By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
DARLINGTON, S.C. – JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier battled his boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the way to a top-10 finish at Darlington Raceway.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular may have lost touch with Earnhardt in the final green flag run of the race, but the duo often raced around one another. Allgaier battled teammate Noah Gragson as well as Austin Cindric, taking the checkered in 10th before being scored ninth after race winner Denny Hamlin was disqualified.
When Allgaier and Earnhardt did battle at the end of stage two of the Sports Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200, he slapped the wall, bouncing off of it several times. The No. 7 Armour Vienna Sausage clipped the outside wall in turns three and four. Allgaier then slammed it on the final lap of stage two when a tire popped.
“I hit it two or three times just trying to maintain and hold on to it,” Allgaier explained. “Ultimately, we popped the tire. After the race I went over and we talked about it. He said ‘I saw you hit it. Keep hitting it! Come on, I’m coming!’ He had so much fun out there today. You could see it in his smile and in his voice. That’s what it’s all about.”
The track, suited to Earnhardt’s liking, was tough for Allgaier. The 33-year-old struggled with a tight condition all race long. Allgaier ran the high line, the low line, and nothing changed. Ultimately, he had fun racing with his boss.
“It’s a fast racetrack that is going to come down to tire management and being there at the end, I knew that was going to be his strong suit as a racecar driver,” Allgaier explained. “Hats off to him. And to do it on throwback weekend, I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better weekend to come and have a run.”
Earnhardt’s run was a morale boost for the championship organization. Allgaier, Michael Annett, and Earnhardt each ran throwback paint schemes to icons of the sport. With the increased focus on the race, JRM’s performance appeared to improve compared to recent races.
Allgaier detailed how having the boss in the car was huge for JRM.
“It’s huge (for JRM). With the TV gig he’s been not removed but we don’t see him as often as we did when he was ‘racer Dale.’ I think it’s fun to see him happy. He’s enjoying what he’s doing.
“He puts a lot of pressure on himself but there’s no pressure to come back here win a race and run good. He can come and do this and it’s just fun having him around. “Everybody at the shop has gotten behind this No. 8 car, seeing him, the paint scheme, firesuit.
“Dale has been so involved in making this weekend happen for him. He takes a lot of pride in how these racecars look and perform. It’s good to have him here to see where we perform and where we struggle on a week-in week-out basis.”
The ninth-place finish is the 16th top-10 finish for Allgaier this season and 168th of his career.
The Riverton, IL native remains fourth in the championship points standings, 172-points behind Tyler Reddick. He is locked into the playoff grid via his 243-point lead over 12th, held by Ryan Sieg.