going to be a lot stronger next year,” Allgaier said.

What does Hemric bring to the table at JRM?

“First and foremost, experience,” Allgaier notes. “Not only as a Cup driver, but as a fantastic Xfinity Series competitor when he was in the series. I think he’s somebody that No. 1, has a lot of talent. But No. 2, (he) is somebody that’s really easy to get along with and he’s somebody I’ve become friends with from day one when he came into the series, and he’s somebody that I feel like will be a great addition to the sport and be somebody we can all enjoy being around, in the garage, at the shop, where ever it is.”

Allgaier, who will compete in his 10th full-time Xfinity season, sees Hemric as a kindred spirit who will help in getting his team back to even ground.

“Daniel and I grew up the same way in how we race,” Allgaier said. “You build race cars and you work all nighters and you put stuff together and if you don’t you’re not going to go to the race track. Having to have that understanding of a car and how it operates is a big deal. I think he’s going to be a big part of that.

“But on the other side of it, I think his talent alone is what’s going to really be the big difference maker, the understanding of how to be fast, week-in and week-out and how to optimize a race car. He’s very good at that. He’s probably one of the best that I’ve been around. I think that’s going to be a difference maker for all of us.”

Silly Season Scorecard: 2021 Edition

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You read the headline right, we’re talking about the 2021 Silly Season before we’ve even reached 2020.

That’s thanks to Jimmie Johnson’s news Wednesday that next year will be his last full-time season of competition in the Cup Series.

Johnson will exit the No. 48 Chevrolet after 19 seasons at the end of next year. That sets the stage for a potentially wild Silly Season, especially with the current contracts of drivers like Erik Jones at Joe Gibbs Racing coming to end after the 2020 season.

Here’s how the current 2019-20 Silly Season has played out so far.

OPEN RIDES ANNOUNCED FOR 2020

No. 38: Front Row Motorsports must replace David Ragan, who stated Aug. 14 that 2019 would be his final season running a full schedule.

No. 36: Front Row Motorsports announced Nov. 13 it was parting ways with Matt Tifft so he could focus on his health following his seizure at Martinsville in March. Tifft said he could not commit to racing in 2020.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2020

No. 1: Chip Ganassi Racing announced on Nov. 1 a multi-year extension with Kurt Busch.

No. 6: Roush Fenway Racing announced Oct. 30 that Ryan Newman would return to the car as part of the news that Oscar Mayer would sponsor the No. 6 through 2021.

No. 8: Richard Childress Racing made it official Oct. 2 that Tyler Reddick will move to Cup in 2020 and drive the No. 8 car.

No. 10: Aric Almirola confirmed Oct. 11 he signed an extension to race for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon posted a video Sept. 6 on Instagram refuting rumors that he would retire after this season. He has a contract with Germain Racing through 2020.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer was announced Oct. 17 as returning to Stewart-Haas Racing for a fourth season.

No. 17: Chris Buescher will take over the Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 ride in 2020 after the team announced Sept. 25 that it would part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. after this season.

No. 20: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Sept. 6 that it had signed Erik Jones to an extension. It is a one-year extension for the 2020 season.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto replaces Paul Menard at Wood Brothers Racing (announcement made Sept. 10). DiBenedetto’s deal is for 2020 only.

No. 41: Stewart-Haas Racing announced Nov. 15 Cole Custer will replace Daniel Suarez.

No. 95: Christopher Bell moves to Cup in 2020 and will drive for Leavine Family Racing (announcement made Sept. 24).

JTG Daugherty Racing: It was announced Oct. 16 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will join Ryan Preece at the two-car team, essentially swapping seats with Chris Buescher. The team said that an announcement on car number and sponsor would come later.

Rick Ware Racing: JJ Yeley will drive one of the team’s three full-time rides.

AMONG THOSE YET TO ANNOUNCE DEALS FOR 2020

Daniel Suarez — The driver revealed Nov. 14  he would not return to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2020 after one season driving the No. 41.

Corey LaJoie – The driver hasn’t announced his plans for 2020, but he said in October he and Go Fas Racing were “working toward” him returning to the No. 32 Ford. The team announced on Nov. 1 it would enter a technical alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing next year and that “2020 driver negotiations are still ongoing.”

Xfinity Series 

Ross Chastain – Kaulig Racing announced Oct. 15 he would compete full-time for the team in 2020 driving the No. 10 Chevrolet, joining Justin Haley.

Joe Gibbs Racing — Announced Oct. 17 Harrison Burton will drive its No. 20 Toyota full-time in 2020. Announced Oct. 31 Brandon Jones would return for a third year in the No. 19. Revealed Nov. 5 it would field a third full-time entry with Riley Herbst in the No. 18.

JR MotorsportsJustin Allgaier will return to the team for a fifth year in the No. 7 Chevrolet. The No. 8 car will be driven by Daniel Hemric for 21 races, Jeb Burton 11 races and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for one race. Noah Gragson will also return for a second season in the No. 9 car, while Michael Annett returns for a fourth year with the team in the No. 1 car.

Richard Childress Racing — Has not revealed a replacement for Tyler Reddick, but announced Nov. 21 that Myatt Snider will race part-time for the team.

Stewart-Haas Racing – The team has not announced plans for the No. 00 Ford with Cole Custer moving to Cup or whether Chase Briscoe will return to the No. 98.

JD MotorsportsJesse Little will compete full-time for the team.

GMS RacingAnnounced Nov. 21 it will not field an entry in 2021, leaving John Hunter Nemechek without a ride.

Truck Series

GMS RacingDriver lineup will include Brett Moffitt, Zane Smith, Sheldon CreedTyler Ankrum and Sam Mayer.

Kyle Busch MotorsportsRaphael Lessard will drive the No. 4 full-time while Christian Eckes will drive the No. 18 full-time.

Hattori Racing EnterprisesAustin Hill will return to the No. 16 Toyota for a second year.

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Zane Smith joins GMS Racing for full-time Truck Series ride

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Zane Smith will compete full-time for GMS Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series next year, the team announced Tuesday.

Smith, 20, joins the team after competing part-time with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series this year, where his best result in 10 races was fifth twice.

He will be GMS Racing’s fourth full-time entry next year, joining Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and Tyler Ankrum. Sam Mayer will compete part-time.

Smith will have veteran Kevin “Bono” Manion as his crew chief.

“When I got the offer from Mike Beam asking me to run a truck full-time for GMS Racing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Smith said in a press release. “GMS is a championship-caliber team and to be a part of an organization like theirs is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m looking forward to working with Manion again. He has a lot of experience and I know we will be a great team.”

Manion, who has 24 wins across all three national NASCAR series since 2003, joins GMS Racing after serving as a crew chief for DGR-Crosley in 2019, including working with Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum. Manion was crew chief for Smith in 2018 when he made his Truck Series debut at Gateway and finished fifth.

“I am really excited to join GMS Racing and Zane (Smith) for the 2020 season,” Manion said in a press release. “With GMS Racing’s championship caliber equipment and Chevrolet support, we have all the resources to win some races and be in the hunt for the 2020 Championship. I got the opportunity to crew chief Zane (Smith) in his first Gander Trucks start in 2018 at Gateway and we worked really well together. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish next season.”

Sponsorship and an assigned truck number for Smith will be announced at a later date.

Penalty report from ISM Raceway

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NASCAR has fined five crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts on their cars after last weekend’s playoff races at ISM Raceway.

Each fine was for having a single unsecured lug nut.

In the Cup Series:

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, and Mike Hillman Sr., crew chief on J.J. Yeley‘s No. 53 Chevrolet, were each fined $10,000.

In the Xfinity Series:

Taylor Moyer, crew chief on Zane Smith‘s No. 8 Chevrolet, was fined $5,000.

In the Truck Series:

Joe Shear, Jr., crew chief on Johnny Suater’s No. 13 Chevrolet, and Trip Bruce lll, crew chief on race winner Stewart Friesen‘s No. 52 Chevrolet, were fined $2,500.

Justin Allgaier wins, advances to Xfinity championship race

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All season long, Justin Allgaier wanted a win, needed a win – and finally he got the win he coveted in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at ISM Raceway.

One season after winning a career-best five races, Allgaier and his No. 7 JR Motorsports team notched their first checkered flag of 2019 and it was huge, moving him into next week’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Allgaier led 85 laps and joins Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick in the title race.

“It’s just incredible, man,” Allgaier told NBC Sports. “To do what we’ve done all year, to have the speed that we’ve had but not been able to pull it off has been disappointing, but these guys have rallied behind it. We said when we came here that we needed a win to get to Homestead and we got it.

“Not only is it a chance for the championship but to get the momentum from a win. That’s special. The weight on your shoulder, you can’t even begin to describe it.”

Added Reddick, defending Xfinity Series champion: “When I heard we were one lap to the good (on fuel), we figured where we’re at, might as well just be smart. We could win a race or we could run out of gas and not go to Homestead. We didn’t lose sight of what’s important.”

Chase Briscoe, Michael Annett, Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson were eliminated from the playoffs.

“I don’t want this one race or whole round to define who we are,” Briscoe told NBC. “We proved especially the last half of the season we’re capable to being that fourth guy, just didn’t get it done.”

The top 10 finishers in Saturday’s win were Allgaier, Custer, Reddick, John Hunter Nemechek, Zane Smith, Cindric, Justin Haley, Briscoe, Annett and Gragson.

Click here for race results.

Click here for updated/reseeded standings.

Bell looked like he would seal a perfect weekend with a win. He was fastest in both of Friday’s practices and started Saturday’s race from the pole. He dominated the first two stages of Saturday’s race, leading all but one of the first 90 laps.

But Bell, who won this race last fall, was caught speeding on pit road at the end of Stage 2 and was sent to the back. While he started making progress, he spun after a tire went down on Lap 117 of the 200-lap race and finished 16th.

“I don’t think we could have beat the 20 today, but when he made that mistake, we capitalized on it and that’s what it’s all about,” Allgaier said of Bell.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell (21st stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Christopher Bell (22nd stage win of season)

Who else had a good race: Give credit to John Hunter Nemechek and Zane Smith for their fourth- and fifth-place runs, respectively.

Who had a bad race: It’s a rarity that Bell has a bad run, but finishing 16th was definitely not the finish he wanted. But two things that were self-inflicted (speeding on pit road and a spin) sealed his bid to cap off what had been up to the end of Stage 2, a perfect weekend.

Notable: At 33, Allgaier has age and experience going for him heading to Miami. His other three rivals are all under 25: Bell is 24, Reddick 23 and Custer 21.

What’s next: The season-ending Xfinity Series championship race takes place next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski