Dale Jr. Confident in Allgaier for Xfinity Series Finale

AVONDALE, Arizona — JR Motorsports driver, Justin Allgaier, captured his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win of the season in the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 to secure a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 33-year old led a race-high 85 laps and regained much needed momentum after besting “The Big Three” heavy-weights of Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and reigning series champion, Tyler Reddick, for his second career victory at ISM Raceway.

The Illinois-native may not have as glamorous statistics as his fellow-competitors battling for the 2019 title, but team owner and 15-time Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., has the utmost faith in his four-year driver of the No. 7 Chevy Camaro. The 10-year series veteran has successfully raced his way into the playoffs in every full-time season he’s raced in NASCAR’s lower division and Earnhardt feels this experience has aptly prepared him to bring JR Motorsports their third-consecutive championship.

“Obviously, his age and experience is very helpful,” Earnhardt exclusively told POPULAR SPEED following the event at ISM Raceway. “He’s been in a lot of situations that I think he can lean on to maintain his composure and poise in some pretty tough situations.”

In conjunction with experience in the Xfinity Series, the 44-year old team owner believes his driver has been able to capitalize and adapt throughout his career in certain mid-race situations. Earnhardt has had the luxury of watching Allgaier intently over the last two years after stepping down from full-time racing in the Cup Series and turning to broadcasting on NBC.

“Anything sets him apart (from Bell, Custer and Reddick) I think if you watch a lot of the races,” the team owner relayed. “The success that he has is based off of restarts – he’s really aggressive on restarts. He just takes advantage of the guys around him and he did that again today. When he won at Chicago (Speedway) a few year ago, he had a great restart there at the end to take the win away from the other guys. He technically rarely has the best car in the race, but makes up for it on restarts when he gets that opportunity.”

Earnhardt also broke his silence on the possibility of making history by becoming only the second owner in the Xfinity Series to capture three-consecutive titles.

“Anytime you can put your name in the record books for anything, it’s awesome,” the 15-time Most Popular Driver exclaimed. “We feel pretty lucky and blessed to already have a couple of titles and those didn’t come easy, this one won’t either. This is going to be a real, real hard battle down there. I think we’re lacking a little bit of speed compared to that guys, but it’s close. We’re going to need everything we can get and little luck too. That’s how it’s been the last couple of times. I don’t know that we showed up with the best car throughout the day at Homestead, but we were there at the end when it mattered and that’s what you got to do. I’d put Justin up against any of those guy to position us to be in that position at the end.”

Even more impressively – should Allgaier notch JR Motorsports a third championship – the trio of titles would come from three different driver, which has never been done before in the series.

Earnhardt’s driver will without a doubt be the underdog heading to Homestead, but Allgaier is carrying a hefty set of momentum into the Sunshine State after quite possibly the most important win of his career to date. Witness if Earnhardt and Allgaier can eclipse this monumental achievement in the Ford EcoBoost 300 series finale from Homestead-Miami Speedway at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time on NBCSN.



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


Justin Allgaier clinches Championship 4 spot with convincing Phoenix win

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Justin Allgaier’s timing was impeccable.

After a pit road speeding penalty and a subsequent spin KO’d the winning chances of polesitter Christopher Bell, Allgaier took full advantage, leading the final 66 laps of Saturday’s Desert Diamond West Valley 200 to win for the first time this season and advance to next week’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Allgaier joins the so-called Big Three of Bell, Saturday’s runner-up Cole Custer and third-place finisher Tyler Reddick in the title race. Custer clinched his spot after running third in the second 45-lap stage. Reddick, the defending series champion, earned his spot on points after saving fuel over the final 79-lap green-flag run.

Allgaier won the race wearing a helmet designed by his six-year-old daughter, Harper.

“This is the first time I’ve won with Harper’s helmet in the car, and it means a lot,” Allgaier said. “To have the speed that we’ve had (this year) and not be able to pull it off has been disappointing. These guys have rallied behind it. We said when we came here that we need to come here and get a win so we could go to Homestead, and we did that…

“We had a hotrod today. I don’t think we could have beaten the 20 (Bell), but when he made his mistake, we capitalized on it. That’s what it’s all about… No question (not winning) is a weight on your shoulders, man. You can’t even begin to describe it.”

Custer was closing fast at the finish and cut Allgaier’s lead of more than three seconds to .810 seconds at the checkered flag on Lap 200.

“I was giving it all I had,” Custer said. “I was really struggling with the brake pedal. I kind of lost it at the start of the run. I had to save the whole run until like 15 laps to go, and then I just let it happen. I just came up a little bit short, but I think that was the best run we’ve had at Phoenix in a long time.

“I’m looking forward to Homestead, and hopefully we can do one spot better.”

The top four drivers in the Playoff standings entering Saturday’s race were the four who will compete for the championship at Homestead. Missing out on points were sixth-place finisher Austin Cindric, eighth-place Chase Briscoe, ninth-place Michael Annett and 10th-place Noah Gragson.

John Hunter Nemechek ran fourth behind Reddick followed by an impressive Zane Smith, who tied his career-best result in his 10th Xfinity Series start.

Bell won the first two stages, bringing his total of stage victories for the season to 22, but was flagged for speeding .03 mph over tolerance under caution at the end of Stage 2. After restarting from the rear, Bell climbed to eighth before spinning out while trying to cut the apron off Turn 2.

“I feel like I gave up a winner,” said Bell, whose focus nevertheless has been on next weekend’s race at Homestead, where he turned in a disappointing performance in the title event last year.

“This is what it’s all about,” Bell said. “It all comes down to this one next week. I’m ready for it. I feel really good about where we’re at, and our car is going to be extremely strong next week.

“We’ve prepared a ton for this. Ever since we left Homestead last year, we knew that this race was where we needed to improve. Pretty much all year long, we’ve been focused on Homestead.”


JR Motorsports is Chasing History Heading to Phoenix

AVONDALE, Arizona — As the NASCAR Xfinity Series gears up for the semi-final race at ISM Raceway, team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. finds himself in a position to achieve something only done once previously in series history. With JR Motorsports currently taking up three spots in the Round of 8 – Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett and Noah Gragson, a third consecutive title is very possible. 

Allgaier is the lone driver in position to advance to the Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway sitting fourth in the standings, 18 points ahead of Chase Briscoe. Annett finds himself 28 points out of the final spot and Gragson is essentially in a must-win situation sitting in a 47-point hole.

JR Motorsports has won two consecutive championships. The first coming from the current driver of the No. 24 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, William Byron in 2017. The second was with current reigning Xfinity Series Champion is Tyler Reddick – who now races for Richard Childress Racing.

Should Allgaier, Annett or Gragson advance to Miami and win the 2019 Xfinity Series Championship they would eclipse a feat only done once in the series history. BACE Motorsports successfully won three-consecutive championship in NASCAR’s lower division from 1995-97. The first came from Johnny Benson Jr.; Randy LaJoie then drove his way to back-to-back titles from 1996-97.

This will not be an easy task for Annett and Gragson, who both find themselves in essentially a must-win scenario at ISM Raceway.

Annett is in the midst of a career-year driving the No. 1 Chevy Camaro for the 15-year Most Popular Driver recipient, Earnhardt. The driver of the No. 1 captured his first win across all three of NASCAR’s premier series in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. This comes in addition to a season where he has totaled six top-fives and 18 top-10’s with an average finish of 10th through 30 races.

For Annett, he believes his path to Homestead will reside in qualifying.

“Tomorrow is going to be crucial because qualifying at a track like this is at a premium,” Annett said. “This was probably the most beneficial track for group qualifying.”

The 33-year old driver is referring to the transition back to single-car qualifying that was mandated by NASCAR in May. At the start of the 2019 season, many drivers voiced their displeasure with the new group qualifying rule that had just been implemented.

“It’s all about putting the whole weekend together,” Annett further elaborated. “Winning the race is the only way we can go into this. Justin [Allgaier] is so good here and being 28 points behind him, it’s going to be difficult to out-point him.”

The driver of the No. 9 finds himself in the most difficult position of the JRM trio heading into the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 at ISM Raceway. It will be an uphill battle for Gragson who sits eight in the standings, but he is no stranger to success at the Arizona-based track.

While the 20-year old driver is still in search of his first win in the Xfinity Series, he almost found victory lane in the Valley of the Sun in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports last season, ultimately finishing second. Gragson has not been able to notch a top-10 at ISM Raceway in the second-tier series, but he does have an 11th place average finishing position in both of NASCAR’s lower divisions.

On the flip side, Allgaier is in a favorable position heading into a track where he’s had immense success. The driver  of the No. 7 Brandt Chevrolet found victory lane in the desert Spring of 2017 after leading 85 of 200 Laps. The 33-year old started on the pole last Spring and has led an additional 145 Laps since his last win in Avondale, Arizona.

He also posts a 9.1 average finish in 18 starts with six top-fives and 11 top-10’s at the track formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway. This is all in addition to a career-high top-10 streak the Riverton, Illinois-product has strung together over the last 15 races.

But the 10-year series veteran is no where near satisfied.

“The crazy thing is – even with the top-10 streak – I still feel like it’s been a terrible year,” Allgaier said. “There’s been so many races that haven’t gone our way, but it’s definitely helped us grow as a team. We’ve done a great job at rebounding and managing the adversity.”

Allgaier acknowledges the fact that the series is being dominated by “The Big Three,” in Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer. However he believes there’s one thing that sets him apart from the young guns – experience.

“I’m the only driver who’s made the Playoffs every year since they started this format,” Allgaier shared. “Those three guys have had a lot of speed this year and they’ve been very good, but we’ve also noticed that when their days don’t go the way they want to go that they’ve had some challenges dealing with that.”

The odds are in the series veteran’s favor and he is going into the final two races with a must-win mentality. Allgaier is aware that these last events will not come without adversity, but also expressed great joy in the fact that the series finale will be ran at this track where he’s had so much success over his career.

Expect to see the trio of JR Motorsports drivers tomorrow with a heavy emphasis on a positive qualifying effort. If NASCAR superstar Dale Jr. wants to achieve the historical feat of three-consecutive Xfinity Series Championships, the road must go through the 1.5-mile track that is ISM Raceway.



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


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.


TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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



NASCAR Xfinity Series Regular Season Comes to Close in Las Vegas

It’s Vegas, baby! And what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas … unless it’s the last NASCAR Xfinity Series race of the regular season. Then, everyone will know exactly what happened.

We find ourselves at the culmination of the Xfinity Series’ regular season. So far, we haven’t seen any betting odds at sportsbooks online, but we have had a look at the entry list and we know a thing or two about this track. So, let’s take a gander.

NASCAR Xfinity Top-Five

Tyler Reddick leads the pack of Xfinity drivers with 1078 points. Christopher Bell is riding the second-place slot 2i5h 1028 points and in a couple of ways is having a better season than Reddick, given he has two more wins than the No. 1 driver. Cole Custer sits in third and he has a chance to finish the season with an even higher seed if he keeps his momentum through this weekend. Cole finished seventh in Indianapolis, adding another 39 points to his tally.

Justin Allgaier hasn’t taken a checkered flag yet this season, but he has a whole handful of top finishes. His second-place finish at the Lilly Diabetes 250 attests to that. His 10 top-fives are good enough for 4th place. Rounding out the top-five, Austin Cindric has 877 points but had a bit of trouble over at the Brickyard with a DNF.

Can No.7 Keep Momentum?

Justin Allgaier should be on our list of top fantasy drivers for the final race of the regular season. His consistency for finishing in the top 10 has been astounding. Last weekend, he qualified at No. 8, which made nine straight top-ten starts. Look for him to qualify well in Las Vegas as well and bring that number to 10 consecutive top-tens.

The No. 7 car immediately started moving up the board after the start. Allgaier gained a couple of positions and finished sixth during the first stage and even took the second-stage win and another playoff point by holding off Kyle Busch. That said, he couldn’t hold the Buschwacker off forever. Kyle Busch was gifted the lead after a crash with just eight laps to go. He also got a push from Allgaier’s teammate. So, the win ‘wasn’t in the cards’ for Justin Allgaier. He was hoping to get back to back wins at the Brickyard but instead had to settle for his fourth second-place finish this season.

Kyle Busch admitted that he got a lot of help from the drivers behind him and that if the race would have gone on for just two more laps, the No. 7 car would have caught him. Instead, he took his 96th victory lap in the Xfinity Series.

Back to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch won here back in March, but he’s not on the entry list for Joe Gibbs Racing this Saturday, So, will Justin Allgaier finally get a win on the 14th? If he finishes strong, he could collect a full 8 playoff points – getting by Cole Custer– and make a strong run at Homestead and possibly even the Championship.

Points leader, Tyler Reddick should be considered as well as the Indiana race-leader Christopher Bell. Both of these drivers took hard collisions at the end of the race in Indiana and will be looking for some redemption in Las Vegas.

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


OBSERVATIONS: Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway

Some of NASCAR’s loyal fan base have been begging for the old Bristol Motor Speedway to return – single-groove along the bottom, with bumpers and rooting needed to make ground. The racing on Thursday for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series gave hope that was the direction headed for concrete half-mile.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series debunked the theory with drivers using the top lane, but that was fine as the racing was still exciting all throughout.

Just like the last night with the other two series, there was racing all the way around the half-mile for positions all the time. It did not seem that a driver could be found by themselves as if they cleared their competitors, lap traffic came into question. That was fine, since it gave the fans something to watch all night long.

Although the top groove was the place to be, there was a way for passes to be made through the middle and bottom lanes of the track. Just ask Tyler Reddick. He started from the tail of the field, and drove his way to the second. He would spin while underneath Justin Allgaier for position, but managed to drive his way from 24th back to the front once again.

Essentially, he was a beast behind the wheel – fitting with Tame The BEAST as the sponsor of the No. 2 Chevrolet, and deserved to be in victory lane by race’s end. However, he did not have the quickest car at the end of the event.

Allgaier had been able to gap Reddick on the long green flag run, and was able to do so on the restart until a tire issue took him out of contention. Now after leading over 300 laps in both Bristol Motor Speedway races this year, he has just a 30th and eighth-place finish to show for it.

As he said post-race, that’s been “the story of our season,” in a year that has seen the veteran overshadowed by the big three young stars in the series – Reddick, Cole Custer, and Christopher Bell. After winning five races last season, the No. 7 has yet to reach victory lane in 2019 with nine top-five’s in 22 races. It has not been for lack of effort, as he has ran up front throughout the year, but bad luck in the form of mechanical issues or wrecks has continued to take him out of contention when it matters.

Considering JR Motorsports is one of the big teams in the series, it’s a shock to realize they have not won since Michael Annett scored the victory in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. It’s certainly got to be disappointing after placing three drivers in the Championship 4 in 2018.

While Allgaier’s disappointment is the highlight of the night, there’s many ways the race at Bristol could have gone differently on Friday night. Kyle Busch blew up after winning the second stage – what if that does not happen? There was also the incident on Lap 38 that collected Custer, Bell, Erik Jones, and Joey Logano at once. What if they would have gotten to contend? The worst part is a lap car caused those contenders to be out of the event. 



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


OBSERVATIONS: MoneyLion 300 at Talladega Superspeedway

Every driver for themselves, trying to do whatever it takes to get to the front of the field with making sure to time every single move they make right. That is the critical to being successful with the NASCAR Xfinity Series restrictor plate package which sees everybody equal right through the field with consistent three-wide racing. 

Those who followed through were rewarded on Saturday afternoon.

From the drop of the green flag, three drivers showed the determination to make whatever move was necessary – Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Cindric. They were rewarded when the checkered flag flew in the MoneyLion 300 with top-five finishes.

Of those three drivers, Reddick pushed the boundaries throughout the event. Sometimes he went a little too far, as notable with his contact with the outside wall during the second stage. Though despite whatever was thrown at him, he showed a constant stream of determined aggressiveness to make his way back to the front on each occasion. His move at the end to get the run on Christopher Bell with 10 to go, followed by blocking Briscoe, were the icing on the cake for the win.

Reddick has often been criticized for his all-or-nothing driving style. It got him into trouble on a couple occasions last year as he threw away races that many believed he should have won. However, he continues to show that it works for him as recall, he won the championship last year for JR Motorsports. Now he could be the perfect driver to put Richard Childress Racing in the conversation this year alongside Joe Gibbs Racing’s Bell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer.

Bell appeared to be in the catbird seat for his third victory of the season, but proved late on a pair of his blocks during the final 30 laps to secure the advantage. It was like irony in watching the driver known for being aggressive everywhere else be almost a bit conservative on Saturday afternoon.

It was also odd to not see a JR Motorsports entry not in the conversation at the end of the event as they have dominated the restrictor plate events in the Xfinity Series for the past couple of seasons. However, Daytona winner Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier were taken out in a wreck together, while Noah Gragson suffered contact with the inside wall. Gragson was their highest finisher in 11th at the checkered flag.

If you are making early picks for the next restrictor plate race, you will want to include the three aggressive drivers from Saturday – but don’t forget about Allgaier. He’s the best driver in the series on the plate tracks to not have a win on his record yet. Saturday’s 28th-place finish marked his first outside of the top-eight at Talladega since 2010. He’s also shown the same ability at Daytona, despite his statistics being up-and-down, seemingly always finding a wreck while up front at the end of these races. 


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


OBSERVATIONS: Alsco 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway

The continued chant from fans is to see more short tracks on the schedule for all three NASCAR National divisions, and Saturday’s Alsco 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway was a good example as to why.

From the drop of the green flag to the checkered, drivers battled side-by-side for positions throughout the field. Although the high line has become the preferred groove since the reconfiguration, track officials managed to put down enough sticky compound on the bottom that enabled drivers to be able to get runs underneath each other through the corners. 

Ultimately, fans were able to entertained right down to the checkered flag, with four-way battle for the win between Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones, Cole Custer, and Tyler Reddick

Prior to the event, a bunch of discussion surrounded Bell, and his future in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. For many, it’s not a matter of if he will get a chance in the top-tier division, but when. Certainly scoring his second win of the season adds merit to that.

Though while everybody wants to move him forward, he says he’s right now comfortable in the Xfinity Series.

“It’s cool to have people talking about it, but I love where I’m at,” he said. “Honestly I love these Xfinity cars. They’re a ton of fun to drive. I sent Wayne (Auton), the Xfinity (Series) competition director, a text this last week saying that I love the Xfinity rules package right now. I don’t know if you want to call it the small spoiler, the small splitter, whatever it is. I feel like dirty air is not really that big of a deal in these cars, so they’re a ton of fun to drive and they’re a lot of fun to race too.”

Bell has always been a driver that likes to challenge himself, and push the envelope. When comparing the rules packages and hearing him say that right now it seems the Cup Series cars “would be a little bit easier to drive than what we’re doing right now,” it makes you wonder if that’s where the comments are coming from.

Regardless, you cannot argue that Bell put together the run that he need to today, as he kept himself up in second to pounce when Justin Allgaier had problems, and was able to work his way around Jones when Jones stayed out on old tires. Bell entered the season as the championship favorite, and this probably won’t be his last win of the year.

But let it be known – he did not have the dominant car today. That honor went to Allgaier, who dominated through the first two stages until mechanical issues sent him to the garage. It adds to the JR Motorsports’ driver’s frustration, as he was taken out of the Las Vegas event with a blown engine, and has not scored a top-five since placing third in the second event of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway – despite showing speed on a weekly basis. 

Although JR Motorsports has been right up there with Joe Gibbs Racing in the past couple of seasons, it seems they are lacking this year as none of their drives have truly contended for a win – except for Allgaier today, and Michael Annett winning at Daytona International Speedway. In contrast, Reddick is putting Richard Childress Racing on the map after leaving JRM following his 2018 championship.

As we move into the summer months and the true contenders begin to emerge from the pack, it will be interesting to keep an eye on both teams, as well as Cole Custer and Stewart-Haas Racing.


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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


ASHLEY ASKS…… Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier has started off the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series campaign on a high with back-to-back podium finishes. This weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the JR Motorsports driver hopes to score his first victory of the season – but first shared his thoughts with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

JUSTIN ALLGAIER: I’m excited for Las Vegas. For me, statistically it’s been a great race track not only for myself, but for JR Motorsports. It’s been a great track for us to show speed and run well, especially early on in the season. I think that’s always the most piece in starting off well and that’s one of the tracks we’ve been able to generate some momentum on.

From my standpoint, I’ve had a great start to the season so I’m even more excited about Vegas than I’d normally be. So it should be really good.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

PS: Compared to other intermediate tracks, what stands out or is the biggest challenge of Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

JUSTIN: I think a couple of things that make Las Vegas Motor Speedway are for one, the wind. We talk about it every time we go out there it seems. It’s always extremely windy, and the direction varies. You may practice on Friday and the wind will be blowing towards turn three, and then on Saturday, you start the race and it’s blowing towards turn two. So the wind is always very tricky.

The other part of Las Vegas that’s interesting to me is the speed. It’s one of the faster mile-and-a-halves that we go to and you carry a lot of throttle time, but the track has got some characteristics, bumps to it; it can be tricky to navigate those bumps. So not only are you trying to carry the little extra speed, but trying to not crash yourself.

It can be a challenge, but on the flip side, it promotes great racing. Every time I’ve been out there, I feel the racing has been fantastic. It really shakes it up and makes it a lot of fun.

PS: What are your thoughts on the first two races of the season to date?

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

JUSTIN: Obviously, Daytona from a company standpoint was fantastic. To see Michael (Annett) get his first win was huge. I’m bummed that we were the two part of the one-two for sure, but that was a great day for us. we were able to come out of Daytona with a racecar that was completely in tack, not one ounce of damage on it, knowing that these speedways are extremely challenging. The more we can keep the cars together and working on those and refining those race after race, the better we will be. So that was a plus.

Then to go to Atlanta and back it up with a top-three with a solid day. We weren’t by far the dominant car of Atlanta, but we were respectable and we were able to put ourselves in position all day. So I feel really good about where our program is at. Everybody in the shop has worked extremely hard to make sure we have racecars and race teams that are capable of going to the race track and putting race winning cars together each week.

I’ve been extremely happy and excited about what that looks like for us because last year, I think we finished 38th in Daytona and then went to Atlanta and had an okay day – but not great. So to be able to fire off this year definitely on a better foot, I think really bodes well for what is to come this season.

PS: We know what the team is capable of given the results we’ve seen. But what can you and the team do to make things even stronger to make this year even more successful?

JUSTIN: I think the biggest thing for us is just two things. One thing is refining; we had a great program last year, but I think sometimes it’s really easy to get complacent when your program is really good and you’re running well. You tend to want to stick to that, which is fine, but I think the biggest thing about this sport which is always is a challenge is progression and moving forward. So that’s why I think the word refinement would be a big part of it.

Rusty Jarrett | NKP

But then the bigger part is execution. Last year, we executed really well at quite a few races, but we didn’t execute everywhere and especially in the playoffs. We had a really rough playoffs, and ultimately it took us out of a shot of winning a championship. But really, it took us out of winning some races and really putting ourselves in that championship picture.

So disappointing is definitely an understatement for how last year ended, but I think refinement and execution are the biggest things for this year.

PS: Beyond Las Vegas, what track on your schedule are you most looking forward to?

JUSTIN: For me, Phoenix (ISM Raceway) is always a great one; I love going to Phoenix. It’s always a lot of fun. I really enjoy going to Bristol; it’s probably my favorite track on the entire schedule. So looking forward to getting to those, but on the flip side, with the program that we’ve had and the success in the year’s past, all of them are race tracks that I am looking forward to.

As well as we’re running right now, we have a great shot at running up front and winning some races. So all of these next five or six on the schedule, I’m really looking forward to.

PS: On the flip side, what track do you wish was on the NASCAR schedule that currently isn’t?

Matthew T. Thacker | NKP

JUSTIN: That’s tough. I miss Gateway (Motorsports Park); that was really close to home where I grew up. I do miss that one being on the schedule. There’s a lot of race tracks that are on that fence, right? They could easily be NASCAR tracks. There’s a lot of talk about the Nashville Fairgrounds; that’d be really cool if we could ever go there. If you look at road courses, then Circuit of the Americas would be a really cool place to go to.

I think there’s a lot of places that would fit the bill really well, but I also understand number one that they have to have the ability to have a race, whether that’s the seating for the fans or just the ability to generate a fan base enough to come support the weekend and makes money for the promoters, the teams, and everybody in that regard. That makes it few and far between to find a race track that can fit that.

PS: We’ve seen drivers explore running different series and cars. Is there anything on your bucket list to do?

JUSTIN: I’ve been actually been fortunate enough to get to do that. I get to go race a Porsche with the folks of Brandt Agriculture. They sponsor a car in Brazil and I’ve been going down there the last couple of years. I have a dirt car as well, so we ran the Chili Bowl with a dirt midget and I race a dirt modified probably 15 or 20 times a year.

I get to do quite a bit of racing, but I would like to run the 24 Hours of Daytona. I think that’s my bucket list race that I really, really want to do. Other than that, I enjoy all types of racing – I’m a big fan and watch different types of racing, but I don’t necessarily always get to the opportunity of being behind the wheel of all those cars that I enjoy.


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


OBSERVATIONS: NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway

After the complete chaos experienced with the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, there were high hopes for the NASCAR Xfinity Series to deliver an exciting event on Saturday. Oh boy were we wrong.

The majority of the NASCAR Racing Experience 300 at Daytona International Speedway was ran in a single-file line along the top groove of the track, the same thing that we saw in the Gander Outdoor Duels and the Advance Auto Parts Clash.

As the laps counted down, nobody even chose to drop out of line and make a move – even through the final five circuits. The only driver whom tried to make something happen throughout the event – Chase Elliott, the same driver who tried to make a move happen and was met with failure in the Duels, as well. The decision to try and attempt to make things exciting ultimately bit him as he only scored a 10th-place finish after running 20th with 15 laps to go.

Needless to say, it was a boring afternoon of racing.

The resulting style of racing is something that’s probably welcomed by the team owners, as they’ll once be able to take home all the cars without much damage. However, it presented a huge letdown to the fans following the exciting finish last year that saw Tyler Reddick just edge out his teammate Elliott Sadler for the victory.

The only difference between the two seasons in the package is the new composite body. While it may not have meant much in the end, it could be what caused the racing we witnessed today.

However, it doesn’t explain why the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers did the same thing, as well.

Could we be seeing drivers be ultra conservative, and perhaps trapping themselves in a hole with nowhere to go due to the momentum of the single-file lane? That’s quite possible, too,

Either way, it doesn’t give you much hope for Sunday’s Daytona 500 as if the Xfinity drivers didn’t make it exciting for the stages and the checkered, what makes you think they will in the Cup Series now? Maybe it’s best if you just tune in for the closing stages of the Daytona 500 rather than watch the whole thing and end up falling asleep. Or maybe we could be wrong.

No matter the package, though, JR Motorsports has opened the door how they did last year with a one-two finish at Daytona as Michael Annett led the way for Justin Allgaier. It’s an interesting dynamic as just like last year, it’s the JRM driver least expected to visit victory lane of the four teammates (Annett) pacing the championship favorite (Allgaier). We all knew that last year, Reddick used the comfort of having the win in the bank to grow and make the late season charge to take the title.

Will Annett and Travis Mack be able to do the same thing together?


FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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