After dominating the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, the year ended rough for Justin Allgaier. The bad luck and misfortune has transferred over to the opening three months of the 2019 season.
Through the first 10 races, the No. 7 team has been one of the quickest teams on the race track, weekly. However, a rash of part failures and wrecks has mired Allgaier to fifth in the championship standings, nearly two full races back of points leader Tyler Reddick.
Allgaier kicked off the 2019 season with a runner-up result to JR Motorsports teammate Michael Annett at Daytona International Speedway. The No. 7 team followed that up with a third-place effort at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But the luck started to turn at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where an engine let go, resulting in a 31st-place finish, followed by a trio of top-15 finishes.
The low of the season for Allgaier came at Bristol Motor Speedway in early April, even after sweeping the opening two stages and leading a race-high 138 laps. On lap 227, the right front hub failed, resulting in a 30th-place effort.
“The crazy part was looking back on it, it basically failed at the end of the second stage,” Allgaier told Frontstretch on Tuesday, May 14 at Citizens Bank Park, prepping to throw out the first pitch at the Philadelphia Phillies game. “The cool part was we had enough speed that I was able to run at a pace that I felt like was going to manage everything well and I was just judging off the cars we were racing against. I knew as soon as I had to start pushing harder and harder and harder that we were going to have some issues.
“Stuff like that is so frustrating and disappointing. On the flip side of it, we’re lucky that things work out the way that they do and we’ve had some speed lately.”
Allgaier followed up his Bristol performance by leading 86 laps at Richmond Raceway, finishing third. Toward the end of the second stage, crew chief Jason Burdett left the No. 7 car on track while many drivers pitted under a caution. During the next yellow flag, Allgaier pitted, restarted 16th, and was in the top five in a handful of laps.
The next week Allgaier was caught up in a late race crash at Talladega Superspeedway, ultimately finishing 28th. But in the series’ most recent outing at Dover International Speedway, the No. 7 placed second behind only Christopher Bell, who has a series-high three victories this season.
The stats may not reflect the overall speed of Allgaier in 2019, but in 10 races, the No. 7 team has four top-five and five top-10 finishes, with an average finishing position of 13.4. The number that sticks out is three DNFs, though he had four in the opening 12 races of 2018 before getting white hot during the summer stretch.
“It’s sucked to have the speed that we have and really have nothing to show for it,” Allgaier added. “We’ve gotten a lot of stage points, we’ve run up front the majority of the day and something crazy happens at the end and it’s taken us out of an opportunity to run well.
“When you have a bad day, it compounds. When things are rolling well – I’m not a believer in luck, but I believe that when opportunity meets preparation – we’ve been prepared, we’ve just had the wrong opportunities. I’m not disappointed in it, but it’s frustrating when things don’t work out the way you want them to.
“We’ve put our heads down and said we’ve got to work harder, we’ve got to do our job and the team has rallied behind that. The last few weeks have been really good and we’ve got a two-week break, so we can carry that momentum through the off weeks.”
The series has its second consecutive off-week this weekend before returning to the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 25. That starts a stretch of 19 races over the next 20 weeks.
“These off weeks give us the chance to hit that reset button, get everything cleaned up and get all of our cars refurbished and have everything ready when it comes time to hit the track at Charlotte,” Allgaier said.
In 16 starts at Charlotte, Allgaier has eight top-10 finishes, but the No. 7 has back-to-back DNFs at NASCAR’s home track.