By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Rain and pitting for tires late in the going didn’t hinder Justin Allgaier’s quest of being the highest Xfinity Series regular in Saturday’s Zippo 200 at The Glen, finishing third after having a last lap battle with A.J. Allemendinger.
“All-in-all I think adjust ability in these Camaros is exactly what we needed,” said Allgaier. “(Crew chief) Jason Burdett and the boys did a fantastic job with our Brandt Professional Agriculture Camaro, and really gave us a car that we can battle with.
“I think that was the most important piece for us. We were battling all day, and we lost a little track position there, but I felt like at the end of the day our strategy was the right one. We had fresh tires at the end.”
Allgaier began the 82-lap contest in 10th, and quickly relayed information to his team that his car was tight in and free off everywhere before the first full course caution came out for Tommy Joe Martins’ Turn 6 crash.
For the remaining laps in Stage 1, Allgaier was able to work his way up to fourth and scored seven stage points. He pitted under caution for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment, restarting in 11th for the next stage that was plagued by rain.
Despite the wet conditions surrounding the 2.45-mile circuit, Allgaier worked his way from sixth to second, and was the class of the field among the Xfinity Series regulars during this sequence.
As Allmendinger won the second stage, Allgaier got an additional nine stage points to his name, shaping out to be a huge points day for the two-time season winner.
“The rain was super challenging,” said Allgaier. “I’m kind of like A.J., I’ve always hated the rain and when the rain came, I think we were the only car that could run right there with him. I kind of wished it would’ve rained a little more.”
The track began to dry, making wets unnecessary and went back to slicks for the final stage as Allgaier restarted in 19th. For most of the final stage, he was able to stay inside the top-10 until Burdett called him for fuel only during a cycle of green flag stops.
With 25 laps to go, Allgaier was running in 13th, and reported of being tight and loose off. He was able to have an opportunity to make an adjustment under caution with 15 laps to go and restarted in 11th. From there, he had a solid run and worked his way up to eighth five laps later, and eventually moved his way up to fifth with five laps remaining.
Wheel hopping from second-place Brad Keselowski with three laps to go spiced things up, benefiting Allgaier as not only he got free track position, but also got by Ryan Preece for second. However, Joey Logano had pulled away to near five second lead, putting out of contention for his third series win.
Coming to the white flag, Allgaier faced pressure from Allmendinger, as the two battled it out with the latter getting the edge for the runner-up spot.
For the 32-year-old regular, his third-place effort marked his 10th top-five finish of the season, his third straight season that he accomplished this feat.
After the race, Allgaier said he could’ve run more aggressive against Allmendinger, but he didn’t want to risk a solid points day and end up with wrecked cars.
“We got into a battle with A.J. coming to the checkered, I probably could’ve done some things a little bit differently to defend him off,” said Allgaier. “It was great points day for us, so there’s need to crash both of us coming to the checkered. We gave up a spot, but all-in-all, it was a solid top-three and good race car today.”
Allgaier sits fifth in the regular season standings, 37 points behind points leader Christopher Bell as the series heads to another road course, the 2.258-mile circuit known as Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the running of the Rock N Roll Tequila 170 in Lexington, Ohio on August 11.
In three previous starts, Allgaier has finished in the top-10 twice with a track best fifth in 2016.