By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – So close, yet so far once again for Justin Allgaier on a superspeedway.
Allgaier, the elder statesman at JR Motorsports, has been in the running for a win at both Daytona and Talladega several times over the course of his career, only to see it fall from his grasp for one reason or another.
This time around, it was partly due to teammates not sticking together and part bad timing for the driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet to bring home the victory in Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 at Daytona.
After rebounding from a spin on lap 42 to win the second stage, Allagier fell in behind teammate Josh Berry, along with his other two teammates Sam Mayer and Brandon Jones in what was shaping up to be a four on one battle against Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill in the closing laps.
But with two laps to go in regulation, things started for fall apart for the JRM foursome when Allgaier made a move on Berry to take over second-place, causing the single-car train to break up and in turn sent Jones for a spin off of Berry’s nose in the process.
The spin would send the race into overtime, but the chaos wasn’t done yet.
While cycling under caution, Berry fell by the wayside as his fuel tank ran dry, leaving just Allgaier and Mayer as the remaining JRM cars looking to keep Hill from winning at Daytona for the second straight year.
With a push from Mayer on the bottom lane, Allgaier was able to put his Chevrolet in the lead, but the push also forced him out front too far, leaving the door open for Mayer and Hill to try to make a run at him on the final lap.
And that’s exactly what happened.
A boost from John Hunter Nemechek into Turn 1 gave Mayer the burst of speed he needed to swing high on Allgaier and try to take over the lead for himself. Allgaier moved up to try and block him, but Mayer was already alongside and moving past him, starting the next chain of events that would in turn bring the race to an end.
As Allgaier lost speed due his block attempt, Mayer now had to fend off a rapidly advancing Hill, who made contact with Mayer, sending him spinning sideways and eventually flipping onto his roof and skidding down the Daytona Superstretch upside down.
Mayer’s car would flip back right side up once it got to the grass, but in the moments between his aerobatics and the caution being called, there was still a race to settle.
In the scramble following the contact between Mayer and Hill, Allgaier had to fend off at attack on two fronts with Hill on the high side and Nemechek on the low side.
The seconds continued to tick by with Allgaier continuing to lose ground to Hill and Nemechek before NASCAR eventually threw the yellow, freezing the field and bringing the race to its conclusion.
However, which driver would be crowned the champion was still unknown as the tower had to review the footage to determine who was out front at the time of caution. Ultimately, the review showed that Hill was in the lead by mere feet when the yellow came out, making him the winner over Nemechek in second and Allgaier in third place.
“I’ve been short my whole life, so I guess it’s just fitting,” Allgaier said afterwards. “But really proud of everybody at JR Motorsports. Our Chevy Camaros tonight were absolutely blazing fast.
“Obviously, I’m glad Sam is okay. He had a heck of a run there at the end, and I hated that Josh ran out of gas.
“Just really proud of everybody on our team. This whole team has worked their guts out. To carry the Brandt 70 years, to have the platinum anniversary on the car, and to have the adversity we had tonight, to go to the back and have that spin and just battle our way through, it’s crazy how fast our car was tonight and how good we were in traffic. Jim Pohlman has done a fantastic job and this whole 7 team.
“Just disappointing. I thought I could get enough of a draft off of that 8 car and maybe they couldn’t catch me, but I just got too far out there, and that was really all it came down to. But proud of our team, proud of everybody at JR Motorsports. Obviously all of our partners, Chevrolet, Hendrick engine shop, just really proud of the effort that we put in.
“I think we’ve got a lot to walk out of here with our confidence high, and we’ll go on next week to California, and I think we’ll be equally as fast.”