Justin Allgaier came into the 2019 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway with more momentum than anybody on the heels of his ISM Raceway victory last week.
Unfortunately, for the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, that momentum didn’t translate to anything on track.
Allgaier struggled from the get go and wound up coming home 14th, one lap down, after encountering a flat tire late in the going.
“We didn’t have the speed we were looking for tonight,” he said. “It was disappointing. I mean, we felt like yesterday in practice the seven laps that we got that our balance was pretty good. We were excited about tonight because we felt like the things that we worked on yesterday and the things we had worked on in the shop and trying to make better for our program, we had done. And unfortunately tonight, we just – we were just way too loose to really push at the speed that a lot of those guys were running.”
Specifically, Allgaier was lacking right rear grip. It meant he wasn’t able to allow the car to set in the corner and pick the throttle back up on exit, something his competitors Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell were able to do masterfully.
“I felt like that was where the guys around us were able to excel,” he said. “They were able to get the power down a lot quicker, a lot more efficiently. We made some big swings at it. That was probably the hardest part, we made some big swings at it on pit road, and we fixed certain areas of it, we just couldn’t fix all of it.”
With under 25 laps remaining, Allgaier scraped the wall and suffered a flat right rear tire. He said the recent conversation surrounding the thought of intentionally spinning to cause a caution never entered his mind, but that’s what ultimately sealed his fate.
Justin Allgaier saves it!
It'll end his #Championship4 hopes but won't bring out the yellow!
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) November 16, 2019
“The unfortunate part is you’ve got a long way to go to get back to pit road at a slow speed and that ended up putting us two laps down,” he said. “Which we were able to drive our way back to one lap down. But the time that we lost just trying to get back to pit road really, really affected the outcome of where we finished tonight, which didn’t matter, but just for going into the offseason, you’d rather have a better finish than where we finished.”
With Custer, Reddick and Bell all moving up to the Cup Series next season, that leaves a void to fill in terms of star power, race wins and championship contenders for the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
But even though Allgaier seems like a top driver to make it back to the Championship 4 with a chance to win it all in 2020, he dispelled the narrative.
“No, I really don’t,” he said when asked if he’s a favorite to return. “I think these things are–you watch drivers mature over the course of a season, and I’ve been in this sport for a number of years, and I still feel like every year I learn little details that make me better week in and week out, and I know that the drivers that are coming in to replace those drivers, they’re going to be on their A game, and I don’t think that there’s going to be any weeks that you can relax next year.”
“I think it’s just going to look different, but I think it’s going to be great, great action,” he said. “I think you’re going to have some guys that are going to have to take a few races to learn at the beginning of the year. My goal is to capitalize on that.”
Coming off a career season with five wins in 2018, only one victory this season may be looked at as a bit of a disappointment from the outside. But Allgaier was proud of the season they had, scoring 16 top fives and 24 top 10 finishes over the 33-race season.
“It’s disappointing,” he said. “But at the end of the day, to race the way that we did, to have the playoffs that we did, to not only get the win at Phoenix but to really execute at the races that we needed to and point our way to Phoenix I thought was really good.”
Still, though, he admitted there’s work to be done not only on the No. 7 team, but with JR Motorsports across the board. And it starts in about 48 hours.
“It’s funny because we talk about the off‑season, but come Monday morning we’re already focused on what we need to do better in 2020,” he said. “Noah (Gragson) had great run tonight. Ran really, really well, and it’s encouraging because I feel like we know the direction they went. We were a little bit different, and obviously it worked for them. We’ll keep plugging along. I’m disappointing in fourth, but at the end of the day, we had a shot at a championship tonight, and just weren’t able to capitalize on it.”
Fourth-place for @NoahGragson in the season finale down south 👍🏼
— Frontstretch (@Frontstretch) November 17, 2019
Allgaier plans to run the Chili Bowl in the offseason before hitting the ground running for his 10th full-time season in the Xfinity Series.
— NASCAR Xfinity (@NASCAR_Xfinity) November 17, 2019