Allgaier entered the season finale with momentum with four top-fives in the last six events, but without his crew chief. Jason Burdett was suspended from being atop the box at the Ford EcoBoost 300 after his No. 7 Chevrolet was found with an unattached brake cooling hose post-race at Phoenix Raceway.
Starting 16th, the 31-year-old spent the race running behind his fellow championship opponents as he and fill-in crew chief Chad Knaus fought the handling. During the final stages of the event, he closed the gap running sixth behind his JR Motorsports teammates, but eventually faded to finish 10th.
“We felt like we did all the work up until this point and did a good job yesterday in practice, felt like the car had good speed in it, and unfortunately when the race started tonight we knew something was way off,” he said. “We just struggled kind of from the drop of the green. There were moments of brightness; there were a few restarts where we picked up quite a few spots and thought that maybe we had a shot to get up there and battle it out. But ultimately on the long run we just really started dropping speed, and just way too loose to be able to drive at the end of some of these runs.”
Even if Burdett was on the pit box, Allgaier doesn’t feel their night would’ve gone differently as they would’ve made the same decisions on the set-up pre-race, and during the event.
Hemric, meanwhile, had the speed and handling, but he ran into a different problem.
“We came down here, we did our jobs,” Hemric said. “We practiced, qualified, did everything we needed to do to race the guys we needed to race, and I was looking forward to battling it out with everybody with our 21 Poppy Bank Chevrolet, and just wasn’t meant to be. We were able to stay out in front of those guys the first stage, come down pit road, (and I) thought we were in pretty good shape to make our race car a little better.”
Starting from fourth, he ran in the top-five throughout the first stage, falling out just before the checkered flew to finish seventh; but more importantly, he spent the entire stages ahead of the three other championship contenders, including holding off Elliott Sadler in a close battle the final five laps.
He began the second stage equally strong, running fifth ahead of William Byron and Sadler when he was forced down pit road on Lap 61 of 200 with an electrical issue. He spent several laps on pit road, finishing the race in 34th.
“Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, and if it were meant to be it would, but it just wasn’t our day,” Hemric said. “But I don’t want to let that take away from everything from our efforts that we did all year to put ourselves in position and to get ourselves here. Proud of the effort, and that’s why we decided to keep running all the laps because we didn’t give up and that’s what got us here, so whether we were 12 laps down or not, we wanted to complete the race, and that’s what we did.”
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