By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
While Kyle Busch was running away with the win in Friday night’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the fight was on behind him to see which of the series regulars would be able to come out on top.
Leading the way were the two JR Motorsports teammates, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, as they came home third and fifth behind the two Cup Series regulars of Busch and Daniel Suarez. Throughout the night the JRM duo and the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were the class of the field, with all 300 laps being led by those four drivers.
Though they weren’t able to end the night in victory lane, both Sadler and Allgaier came away happy with their runs as they look to build momentum into the playoffs, which start at Kentucky in late September. Allgaier is already locked into the playoffs courtesy of his win at Phoenix, while Sadler has yet to visit victory lane, but has amassed enough points to be able to lock himself in regardless of what happens over the next month.
Sadler would start the night in eighth place, where he would finish the first stage. He would move up to fourth at the end of the second stage, before taking over the lead for a 15-lap stint from Suarez at lap 187. Though he would eventually lose the lead to Busch, he held steady in the top-five throughout the remainder of the event, scoring his ninth top-five finish of the year.
Leaving Bristol, Sadler holds a commanding 110-point advantage over teammate William Byron in the battle for top spot at the end of the regular season.
“It’s very satisfying,” said Sadler. “We had a great run for us tonight. The goal is to make the playoffs. The goal is to score as many points as we can, week in and week out. We have a really good chance of being the top seed and get that 15 bonus points to carry into the playoffs. Proud of my team, really good car all weekend. I made a mistake and hit the wall with about 50 to go and tightened my car up too much. I think I had something for those guys for those guys on that last restart. I’m so proud of my guys.”
“So much fun to run here at Bristol anyway and then to be able to race up front all night and make some passes. Thank you to Bristol Motor Speedway for putting the VH1 on the bottom to create some opportunity to pass. It was really fun to run the bottom of 1 and 2 and the top of 3 and 4. I think all in all it was a great night. The track put on a show and we were really happy with our run.”
Like his JRM counterpart, Allgaier also put on a show at the front of the field, only to be outshined by Busch in the end. Though Busch led early and often, Allgaier showed that he would be a force to be reckoned with early in the race, utilizing the outside line to drive past Buch and take the lead just 17 laps into the race.
Over the course of the event, Allgaier would find himself up front five different times for a total of 75 laps, giving him the second most laps led in the race. His fifth-place finish would be his best finish since finishing fourth at Watkins Glen two weeks ago and gives him some momentum heading to Road America next week.
“The 18 had the car to beat, but everyone on our Brandt Agriculture Chevrolet did a great job all weekend long,” said Allgaier. “Our car was fast. We had speed. That last run, I don’t know if it was the combination of tires and adjustment or what happened, but our car didn’t fire off like it had. I felt like that was our biggest strength up to that point. Hate it for the guys. We finished fifth, but still a great day and finding speed before these playoffs is going to be a big deal.”
“To be able to drive by the 18 at whatever junction in the race it is always a good time. You know you have to have speed to do that. He’s been on it, one step away from going for the triple, so it’s definitely good to be behind him and learn from him and obviously, hope that you can beat him. You never know what’s going to happen.”
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