By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
MARTINSVILLE, VA – A late-race caution ultimately eliminated Justin Allgaier from the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs.
Allgaier battled with Daniel Hemric for the final spot in the Championship 4 throughout the Dead On Tools 250. The first two spots were claimed by AJ Allmendinger and Austin Cindric who clinched in the first two Stages. With his JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson needing to win to advance, and leading, that brought the battle down to Allgaier and Hemric.
The points swung back and forth, at one point in favor of Allgaier. When Hemric took the lead with 19 laps to go in the scheduled distance at Martinsville Speedway, it knocked Gragson below the cutline. A caution with six laps to go put the JR Motorsports driver in position to retake the lead.
Meanwhile, Allgaier’s No. 7 Hellmann’s Fridge Hunters Chevrolet Camaro SS rode just inside the top-five. With Hemric also inside the top-five, the points gap was down to just six points. Allgaier was on the outside looking in, but in both overtime attempts, he failed to pass Hemric. When the checkered flag waved, Allgaier was fifth, six points out of the Championship 4.
“The goal was to come here and try to put two (JR Motorsports cars) in the Championship 4,” admitted Allgaier. “We had that ability, needed to stay ahead of the 18 in points. Knew that was a challenge coming in. We talked about it all week. Being in the position of the 9, 11, 18, you could race the race backwards and put yourself into position to try to win and not worry about points. They did that and that was the difference.
“Noah did a great job. He did what he needed to do to advance onto the next round. We just didn’t do a good enough job tonight. It’s disappointing because we were in the same position last year and we did all of the right things and made our way into the final four. We came out a little bit short today. We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure out what we need to do next year.”
In Stage 1, Allgaier finished third. That netted him an additional eight points. However, in the second Stage, he struggled. Allgaier didn’t have the same balance or pace to climb through the field and earn more points. A bad set of tires hampered his ability to follow Austin Cindric, Gragson, and others that were on the same strategy through the field. Meanwhile Hemric earned a combined 14-points between the two Stages, a six-point difference.
“We got a bad set of tires in that second Stage,” explained Allgaier. “It just didn’t react well. Unfortunately, it got the balance way off. When we put the third set (of tires) on, we were right back to where we were on stickers at the start of the race. That was really the difference maker when we fell that far back and weren’t able to get any Stage points. That was ultimately the nail in the coffin.”
The fifth-place finish is the 16th top-five finish for Allgaier this season. It is the 112th in his Xfinity Series career.
Now Allgaier will attempt to assume the role of playoff spoiler as he will not compete for a championship at Phoenix Raceway.
Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo.