Editor’s Note: After two seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Justin Allgaier has returned to the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season and is a threat to win the series championship, driving for JR Motorsports. Allgaier was featured in the April issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine. Here’s an excerpt from that story.
Allgaier lost his ride after HScott signed Clint Bowyer for a one-year rental before Bowyer moves to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017.
Allgaier was left out when the game of musical chairs ended. But all was not lost. Brandt, Allgaier’s longtime sponsor, stayed committed to its driver. And when JRM offered Allgaier a shot with its XFINITY title-winning team, he eagerly took it.
Four races into the season, Allgaier realized his best is yet to come.
“The guys at JR Motorsports obviously have a first-class organization and (crew chief) Jason Burdett and I really clicked from the first time we met,” Allgaier told SPEED SPORT. “We have a lot in common as far as our racing styles. That (gives me) confidence and it shows all the little details that I want to see as a race car driver. We still have room to grow. I definitely don’t think we’re at 100 percent yet, but the weekend at Phoenix was a good start. We unloaded off the truck and we didn’t have to make a lot of changes to fit my driving style. I felt like the car was really good all weekend.
“Any time we can do that, it definitely has me excited about the middle of the summer and going into the Chase at the end of the year.”
Allgaier’s first full XFINITY Series season since 2013 coincides with the series’ first playoff format. The Chase has been a part of the Sprint Cup Series for 12 years, but this is the first go-around for the second- and third-tier XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. Any full-time XFINITY Series driver who wins a race — provided he or she is in the top 12 in the standings if there are more than 12 winners — qualifies for the Chase.
Allgaier believes the Chase gives teams more incentive to be aggressive.
“It’s interesting,” Allgaier noted. “I’ve been part of the Cup Series for the last couple years and I’ve seen how it’s played out. I’m a fan of it. Obviously, if you’re 1,000 points ahead going into the last (seven) races of the season, you’re doing to hate the Chase. If you’re a little bit behind, you’re going to love it.
“For me, I look at it like this: We have a great organization, but I’ve switched teams and switched crew chiefs,” Allgaier continued. “We can’t really try things we’d like to try at the beginning of the year without this Chase format, because if you have a bad finish, your (championship hopes) are pretty much over.”