By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
A driver’s fear is unable to see the racetrack, hoping to avoid chaos. Both Justin Allgaier and pole sitter Christopher Bell faced that epiphany and were involved in a crash after Stephen Leicht hand grenaded his engine the exit of Turn 3 during Saturday’s iK9 Service Dog 200 at ISM Raceway in Avondale, Arizona, ending Leicht and Bell’s afternoons.
With 71 laps to go, Leicht’s No. 01 JD Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro had just lost a lap to race leader Kyle Busch, and was running in 20th when his engine let go, and let go big as the the corner was covered with smoke and oil. Leicht (who finished 31st) brought his car to a complete stop past the Dogleg, as his car was still smoking heavily and then a large puff of flames came out his right exhaust pipe.
“I’m absolutely gutted,” said Leicht. “We had such a good run going for us. I feel so bad for the leaders, I couldn’t see anything once it went. Just sbsolutely nothing we could do.”
The biggest implications from Leicht’s engine failure were the drivers behind him, and those were were Allgaier and Bell, who were both running second and third respectively until both slid simultaneously.
Allgaier’s car went wide and hit the wall, sustaining cosmetic damage on the right rear of his No. 7 Brandt Chevrolet Camaro. Fortunately, his JR Motorsports crew were able to repair his damaged car through multiple pit stops under caution, and avoided a potential second straight DNF after losing an engine himself last week at Las Vegas.
Allgaier stayed on the lead lap for the restart and settled for 14th, falling a lap down in the closing laps to race winner Busch.
According to Bob Pockrass’ tweet, Allgaier said that his car took off once he ran over Leicht’s oil and there was nothing that could’ve prevented his car from sliding into the wall.
Allgaier said his car just took off, got his right rear in the oil and once he got out of oil, impossible to get stopped. I asked if he still likes this place, he said: "I'm beginning to wonder. I don't think it likes me." Then mentioned got car good enough for top-3 finish.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) March 10, 2019
The same can’t be said about the pole sitter and Stage 2 winner, who lost control and backed his No. 20 Rheem Toyota Supra into the wall. The back end took significant damage and brought it to the garage, resulting Bell’s first DNF since Texas last November.
Bell said that both the smoke and subsequent oil on the track was the cause of his accident.
“It was definitely both,” said Bell. “I saw him blow up going into one and I figured it was going to be slick, I saw the No. 7 car start sliding and I started sliding and as soon as I entered the smoke wall, I couldn’t see anything. I lost my bearings of where I was and the next thing you know, I was in the wall.
“Frustrating and very disappointing because our Rheem Supra was extremely strong. I don’t know, it was weird. My car didn’t really feel that much worse that run, but once I got back behind those guys, I just really couldn’t pass them.”
The 30th place finisher added that after leading 68 of 200 laps, his performance was starting to diminish after losing ground to Busch, who he had tremendous battles throughout the afternoon.
“It was early, that last run was definitely our worst run of the race. That’s frustrating,” Bell explained. “I don’t know, my car didn’t feel that much different, but I got behind them and just couldn’t make up any ground.”
Saturday’s fourth caution of the afternoon turned out to be the last of the race. As for Bell, he lost his 18-point points lead over Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick coming into ISM Raceway, and now sitting second in points, trailing Reddick (who finished third) by four markers.