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XFINITY

Justin Allgaier Enters Playoffs with Momentum

LAS VEGAS — Justin Allgaier continues to make a statement heading into the playoffs, with a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season finale on came to a close with Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

However, that’s not quite indicative of how strong his car was throughout the day. While the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 was mostly dominated by Christopher Bell, one of the few drivers that proved able to battle with him was Allgaier.

“Going into the playoffs, you want momentum on your side and you want to good on the mile and a half tracks because the season is definitely weighted towards the mile and a half side,” Allgaier told POPULAR SPEED. “So, I feel good tonight about the fact that you know, we had speed early on, especially when the sun was out. You know, I felt like we were able to kind of keep Christopher honest early on. But I think also too, it’s going to be interesting to see…

The (No.) 2 (of Tyler Reddick) knew that they needed to make a bold move to win the regular-season championship. They went out and they did it, and obviously it worked for them. So, I think we get to hit the reset button. We got to go next week to Richmond, and go try to do our best job, and hope that, I hope that it puts us in your position. I feel good about it.”

The strong day at Vegas followed probably Allgaier’s best race of the season last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where again toe-to-toe with a dominant Joe Gibbs Racing car in Kyle Busch and came home second.

For a driver that has had zero wins this season, he has certainly proven to be a contender.

“I feel like the last month and a half we’ve had way better speed, we’ve done a better job, we’ve moved ourselves in the right direction, we just haven’t had the luck to go along with it,” Allgaier said. “So we need the luck to kind of have, you know, the old saying is, I’d rather be lucky than good any day. We need that to happen. But on the flip side of it, you know, these last few races have been really good and I’m disappointed with tonight and there’s been a lot of part of the season where I’d have just, I’d have loved to have been 10th, let alone 5th. So you know, we definitely need to keep working on it.”

The 33-year-old will enter the playoffs as the sixth seed with 12 playoff points at his disposal.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

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XFINITY

Michael Annett Continues Strong Season

JOLIET, Illinois — Michael Annett’s impressive turnaround during the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season continued at Chicagoland Speedway, where he captured a third-place finish Saturday.

The finish did not come easy for him though, as despite being a top-10 car for most of the race, troubles on pit road plagued the No. 1 team throughout the race. Ironically though, it was pit strategy that gave the advantage he needed, as after staying out much longer than most of the field, a perfectly timed caution allowed him to keep the track position he gained.

“It was a long day. You know, my guys on pit road were really good all day, and I screwed up twice there. I sped once and stalled it a second time,” Annett told POPULAR SPEED. “So, for all that going on, I think we passed the most cars, and Travis had an amazing strategy, keeping me out there, and that caution felt perfect for us. He was about to call me in that lap, then it came, so felt perfect for us. Got those tires, got the lead.”

While Annett was able to lead, he knew that it would be tough to hold off the likes of Cole Custer and Joey Logano, but was glad he was able to keep his JR Motorsports Chevrolet in the top-five at the end of the day.

“I knew it was going to be hard to hold off those guys that led the whole race, and they were top of the board all weekend, so you try not to get down when they get around you on those restarts, knowing that they’d been passing you all day, you know, there’s no magic switch, so couple of them got by me, but then we were able to help hold off the guys that we should have, and got a top five.”

The finish is his fourth top-five, and sixth consecutive (11 in total) top-10, putting himself ninth in the points. Though, he is already locked into the playoffs via his win at Daytona International Speedway to start the season.

“It’s been a really fun season so far and a testament to all these guys’ hard work and confidence they have in me, I have in myself this year, and we’re just, we’re having a blast. Perfect way to start off this 15-race stretch right now.” Annett said.

After missing the playoffs last season, this was a driver that fell of people’s radar. However, with the season he is having, it may be important to keep an eye on Annett moving forward.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Sadler’s Time To Shine?

For the last two years, Elliott Sadler has solidified himself as one of the best running for a championship in the XFINITY Series. However, he has yet to capture his first title.

Now one might think after the constant disappointment of coming up short, Sadler might suffer a slump on-track because of it. After all, he has had some of his best years and still, nothing. Meanwhile, the drivers that have defeated him have gone on to occupy rides with the best teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

With all that in mind, who would be able to continue to keep their head up and do so at a high level after such struggles and let downs?

Well, Sadler.

Throughout the first 11 races in the 2018 season, he has nine top-fives (on pace to surpass his career-best 15 in a year) with five in the last five events and has yet to finish outside the top-10, something nobody else in the sport can claim. The 43-year-old owns a 48-point lead and has cemented himself as the early championship favorite.

You could state that Sadler has not gotten enough recognition for his stride. Despite all the adversity that surrounds him, he has proven to be one of the most positively consistent drivers around.

However, his underratedness can also be defended.

He has been good, but great? While the No. 1 team has been successful so far, there is still a lot they can do to be better.

For example, he needs to win.

Since 2013, Sadler has only won four times. His last coming in 2016. That’s not exactly a positive considering stand-alone races, he’s got more experience than his competitors, is with a team that has won two championships in that span (JR Motorsports), and the increased rules limiting Cup participation.

During this year’s Dash 4 Cash four-race program, not only was he never victorious, and because of that his team never seemed to be the biggest threats around. They only qualified in the top-five for half of the races (zero poles) and, did not lead the most laps at any point.

That is something that needs to change ASAP, before the playoffs. If they can win a race (stand-alone, not stand-alone, doesn’t matter) that would be huge for their momentum because with Sadler’s proven consistency, that could be enough to trigger a run equally as impressive as his current stat line heading into September.

We still have yet to reach the halfway point, but this could be what decides the fate of the season. No regular has multiple wins so far, so if Sadler can step up it may be enough to win the title; if not, his consistency may be overshadowed by a JR Motorsports teammate or fellow young driver yet again.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Allgaier Excelling at the Right Time

Justin Allgaier nearly walked away with the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship in 2016.

Homestead-Miami Speedway has proven to be one of his best tracks and after making it to the Championship 4 last November, he closely contended with Daniel Suarez throughout the race.

However, restarting behind a slower car ultimately cost the JR Motorsports driver a shot at the title.

Performing similarly throughout the Playoffs will likely again land him in the championship race, but Allgaier is taking nothing for granted and elevating his game to assure another opportunity.

The road back to Homestead-Miami started on Saturday as he won TheHouse.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway, gaining crucial momentum and playoff points. 

After winning at Phoenix in March, he secured five bonus points, but this victory proved even more rewarding. He earned a total of 15 additional points, five from the win and ten for finishing second in the regular season standings. 

Now heading into the Playoffs, he sits just two points behind top-seeded teammate William Byron.

Allgaier seems like a lock to make the Championship 4 for a second consecutive year, and Chicagoland was a significant step forward for the No. 7 team.

Before Saturday, he only had one top-five finish at a 1.5-mile track this season. With five of the final seven races at intermediate venues, this victory shows improvement at the right time.

“This is a big moment because I feel that mile and a half program has been our weakness at JR Motorsports, at least on the No. 7 team,” Allgaier said. “So to be able to come out today and have that momentum going into the playoffs, that’s huge, that’s what we got to have.”

Similar performances to Saturday in the next seven races will be essential for Allgaier. While the No. 7 team has consistently been among the best cars in the field, capitalizing at the finish will be critical.

“Speed is one thing, being able to execute at the end of these races is another,” Allgaier said.

Redemption will be on the 31-year-old’s mind heading into the post-season where the goal will be to stay alive to go for it all in the season finale.

Once Homestead-Miami arrives, the challenge is on, and with momentum on his side, Algaier may not be finished winning in 2017.

“Hopefully that’s the start of another five or six before this over, that would be incredible,” Allgaier said.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

6 Million Reasons Why Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hasn’t Signed Bubba Wallace

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and sister Kelley Earnhardt Miller have built JR Motorsports into a championship-caliber NASCAR XFINITY Series team.

And with driver Bubba Wallace looking for a permanent ride, Earnhardt’s massive fan base is urging their hero to bring Wallace into the fold.

Wallace won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday in a thrilling and emotional battle checkered flag.

That victory capped a rollercoaster season that’s seen his Roush Fenway Racing XFINITY Series team shut down for lack of sponsorship and Wallace fill in admirably in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Cup car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Aric Almirola, who was temporarily out with a broken back.

But if Earnhardt’s Twitter account is any indication, Wallace won’t be signing with JR Motorsports in the near future.

Look closely and you’ll see it has nothing to do with Wallace and everything to do with the $6 million it costs every year to field a competitive XFINITY car.

Categories
XFINITY

Byron Proving Successful Beyond Expectations

Daytona and Indianapolis are two of the biggest stages in NASCAR where it often takes years of practice to learn how to perform well.

William Byron has defied these steps to success, winning at both tracks in his first full-time year in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

The JR Motorsports driver’s standout year continued with his victory in Saturday’s Lilly Diabetes 200 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s his third win in the last five races but by far the most impressive of his early career.

Many skilled young competitors have emerged out of the sport’s lower ranks and reached the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in recent years. However, Byron is proving to be the most talented.

His seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins last season marked the most for a full-time driver in the series since Greg Biffle won nine in 1999.

While he didn’t capture the championship, his presence was felt, and he established himself as a future superstar of the sport.

Using momentum to his advantage has proven to be one of Byron’s most valuable strategies. After winning his first Truck Series race, he went onto to win five of nine events.

Now having scored three XFINITY Series wins in the last month, it’s clear that it’s hard to slow down Byron once he’s on a winning streak.

His performance stands out from recent competitors who have gone on to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Erik Jones scored 13 wins combined between the two lower series in 100 starts before moving to the premiere circuit.

Byron is at ten victories in only 42 starts and could surpass Jones by the end of the season.

Chase Elliott captured five wins in 75 starts and similar to Byron, scored consecutive victories in his rookie campaign and won at a historic facility, Darlington.

Byron’s poise behind the wheel and ability to limit mistakes also sets him apart.

It has been well publicized that he didn’t begin racing until he was 15-years-old, many years behind most young talent in the sport.

Being able to learn at such a quick pace and translate that knowledge into success with drastically less experience is a remarkable feat.

Indianapolis seems to be just the start of what is shaping up to be an exceptional career for Byron. It’s not easy to win at such a challenging track but he made it seem simple, and that speaks volumes about his skill and potential. 

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

JR Motorsports Emerging as Championship Favorites

JR Motorsports picked up the win and placed all four cars in the top-10 Saturday night at Iowa Speedway, marking the second time this season that the organization has accomplished this feat.

William Byron, winning his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series race, led the charge for JRM and affirmed their position as the title favorites.

Justin Allgaier‘s victory at Phoenix marked the first event of the season when all four cars came home with top-10 finishes.

With no NASCAR Cup Series drivers in the American Ethanol E15 250 field, the series regulars were able to compete head-to-head for the first time this season and JRM’s strength was showcased throughout the event. 

The team has had an impressive start to the year and continues to occupy the top three positions in the driver’s standings with Elliott Sadler leading the way followed by Allgaier and Byron with an 89 point gap back to fourth-place Daniel HemricMichael Annett also currently sits in a playoff spot in 10th.

While the season has yet to cross the halfway mark, Iowa offered a glimpse of how the post-season may play out.

JRM placed two cars in the Championship 4 last year but ultimately came up short of the title at Homestead-Miami.

Now with both Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series after battling Sadler and Allgaier for the title last November, JRM’s experience in making it to the season finale may provide the upper hand throughout the playoffs.

Hemric, Ryan Reed, and Brennan Poole sit fourth through sixth in the standings, and all struggled at Iowa, placing outside the top-15 with Reed finishing highest in 19th after being involved in two incidents. They will all need a rebound in the coming weeks and begin to score more playoff points if they hope to challenge JRM this fall. 

Other than Reed who picked up five playoff points with his Daytona victory, Sadler, Allgaier, and Byron are the only other drivers in the series with more than one playoff point.

If the organization can carry this strength and speed into the post-season and use the playoff points to their advantage, it will be difficult for the competition to top them in the championship fight.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Runner-Up Finish Affirms Byron’s Potential

William Byron came within 0.012 seconds of capturing his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series victory at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.

Two late cautions stacked the field up and allowed the JR Motorsports driver to take the lead on each ensuing restart. However, as Denny Hamlin approached off the final corner, the two raced door-to-door before Hamlin edged out Byron at the finish line to claim victory.

It marked Byron’s best career series finish and seventh top-10 of the season.

While the 19-year-old’s runner-up result is impressive, his ability to challenge and battle the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars stood out most.

Hamlin and Brad Keselowski dominated the event, leading a combined 88 of the 125 laps and looked to be the drivers who would duel for the victory. The second to final caution placed Byron in the picture, and he rose to the occasion.

Competing with and nearly topping premiere series veterans isn’t an easy feat, especially in only the rookie’s second career start at the speedway and his run attests to his talent behind the wheel. 

While Saturday marked the first time Byron showed such prowess at the front of the field in the series, similar performances later this season will continue to set him apart from both regulars and young competitors.

A trip to the winner’s circle seems to be right around the corner. Byron would be the third driver competing for the title to pick up a victory in 2017, and first since his teammate Justin Allgaier won at Phoenix in March.

Next weekend’s race at Iowa may present his best opportunity yet. In each of his first starts at the track in the K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, he came home with the checkered flag.

Showing similar strength at Iowa and beyond will be key as Byron looks to further establish himself as the next young star to emerge out of the XFINITY Series and succeed at NASCAR’s top level.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Allgaier Continues to Keep Pace with Cup Regulars

A thrilling close to Saturday’s Pocono Green 250 put Brad Keselowski, Justin Allgaier, and Kyle Larson against each other in the final laps.

While Keselowski passed Larson on the last circuit to take the victory, Allgaier had a say in how the race concluded before crossing the finish line in second.

Pocono Raceway isn’t the first track where the JR Motorsports driver has given the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers a run for their money.

When Allgaier captured the victory at Phoenix in March, he had command of the field throughout the day and proved to have a stronger car than Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones who ended up second and third respectively.

He was again in the mix at Richmond, challenging eventual race winner Larson before finishing in the runner-up position.

Both Phoenix and Richmond were Dash 4 Cash races where NASCAR Cup Series competitors with five or more years of experience aren’t eligible to race.

However, the drivers who can compete in those events have proven to be dominant in the series this year, winning six of 12 races.

Allgaier’s ability to match their performances and finishes has now placed him atop the points standings as he leads teammate Elliott Sadler by one point.

While Sadler has had a stronger season to date through five top-5 and ten top-10 finishes, Allgaier’s ability to collect more points in each stage has made the difference.

If the teammates can continue their consistency, they will likely maintain a points advantage over the rest of the field.

But Allgaier may keep the upper hand in being one of the best series regulars at mixing it up with the often dominant Cup Series competitors.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Byron Earns Second Consecutive Top Five

FONTANA, Calif. — William Byron made contact with the outside wall of Auto Club Speedway a few times with his No. 9 Chevrolet, but still posted a fifth-place result — the best among NASCAR XFINITY Series regulars.

The JR Motorsports rookie has scored four top 10s in the first five races of 2017. After an engine failure at Phoenix International Raceway dashed his Camping World Truck Series title hopes last November, the 19-year-old driver has shot out of the gate without any sign of slowing down.

He won the pole at Phoenix last week and earned his first career XFINITY top five at the desert oval (finished fourth). In Saturday’s Service King 300, he made his Auto Club debut and said it was “a blast” to race on the 20-year racing surface.

“I’ve never been here. It’s pretty cool. You have a lot of options … you can run the apron in [Turns] 3 and 4, and there are three or four grooves in 1 and 2 as well,” Byron said. “It makes it a lot of fun for drivers and makes the hard work pay off in the race.”

He sits second in the standings, sandwiched between JRM teammates Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier, who visited Victory Lane at Phoenix. Sadler leads Byron by 17 points.

As a Truck Series rookie, Byron set a record by winning seven races with Kyle Busch Motorsports. This year, he’s facing tougher competition with Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars racing in the XFINITY Series, but like many other series regulars, he embraces the challenge.

“It helps a lot because you can’t just make mistakes you could if you were just facing the regulars,” Byron said. “It’s not that we wouldn’t all be racing really hard, it’s just that Cup guys are on it every lap.

“It’s about getting good restarts and making sure you do all things right and don’t make any mistakes.”

The next track on the schedule is the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, which was where Byron notched his second truck win last year. In the two previous 1.5-mile XFINITY races (Atlanta and Las Vegas), he finished seventh and 14th, respectively.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.