Close, but just short of scoring the victory.
Justin Allgaier, driver of No.7 TradeMark Nitrogen Chevrolet, started the Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway close to the front of the field. As a result, he was somehow lucky enough to avoid the first big wreck of the race on Lap 15, with very little damage to his car.
“In the first crash, everybody started darting around and my lane checked up really hard – the whole lane had too much momentum and I ran into the back of the 62,” Allgaier stated. “On the Camaro grill, the upper lip kind of folded down. The guys were able to get it folded back out and get it closer, but we had a lot of bare bond and other stuff on the hood to stop it from buckling. Fortunately, it was clear of the radiator and duct work so we dodged a bullet in that regard. But at the same time, more stuff on the front bumper than aerodynamically wasn’t going to help us at all. So I think that didn’t help when we pulled out to pass for the lead – I think that’s where some of the momentum went, but you have to do what you have to do in that situation.”
His crew chief Jason Burdett used a little strategy to keep them in contention for the win, by having Allgaier pit during the yellow flag on Lap 49; because of this when the caution flew 17 laps later they were able to stay out gaining track position. They restarted the race with 29 laps to go as the race leaders.
The American driver was in the top-five throughout the final portion of the race, getting alongside Aric Almirola to battle for the lead on the final lap. As the two were going down the backstretch Allgaier had the edge over Almirola, though lost it as they headed into the corner. Coming off the corner, he began to gain back the lost ground but NASCAR made the decision to throw a caution due to needing to attend to Ryan Ellis, who was requesting medical attention.
“The last restart was crazy,” Allgaier said. “Coming down to the end of the race there, we knew it was going to be all out and everybody would do anything there at the end. TJ Majors, my spotter – he called the crash off of two and I pulled to the outside of Aric, getting any run that I could. I actually had some momentum and then lost it through three and four – had some momentum coming off but unfortunately the light switch flipped. I don’t know, maybe 16th of a foot too early for me to get the win.
“Really proud of my guys. We got caught up in that first maylay, had some nose damage, and the guys did a good job fixing it. I told them before the race this is the best car that I’ve had on a super speedway. We came really close to sweeping all the restrictor plates at JR Motorsports, and that’s a testament to all the guys in the shop and in the Hendrick Motorsports engine department. It’s really fun when you know you have cars capable of winning every week.”
The Riverton, Illinois native says he him and Almirola ran the whole rest of the lap even though the caution had come out through the debris just trying to be faster than the other and to stay out knowing that would be the determining factor.
“It’s the same scenario as Talladega – should’ve, would’ve, could’ve – and they call it a little bit before we’re ahead and if they call it a little later we’re ahead,” Allgaier quoted. “But it is what it is. When they come down to the end like that, you have to go 100%. (Spotter) TJ (Majors) was saying when I look at the replay, it depends what angle you look at it as to where they’re going to call it. Unfortunately, we got a little behind. You know Aric did a great job – he did what he had to do. We both knew on that last restart that we were going to have to clear the outside row and it’d come down to us. When you come home second in two restrictor plate races in a row, with fairly non-torn up racecars, it does make it nice. But still, this one is going to hurt for a little while.”
The father of Harper added he wasn’t expecting the caution to come out because they were far around the corner when the crash happened. He prepared to battle the line against Almirola.
“At that point, I had help behind me and was pretty confident we had the momentum and help behind us and we’d be okay,” Allgaier added. “I think if you look at different angles, man it is close. I don’t want to be the person that judges that – I can assure you. But at that point, you’ve done everything that you can do and can’t do anymore. Right place at the right time, just a few inches short.
“I have seen the replays. We definitely have forwarded momentum so it’s hard to tell if you freeze frame it where you are at. I’ve been kind of short my whole life so I guess tonight is no different – maybe that’s why I’m so normal about this.”
Despite his disappointment, he thinks NASCAR made the right call by throwing the caution. He feels those that crashed might have needed help and if he was in a wreck and needed help he would have wanted NASCAR to throw it, so the safety guys can do what they need to do.
“There’s so many ifs and buts to these rules, but at the end of the day – how many mile and a halves, and short tracks would’ve come down to a photo where it’d need to be determined that close?” Allgaiersaid. “I think that comes with the nature of restrictor plate finish and maybe one of these days we’ll pull one of them off.”
This isn’t the first time that this has happened to the JR Motorsports driver. It also happened to him earlier in the season at Talladega Superspeedway. There was a late caution and he was deemed second behind Elliott Sadler.
“It’s going to go either way – you’ll be so happy that you can’t believe it, or so disappointed,” Allgaier added. “This one is going to hurt in the morning more than it hurts right now. But at the same time, NASCAR is very adamant that they’re going to exhaust every option to make the right call. I could wish that someone flipped the switch a little earlier or later, or I had a little more momentum – there are a lot of things that could’ve gone either way. But I was able to finish the race and have all four fenders on it and there’s a lot of crashes tonight that we could’ve been in.
“Even though the first crash we got some damage, we missed four, five cars that we could’ve easily gotten run over by or run into. From that aspect, you thank the man upstairs for giving you the opportunity. It doesn’t always work how you want it to, or the finish that you want, but it could’ve been a lot worse. It’s disappointing, but you have to put yourself in these positions to win races. We’ve done that two weeks in a row so I’m hoping that’ll translate to something down the road that’ll go a little more our direction.”
Allgaier credits his crew chief Burdett and the fact their relationship has grown quickly since the beginning of the season with each other along with everyone else at JR Morotorts. He has been strong all year long and he credits his crew.
“To fire out of the box and be as strong as we’ve been this year and have the points gap that we do have to 12th, I think we’ve come on the idea to push as hard as we can to grow and learn as a team,” Allgaier quotes. “I don’t know if we’re going to approach each race differently, even if we would’ve locked in. But at the same time, there’s something to be said for that sticker on your car and team morale. My guys are some of the hardest working in the garage and when you see their faces and the disappointment that we didn’t get it tonight, that’s going to hurt me – not that we didn’t win the race. Those guys deserve to be in victory lane so to be that close and not give that to them, it makes it tough.”