By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Justin Allgaier came into Phoenix Raceway with high expectations after winning last November’s race, but a pit strategy knocked him out of contention during Saturday’s LS Tractor 200, finishing in 13th after leading 51 of 200 laps.
“The definition of luck that I talk about all the time is when opportunity meets preparations,” Allgaier on his top-15 finish. “We were prepared, but we just didn’t get the opportunity. I hate it for the No. 7 guys and everybody JR Motorsports. They built a really fast race car and we don’t have a victory to show for. Just a tough day at the office.”
Prior to the costly decision making pit call, Allgaier was in control of the race for the first time on Lap 40 when he got by Kyle Busch, who was determined to get his 12th Xfinity Series win at Phoenix.
Allgaier would hang on to that lead and captured the Stage 1 win over Ross Chastain. Then in Stage 2, Allgaier continued having a tremendous battle with Busch for the race lead but lost in the battle as Busch was back in front on Lap 76.
He remained in second until the caution came out for Colby Howard, who clobbered the backstretch wall on Lap 84.
With the stage winding down, it led to various pit strategies with Allgaier going for four tires and fuel. He restarted in ninth when the race resumed with a two-lap shootout as his JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson won the stage.
Allgaier gained five spots on the restart to cross the line in fifth, capturing a total of 16 stage points in the 200-lap race.
The two-time Phoenix winner continued looking strong in the final stage after going low to get by Gragson in Turn 1, regaining the lead with 80 laps to go when he went to the bottom to get by.
Up to that point, if the competition wanted to win at Phoenix, they would have to get through Allgaier.
Then the turning point of the race happened 16 laps later when a tangle between top-15 drivers Brandon Brown and Dillon Bassett brought out another caution. The two drivers would have a post-race confrontation after their days were dashed due to this incident.
Once pit road was open, crew chief Jason Burdett brought Allgaier to pit for just fuel, sacrificing the lead and save a fresh set of tires.
This call would add further wounds to yet another frustrating afternoon at the office as Allgaier would have to restart in 22nd, ultimately costing the series veteran a shot of back-to-back Phoenix victories.
Following the strategy, Allgaier kept his No. 7 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet Camaro squad confident and assures them the strategy will work out.
“We’re in this together. It’s all gonna work out,” Allgaier over the radio. “We’re gonna get a caution and gonna go wax ‘em at the end.”
Unfortunately, it failed after Allgaier struggled to gain valuable track position as the race only had one more caution. Therefore, for the third time in just four races this year, Allgaier had no result to show how strong his car was.
Brandon Jones led Joe Gibbs Racing to a 1-2-3 finish, scoring his second career win in the process.
Allgaier’s 13th place result was a disappointing outcome, but he was still content with Burdett’s decision.
“I’m good with the decision. Obviously, it didn’t work out and to say I’m not disappointed, I would be lying. We had a fast Camaro today,” Allgaier said. “I thought we made the right call, I even told Jason on the radio multiple times that I still felt it was the right call.
“I’ve been beat way too many times by that particular instance. Knowing how many laps and knowing how good our car was, just the cautions didn’t fall out the way we needed to.”
Allgaier heads to next Saturday’s EchoPark Automotive 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway ninth in points after four races. In nine starts at the 1.5-mile circuit, Allgaier has an average finish of 11.0 and scored his personal best third-place last season.