Victory puts Allgaier in prime playoff position
JOLIET, Ill. - One great restart gave Justin Allgaier the lead and a second gave him a victory Saturday, capping a banner day for JR Motorsports in the TheHouse.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
When the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs begin next Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, the team will hold the top three seeds with rookie William Byron first, Allgaier second and regularseason points champion Elliott Sadler third.
JRM has all four of its drivers in the playoffs with Michael Annett seeded 12th.
“It’s exciting to have cars this competitive,” said team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. “You have to remind yourself to earlier times when it was really hard to run in the top three, really hard to win races.
“We’ve got a great group of people now, a lot of talent, a lot of ability behind these guys.”
All but three of the 12 playoff spots were clinched before the green flag waved Saturday by virtue of either victories or points. Annett, Blake Koch, and Gaughan, who held those three positions before the race, kept them.
Monster Energy Cup regular Kyle Larson grabbed second from Sadler at the white flag. Daniel Hemric finished fourth and Austin Dillon fifth.
Byron, the series leader with three victories, was knocked out of contention early Saturday by a transmission failure.
Allgaier’s victory was his second of the season and fifth of his career. A native of Riverton, Ill., also won at Chicagoland in 2011 in a race decided on gas mileage.
This time it was all about power and timing. Allgaier drove onto to the apron to shoot past Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney from third to first on a restart after 185 of 200 laps.
“Coming down to the end, I didn’t think we had a shot,” Allgaier said. “I thought we were going to be top-five maybe.”
After Ryan Reed spun, Allgaier drove away from Sadler and Dillon on the final green flag with seven laps left. Erik Jones had been running fourth but was penalized for jumping the restart.
“Justin really got after it there and just found himself with an opportunity and used it,” Earnhardt said.
Sadler is the defending winner at Kentucky. The field will be cut from 12 to eight after three races and then to four before the finale in Homestead, Fla.
“We’ve been very consistent the last two months on ovals and very happy with our program,” Sadler said. “It showed today with Justin and I running in the top five, six, the whole day long, showing the speed in our cars.
“Hopefully we’ll be there when the time comes.”
IndyCar: Josef Newgarden led a Team Penske parade in qualifying for the IndyCar season finale with a blistering run that put him in control of the championship race.
Newgarden three times broke the track record, including on his final qualifying run Saturday at Sonoma Raceway. He powered his Penske Chevrolet through the 12 turns at 1 minute, 15.5205 seconds.