By David Morgan, Associate Editor
BRISTOL, Tenn. – A day after the NASCAR world held its breath as word of Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s plane crash spread like wildfire, Justin Allgaier was well on his way to bringing some good news to his team owner courtesy of a win in Friday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
However, it was not to be as a cut tire struck Allgaier’s No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the closing laps, forcing him to pit road and having to settle for a eighth-place finish on the night after leading 131 laps.
For Allgaier, it was déjà vu all over again as he was also the dominant car in the spring race at the track, only to be denied a win in that event as well.
“I’m not even sure the word disappointment begins to describe, not even just this race, but this year, this place,” said Allgaier. “You know, this was my favorite place to come and race. We just sit here with 329 laps led in two races and nothing to show for it. This one’s going to hurt for a while. We had the best car there at the end.
“Just super disappointed. There’s no words that could even describe it.”
Throughout the night, Allgaier had shown the speed, not only on restarts, but also on the long run. When the caution flag flew with 19 laps to go, it was coming down to a battle between old tires and new as Allgaier had several more laps on his Goodyears, while Reddick had fresher rubber at his disposal.
On the restart, Allgaier pulled away from Reddick and looked to be well on his way to the win, but then disaster struck when his tire went down in Turn 1, sending him into the wall and eventually to pit road.
Though he was able to return to the race quickly, he was already two laps down by that point, with his chances at the win gone in an instant.
“Really without warning, going down the front straightaway, I felt like I had a tire maybe going down. It was hard to tell, so I checked up a little bit getting into (Turn) 1 and as soon as I turned off in, it just went straight up the hill. At that point, you’re just a passenger,” Allgaier said of his issue with the tire.
“We drove away from them. Tire wear had been fine all night. I’d have to look at the tire. I don’t know if it was cut or we just wore it out. With as little of tire wear as we’re seeing with this hard of a tire, I mean, they weren’t going to catch me at the end. That pace we had at the end there on that last restart, there’s no way they were going to catch me.
“Hindsight, yeah, if we come down and we pit with them and we put tires on, I still think we beat them, but on the flip-side of it, you never know with Bristol.”
With a winless streak dating back to Indianapolis in September 2018, Allgaier has come close to winning several times since then, but one thing or another has kept them from ending the race in Victory Lane.
“Tonight’s a perfect example of how our year has gone,” Allgaier said. “I don’t know what to do any different. Hats off to the guys at the shop. They build a great race car. I mean, it was obvious we had a really fast car and we’ve got nothing to show for it again at Bristol.
“We’ll just keep plugging along. These guys work way too hard. Everybody at our shop, everybody on this 7 team works their guts out. They work way too hard to have stuff like tonight happen.”
Though a win eluded him once again, Allgaier leaves Bristol fourth in points as the best driver without a win in 2019.