ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Justin Allgaier is becoming a bit of a road course expert.
Allgaier backed up a road course victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Aug. 11 with his second road course win in less than a month during Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Johnsonville 180 at Road America.
The victory came thanks to a potentially lucky strategy play during the final stage of the race. Allgaier opted not to pit prior to the start of the third stage, assuming the race lead in the process. He lost the lead to Brendan Gaughan on the restart and slowly began to slip through the field as cars with fresher tires began to slip past him.
On lap 28 Allgaier and Christopher Bell ran off track while battling for position, kicking up dirt and leaving some grass in Allgaier’s radiator. Needing to make one more pit stop to reach the end of the race anyway, his team called Allgaier down pit road at the end of the lap for fresh tires and fuel.
That call ended up working out perfectly for Allgaier. On the next lap the caution flag waved for fluid on the track in turns three and four, which caused several drivers, including race leader Gaughan, to spin. That handed the lead to polesitter Matt Tifft, who led most of the field down pit road during the caution period.
While most of the field hit pit road, Allgaier was one of three drivers who opted to stay out. Ryan Sieg also stayed out and inherited the lead, with Garretty Smithley also staying out to line up third. Behind that trio, Tifft got off pit road first and was followed by Elliott Sadler, Daniel Hemric and Australian road course ace James Davison.
The race resumed with 14 laps left and Allgaier made quick work of Sieg, dispatching him in lap six to take the lead. Davison was also on the move, taking second from Sieg in the next corner after restarting in seventh.
The front pair stayed the same until the final caution flag of the race waved with seven laps left when it appeared the brakes on Josh Bilicki’s Toyota failed going into Canada Corner, sending him at speed into a tire barrier. Bilicki walked away from the incident unharmed.
That set up a seven lap dash to the finish with Allgaier leading Davison, Tifft, Christopher Bell and Justin Marks. Davison got an incredible restart and managed to pull clear of Allgaier before the field got to turn one.
“The restart there, he (Davison) kind of left before I did. The 2 (Tifft) gave me a shot based on…he thought the 18 (Davison) was going. I spun the tires really bad after I got hit. I thought I gave it away,” Allgaier said.
Allgaier settled in behind Davison and waited for him to make a mistake. That mistake came in turn eight when Davison wheel hopped as he tried to brake for the corner, allowing Allgaier to race back under him and regain the lead. Allgaier quickly built a gap on Davison, who soon had a fast closing Justin Marks in his mirror.
Marks managed to briefly get by Davison in turn five, but Davison pulled the crossover and got back by him in turn six. Marks made another attempt to get past Davison in turn eight, but the two made contact and both cars spun, allowing Tifft to overtake them both for second.
All of that took place well behind Allgaier, who had pulled out to a nearly six-second advantage. From there he easily cruised to the victory, his career-best fourth of the season. That allowed him to take the Xfinity Series championship lead by five points over Bell.
“After he (Davison) made the mistake going into (turn) eight I knew I just had to be smooth and fast,” Allgaier said. “This team is awesome. I told them on the radio after the race it’s an honor to drive these race cars. I can’t say thank you enough to everybody that is on this race team.”
Tifft finished second one year after nearly winning at Road America. Hemric came home in third after winning the second stage, followed Cole Custer in fourth and Sadler in fifth. Marks recovered to finish sixth ahead of Ross Chastain in seventh. Davison settled for eighth with Brandon Jones and Andy Lally completing the top-10.
NASCAR Hall of Famer and 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, making his first NASCAR start since 2012, finished 20th driving the No. 23 Chevrolet Camaro for GMS Racing.
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