By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Justin Allgaier’s bid of competing for that elusive NASCAR Xfinity Series championship has been swept up by the Phoenix haboobs, and was eliminated after a disastrous final stage plagued him down to a 24th place finish in Saturday’s Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM Raceway.
”Disappointment,” Allgiaer said after being eliminated. “At the end of the day we did everything right this year. We had a great season. Today we did everything right at the beginning part of the race. That was probably the most frustrating part. We led a lot of laps. We won both stages. All things considered it was going to be a great day.”
His No. 7 Brandt Chevrolet Camaro set the early pace over the rest of the field, scoring max points in both stages. While setting his eye on win No. 6 to lock himself into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his JR Motorsports teammate Tyler Reddick, and the sensational rookie Christopher Bell were hot on his tales in the final stage, which proved to be an absolute disaster.
After leading 69 of the first 94 laps, Allgaier’s afternoon began to decline after Bell momentarily took the lead. The first ripple effect occurred on Lap 136 when NASCAR debutant Tyler Hill spun right in front of him. The fourth place man slowed down, but got sideways after fellow playoff contender Austin Cindric ran into the back of him. Fortunately, Allgaier was able to keep his car stabilized and avoided Hill.
Allgaier restarted eighth after the field made their pit stops, and was now trailing Reddick by 10 points heading into the 145th lap. Then, the Riverton, Illinois native’s day took a dark turn as John Hunter Nemechek got loose and went up high reaching start/finish. Then Reddick got into Nemechek, sending his car into Allgaier, who was running on the bottom.
Consequently, the contact damaged Allgaier’s right front fender, forcing him to repair the damage and restarted in 21st. With a lot on the line, Allgaier blistered around the one-mile oval, passing several cars and when Tommy Joe Martins poured fluid on the track on Lap 154, he was up to ninth in just five green flag laps.
Still needing a win to lock himself into the Championship 4, Allgaier faced an even catastrophic problem, no brakes with 21 laps remaining.
Once his right front brakes began to engulf in flames, the No. 7 Chevrolet started dropping back and 13 laps later, Bell lapped him, adding the final blow to the regular season champion’s downfall in the “Valley of the Sun,” and valiantly coasted to a disappointing 24th place result, ending the Round of 8 sitting seventh in points, 24 points short from the cutoff.
Allgaier said he’s unsure what caused the incident, and found it hard that hitting Nemechek may have knocked the brakes.
“I don’t know what happened in that wreck,” Allgaier said. “(Nemechek) hit in a weird spot and it really doesn’t make sense to me, and that’s probably the hardest part.
“I didn’t realize how bad it was until the metal went onto the floor, and about wrecked. At that point, I didn’t want to wreck anybody and kind of survive here.”
Now, it’s just simply going out to win the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead Nov. 17, and end the season on a high note.