Justin Allgaier didn’t exactly enter Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 under ideal circumstances to race for a championship. In the end, those circumstances left him coming up short in the title chase.
Last weekend at Phoenix, his No. 7 Chevrolet was found with an unapproved rear brake assembly, resulting in a suspension for crew chief Jason Burdett. As a result, JR Motorsports reached for the fences and tapped seven-time Cup Series champion crew chief Chad Knaus to help out Billy Wilburn on top of the pit box.
Even with Burdett off-site, he still played a decent-sized role in the race weekend.
“Not having Jason obviously was a big deal, but I felt as a group we managed very, very well,” Allgaier stated. “Jason was equally as involved as much he could be not being here. He was very much involved in what changes were being made to the car and what we were doing.”
With the three-headed monster of Burdett, Knaus, and Wilburn all providing input, Allgaier had a decent car during Friday’s practice sessions. The No. 7 team entered the race with some confidence. Unfortunately, the event did not start well. While NBCSN tried to sell Allgaier’s struggles early on as him trying to lay back, it was anything but.
As the race continued on, Allgaier was able to race himself back up into the top 10, but he slowly dropped back. The culprit for his issues? Poor handling.
“Unfortunately, when the race started tonight, we knew something was way off,” Allgaier said during his post-race press conference. “We just struggled from the drop of the green. Ultimately, on the long run, we just really started dropping speed. [We were] way too loose to be able to drive at the end of some of these runs.”
The first two stages being only 45 laps in length kept Allgaier relatively close to the leaders. Adjustments through pit stops also helped a bit to keep him on the fringes of contention.
The BRANDT Chevrolet appeared to be quite strong on fresh tires, and as a result, Allgaier would often move forward in the laps following restarts before the malaise set back in. At one point, he was within striking distance of teammates William Byron and Elliott Sadler.
But the final stage going caution free to the finish put Allgaier’s deficiencies on display. Race winner Cole Custer lapped him shortly after the final round of pit stops.
After the race, Allgaier was quite disappointed at his 12th-place performance.
“At the end of the day, we just didn’t do our job as good as we needed [to] tonight,” Allgaier continued. “[The team] worked equally as hard this week as they have every week. We just missed [the setup] a little bit.”
Ultimately, Allgaier walked out of Homestead with a third-place finish in points. However, his team remains intact in 2018 as the veteran will go out and battle for another championship.