Justin Allgaier wins the Xfinity Playoffs opener at Bristol

Justin Allgaier wins the Xfinity Playoffs opener at Bristol

Justin Allgaier won Friday night’s Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway, the opening race of the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, on an unnerving night for JR Motorsports.

In a thrilling start to the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, Justin Allgaier won the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, September 15, outdueling Daniel Hemric in a last-minute battle.

Allgaier also made a late push back to the front during a late pit stop for four fresh tyres thanks to a superb tactical decision by crew chief Jim Pohlman.

Allgaier surged from 13th place following the restart on lap 257 of 300, overcame Daniel Hemric for the lead on lap 288, and then pulled away to win by 1.695s, claiming a place in the Playoffs Round of 8.

Additionally, Allgaier made headlines by casually stating that he had renewed his contract with JR Motorsports for the upcoming season.

Team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. made a rare appearance as a driver, leading 47 laps before pulling off the track on lap 271 with flames from his car burning his firesuit. Earnhardt swiftly exited the course and eventually placed 30th.

And that came after a single wreck in which three JR Motorsports cars got involved and forced them to pull out of the race.

Josh Bilicki’s spin into Turn 1 on lap 248 brought out the sixth and final caution, and Pohlman didn’t waste any time summoning Allgaier to the pits. The No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet’s driver, Hemric, was pursued by Allgaier as he made his way through the rest of the field until he eventually initiated the overtake on Hemric with just over 12 laps left in the race.

The win was Allgaier’s first since his debut Xfinity Series victory in 2010 and his second at the 0.533-mile short track. Allgaier led a lot of laps in between victories, but he wasn’t able to return to the winners’ circle until Friday night.

“This team has done an amazing job at this racetrack since I started at JR Motorsports,” Allgaier said.

“We led a lot of laps, and the monkey was definitely on our back. The pit strategy there… coming down pit road by myself was nerve wracking, right?

“I’m speechless, man,” he added. “This place, Jim Pohlman and I circled this place on our calendar when we started the year, before we ever even took a green flag lap, we said we want to win Bristol.

“Man, we won Bristol! It’s Bristol, baby—let’s go!”

See also  Joey Logano wins dirt Truck race at Bristol

The triumph marked Allgaier’s third win of the year and 22nd overall. Meanwhile, Hemric struggled in the beginning of the race until the top lane came in. Later, his car gradually began to move again.

“We just enough race car there that once the top came in, I was going to live by it,” Hemric said. “I thought it would be OK.

“I thought if I could hold the No. 7 (Allgaier) off to get to that next group of traffic maybe I’d have a chance to at least race him down in the last five or 10 laps.

“Yeah, the tires were just too much there. Him and Dale Jr. had the best cars all night.

“So yeah, proud of this group. We definitely stole a finish tonight but came a long way through traffic.”

John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, and Chandler Smith—all drivers for the playoffs—placed third through fifth, respectively. In comparison to Allgaier, Custer led 109 laps, a lap less the leading driver.

On lap 167, a four-car crash in Turn 1 forced the retirement of three JR Motorsports cars, including two piloted by Playoff contenders Josh Berry and Sam Mayer.

Berry’s No. 8 Chevrolet blew a right front tire, turned up the track into Mayer, and struck him, sending him into the outside wall after making a small side-to-side contact with the No. 1 Chevrolet.

Brandon Jones, who was trailing his JR Motorsports teammates, was also involved in the crash, along with Ryan Sieg’s No. 39 Ford.

Additionally, JR Motorsports was not the only team that teammates encountered problems with each other. Austin Hill, the regular-season champion, was struck by Sheldon Creed on lap 217 just before the starting/finish line.

Hill’s Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet spun out of control in Turn 1, bouncing off the inside wall and slamming into the outside SAFER barrier. As a result, Hill couldn’t continue racing and eventually placed in 33rd as Creed finished 11th.

There was more drama as Earnhardt maintained the lead or was very close to it before his car started to smoke with 30 laps to go.

As the series moves on to the second Round of 12 Playoff race on September 23 at Texas Motor Speedway, Mayer, Berry, Parker Kligerman who lost 53 laps due to repairs in the garage, and Jeb Burton who started from the rear in a backup car and finished 13th all fell below the cut line for the Round of 8.

Leave a Reply