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XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 at ISM Raceway

A perfect mix of intermediate track speed and short track aggressiveness, ISM Raceway delivered with Saturday’s Whelen Trusted to Perform 200 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

The young stars of the series would race up front side-by-side for the lead, with their battles lasting multiple laps as drivers traded lanes and approaches towards trying to get to the front. There was even that good short track rubbing at times, with contact in places. The show displayed by Austin Cindric, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Allgaier, and Christopher Bell in challenging for the victory deserves five stars.

Of course, the biggest star should go to Bell, and that’s not just for being the race’s eventual victor. He hasn’t made this round of the playoffs easy, wrecking on the first lap of the past two races to put himself into a hole entering ISM Raceway – a must-win essentially. On top of that, he failed pre-qualifying inspection three times, resulting in having to start from the rear of the field.

Even being a rookie in the series, he showed poise coming through the field, rather pacing himself versus trying to get everything in the first 10 laps. It may have taken him the entire first stage to get to the top-10, but that was fine as all that mattered on Saturday was the win for him.

He also displayed growth in his battles with Cindric, choosing when to stick his nose in there and back out. The decision to give up on running the outside, and then make his move on the bottom worked on two different occasions and ultimately scored him the victory. The credit extends to the team, though, as they are doing well in managing their young driver, with both crew chief Jason Ratcliff and spotter Tony Hirchman barking orders on the radio when it looked like Bell would cross that edge of control, again. 

The manta “names are made here” is used in the XFINITY Series and for good reason. It is supposed to let you know the future drivers of the sport, while giving them space to grow so they can compete with the stars of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Bell’s progression as a driver is following that perfectly, and another solid, well-thought out performance next weekend could produce a championship.

Meanwhile, it was a mistake that proved costly for Allgaier. He won the first two stages, but a slow pit stop combined with contact ultimately saw his championship chances end. After being arguably the strongest driver before the post-season with the regular season title in hand, the playoffs did not go his way from the beginning. In each of the rounds he showed the speed that allowed him to perform well, but incidents would not see him get the finishes. A surprise for a veteran of the series, and proof that sometimes luck does play a role.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

OBSERVATIONS: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway

Although the first round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs went smoothly with the expected drivers transferring to the next round, it appears as though the trend will not continue without some rocky waters.

The first 37 laps at Kansas Speedway on Saturday were anything but ordinary, as proved by the drivers’ comments with Matt Tifft asking, “What was in everybody’s coffee this morning?” Spencer Gallagher put it perfectly after his tire failure, that “you get one wire crossed, and everything goes to hell,” which may spell the playoff bracket for many now. 

A slip by Justin Allgaier on the first lap getting loose while battling for second took out himself, along with fellow playoff contenders Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric, and Cole Custer. Custer was the only driver who was able to continue, but that was with heavy damage and no power steering. 

To put this in perspective, Bell and Allgaier each entered this round more than 25 points over the cut-off line. Their advantage is now wiped out just like that, with Bell hanging on by five as Allgaier is now below. Custer could still make up his gap to fourth, but it will take some luck – after this race, though, anything is possible. Cindric, meanwhile, is pretty much in must-win territory ranked 43 points behind. 

Ultimately, as Jeff Burton and Steve LeTarte emphasized in the booth, this opened the door for somebody to take advantage and lock themselves in. No driver was able to do that, as John Hunter Nemechek scored his first career victory instead. It wasn’t a cake-walk though, as the multiple grooves of Kansas produced a thrilling battle for the lead between Nemechek and Daniel Hemric.

Ross Chastain went out and took the No. 42 car to victory lane for Chip Ganassi Racing, and now Nemechek has done the same. A lot of people have discussed Chip Ganassi wanting to have Chastain in the seat more next year virtue of his success, but could this turn the tables in Nemechek’s favor? Certainly he put together the best job audition possible.

Hemric, meanwhile, was the highest of the playoff contenders with a runner-up ahead of Elliott Sadler; the pair now rank at the top of the standings with a small cushion. The more surprising factor with these two is neither has yet to win a race this year, but don’t be surprised if they do in the next three weeks. 

Hemric’s championship chances may take a hit as it will be interesting to see what NASCAR does after his car was found too low in post-race inspection. Deemed an L1 infraction in the XFINITY Series, it is worth from 10 points up to 40 points when penalties have been given this season.  Currently 23 points ahead of the cut-off line, any value in the window could play a factor moving forward.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

OBSERVATIONS: GoBowling.com 250

The playoffs are officially here, as the NASCAR XFINITY Series kicked off their post-season action in style at Richmond Raceway on Friday night.

The 0.75-mile oval in Virginia has been called the perfect short track for a couple years, and that showed during the GoBowling.com 250 under the lights. From the drop of the green flag to the checkered, there were battles throughout the field with drivers able to battle side-by-side without touching each other. The aging of the surface also helped the excitement, with comers and goers over the course of the run as the tires began to fade away. 

Christopher Bell made the most of the short run at the end, working his way from third on the restart with just under 40 laps to go to take the lead, holding off a late challenge from Daniel Hemric on an ensuing restart to score the victory. The victory allows the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to lock himself automatically into the second round of the playoffs.

Through the first half of the season, it seemed Bell was putting himself in a position to contend for the championship. However, the late momentum for Justin Allgaier, and a string road courses which aren’t the rookie’s strong suit caused many to forget about the potential shown. Thankfully not having to worry about the Charlotte roval next weekend, the rest of the playoffs could play into Bell’s wheelhouse.

Bell wasn’t the only driver who led laps, though, as different contenders emerged throughout the night. Hemric won the first stage, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. victorious in the second. You also had Matt Tifft factoring himself into the equation – possibly set to play a bigger role if the flat tire hadn’t happened under the yellow flag, along with Ross Chastain trying to write another chapter in his Cinderella story.

Just imagine the scene if Earnhardt Jr. had won in his lone NASCAR start of the 2018 campaign. He led a bunch of laps and looked to have the car to beat, however the final run did not see the No. 88 Chevrolet fit his handling as he faded back to fourth. The smile in seeing him back behind the wheel was affectionate for everybody watching, and the promise of another race next year should allow the hype to continue.

The embrace post-race between him and Elliott Sadler post-race was also special as the best friends realized this would be their last time competing on the track together. The emotions on Sadler’s face was easily seen as he made his final start his home track, once again missing out on visiting victory lane. 

JR Motorsports wasn’t all smiles, though. Allgaier entered the playoffs with a ton of momentum following back-to-back wins, but contact while four-wide ended his night early. Thankfully, those points he collected from the five victories and stage wins will allow him to be seeded third, still 22 points above the cut-off line. His mulligan is used, though, so the next two weeks will need to see things go back the way they were previously. 

Chastain is set to return to his previous ride beginning next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway as he ends his three-race span driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. He did what he wanted in the process – showcasing that he can get the job done if in the right equipment as evident with last week’s win and a runner-up this week. While worry was expressed post-race in seeing that potential recognized in the future due to funding, one can only hope that it works out and the Watermelon farmer gets the ride he deserves next season.

Lastly, is the No. 60 car cursed for Roush Fenway Racing? They’re currently at 11 DNF’s this season with a crash in all of the events except for two. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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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News

Justin Allgaier Gets Coveted NASCAR Xfinity win at the Brickyard

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – The Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway may have been delayed by rain for two days, but that wasn’t enough to break the magical run Justin Allgaier is enjoying.

Holding off JR Motorsports teammate Tyler Reddick after grabbing the lead on Lap 84 of 100 in Monday’s event, Allgaier collected his fifth victory of the season, his third in the last five races and – perhaps most important – his first at the vaunted Brickyard.

“We won Indy – how cool is that?” Allgaier exulted on the team radio after powering his No. 7 Chevrolet across the finish line .092 seconds ahead of Reddick. “You guys (his team) are awesome. That’s all I can say. The car was phenomenal.

“I know that (Indianapolis) has given me a lot of headaches and a lot of grief over the years, but we just won Indy – how cool is that?”

The victory was the 10th of Allgaier’s career. With one race left before the cutoff for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs (Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), Allgaier moved significantly closer to the regular-season title and accompanying bonus of 15 Playoff points.

He currently leads Cole Custer, second in the series standings, by 49 points. Custer suffered a jarring wreck into the inside wall after turning his Ford into the Toyota of Brandon Jones on Lap 72. Custer finished 29th but maintained a three-point advantage over third-place Christopher Bell, who faded to seventh on Monday after restarting second on Lap 84.

Allgaier dedicated the victory to his father, who helped develop Allgaier’s off-track sophistication by bringing him to Toastmasters classes for young drivers at a hotel near the speedway.

“This one is for my dad, because at Brickyard Crossing up there, he drove me up here every Wednesday night during the winter, so that I could take classes to be the best that I could be, not only inside the car but outside the car,” Allgaier said.

“It was about three-and-a-half hours, and he drove me here every Wednesday night, so hats off to him.”

The victory was the 10th of Allgaier’s career. With one race left before the cutoff for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs (Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), Allgaier moved significantly closer to the regular-season title and accompanying bonus of 15 Playoff points.

He currently leads Cole Custer, second in the series standings, by 49 points. Custer suffered a jarring wreck into the inside wall after turning his Ford into the Toyota of Brandon Jones on Lap 72. Custer finished 29th but maintained a three-point advantage over third-place Christopher Bell, who faded to seventh on Monday after restarting second on Lap 84.

Allgaier dedicated the victory to his father, who helped develop Allgaier’s off-track sophistication by bringing him to Toastmasters classes for young drivers at a hotel near the speedway.

“This one is for my dad, because at Brickyard Crossing up there, he drove me up here every Wednesday night during the winter, so that I could take classes to be the best that I could be, not only inside the car but outside the car,” Allgaier said.

“It was about three-and-a-half hours, and he drove me here every Wednesday night, so hats off to him.”

Elliott Sadler saw his hopes for a regular-season title disappear on Lap 23, when Ty Dillon spun in Turn 3 and carried Sadler’s Chevrolet into the outside wall.

“We’re done,” radioed Sadler, who fell out of the race in 35th place and dropped to fifth in the standings, 69 points behind Allgaier.

Austin Cindric, 12th in the standings and currently in the last Playoff-eligible position, fell out of the race after running through the grass and tearing the splitter off his No. 12 Ford, trying to avoid the Sadler wreck. Cindric finished 34th but remained 57 points ahead of 13th-place Michael Annett, who ran 31st.

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XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Lilly Diabetes 250

The racing was close and exciting, with certainly some highlights for weeks to come, but does it come with a price? You can be the judge.

For the second straight year in a row, NASCAR used the high downforce package for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As it did last year, it produced exciting racing with the field close together and passes for position throughout the event. You can’t argue against that when you have a four-wide finish at the end of stage one. 

However, the flip side is the fact that the areo package was used to manipulate the racing to create this, and it’s just like your standard restrictor plate, package racing. When it comes to your purest, that may not be the route to go as it should be about performance and speed, rather than bending things to create the image you want.

Some people fall on one side of the equation while others will side a different direction, hence the debate happening right now in NASCAR as there is discussion about this coming into plate for more intermediate races in the future. With fields becoming strung out on a weekly basis and passing harder to accomplish, the sanctioning body is trying to do whatever they can to spice things up to brings fans back. While on paper it could appear this is the solution, it may not be the route to go.

Although the event was exciting at times, the finish turned out very dull as JR Motorsports teammates Justin Allgaier and Tyler Reddick crossed the line single-file ahead of Ryan Blaney. Reddick said he was looking for a run, but didn’t want to cost the team a one-two finish in the process so he was being cautious in his decision. While the team may have won, the fans lost out there.

Allgaier’s victory allows him to extend his advantage over the field, now 49 points ahead of Christopher Bell with one race remaining in the regular season. As long as he has a smooth day in Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he will walk away with those 15 bonus points.

The race to the playoffs has also turned into a bit of a bore for the XFINITY Series as everybody is in, unless we have a winner that is currently not in a qualifying position. Given the competition level, that’s highly unlikely. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

OBSERVATIONS: Johnsonville 180

Fans have been begging for more road courses and short tracks with Road America being one of those mentioned. Saturday’s Johnsonville 180 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series proved why.

Although the event was dry at parts with the field single-file, the battles for position that broke out in the second half were worth every single penny of admission. They were close, with drivers trying to out-smart each other through the 14-turn course en route to the checkered flag.

There may have been more battles than giving credit for, which perhaps would result in the event having a higher grade, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell watching NBCSN’s broadcast. The course may be four miles in length, but we need to rid of some of the commercials here. Furthermore, saying that they’re part of “NASCAR non-stop” does not make them less painful. Combined with Dave Burns and Dale Jarrett in the booth, and this was one of their poorest events. 

James Davison almost played the role of spoiler, closing on Justin Allgaier in the late stages. However, a mistake was costly and proved to be too much for him to overcome as the JR Motorsports driver cruised to his fourth win of the season. If there was any question about Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s organization and their strength after a quiet summer, those questions are now being erased as we near the playoffs.

The final couple of races before they begin will prove to be interesting between Allgaier and Christopher Bell, though, with only a mere five points separating them for the regular season championship. Bell entered Road America with the advantage, but contact from competitors on two occasions handed him a poor finish.

He was first knocked-off the road after contact with Allgaier, followed by being punted around by Matt Tifft. For the record, though, he still gets our accolade of the day for how he handled the first incident.

You can’t just let this event go without speaking of the special drivers whom entered the fray for a one-off. While Bill Elliott stole some of the headlines, Katherine Legge and Conor Daly left the lasting impression.

Legge ran up front in the top-five following a strategy play before fading back due to a spin; however, she managed to fight her way back to a top-15 which is commendable in her second career series start. Meanwhile, Daly ran as high as 10th in his first ever XFINITY race until getting caught up in an incident not of his making late. It’d be nice to see both of these drivers get more opportunities as they proved they can run right there with the best.

There’s also this one lasting thought to think about, too, especially if we’re getting more road courses.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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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News

Justin Allgaier Powers to Fourth Xfinity Win of 2018 at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Continuing to make the most of his banner year in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Justin Allgaier took advantage of a mistake by James Davison in the closing laps of the Johnsonville 180 to cruise to his fourth win of the season at the 4.048-mile road course of Road America.

Allgaier who used pit strategy throughout the 45-lap event to keep his No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro up front elected to stay out when the final caution waved at Lap 38 when Josh Bilicki crashed in Turn 12.

But, a push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Christopher Bell on the Lap 39 restart, Davison grabbed the lead entering Turn 1 from Allgaier – but the Australian made a mistake and overshot the corner in Turn 8 – handing the lead back to Allgaier who then cruised to a 5.303 second victory over Matt Tifft.

“The last restart there, (James Davison) kind of left before I did and (Matt Tifft) gave me a shot based on he didn’t think (Davison) was going. I spun the tires really bad after I got hit,” Allgaier said in Victory Lane. “I thought I had gave it away.

“Then when he made the mistake down in (Turn) 8, I knew I just had to be smooth and fast. This team is awesome. I told them on the radio after the race that it was an honor to drive these race cars. I can thank everyone enough that’s on this race team and back at JR Motorsports.”

With his ninth career NASCAR Xfinity Series win and second straight win on a road course, Allgaier grabbed the points lead from Christopher Bell with three races remaining before the Playoffs.

“This team is incredible,” added Allgaier. “They never give up. I never would have thought that we could have a dream season like this one. Wins on two road courses, would you believe that?”

Tifft who started on pole had his strongest run of the season after leading 12 laps and finishing runner-up.

Daniel Hemric finished third, Cole Custer was fourth and Elliott Sadler in his likely final start at Road America was fifth.

Justin Marks had contended for the runner-up spot but made contact with Davison with three laps to go and recovered to finish sixth. Ross Chastain grabbed seventh ahead of Davison, Brandon Jones and IMSA standout Andy Lally to round out the top-10.

IMSA and open wheel veteran Katherine Legge finished 14th after running as high as third in her second Xfinity Series start, while Bill Elliott, the NASCAR Hall of Famer who briefly came out of retirement for a one-race deal with GMS Racing finished 20th after being involved in an early race entanglement.

“I feel like I hit everything but the lottery, I mean it was a great day,” said Elliott. “I’d like to thank Xfinity, and all the guys and ISM Connect for everything they did for me here today. It was a heck of a lot of fun.

“I just felt like I needed more like through (Turns) 9 and 10 and the carousel to carry any speed through there. I just felt like I gave up too much in (Turn) 3, I wasn’t too bad in 5, 6, 7, 8. I got a little bit free in 11, all in all it was a good day.”

Tifft led every lap in Stage 1 which ended in a one-lap shootout following the crash of Ryan Reed in Turn 3 on lap seven.

Staying out at the end of the stage, Brendan Gaughan inherited the race lead for the onset of Stage 2 but quickly lost the top spot to Austin Cindric who qualified eighth but started at the rear of the field.

Cindric’s time at the top was short lived, however, after the Team Penske driver experienced mechanical woes and dropped from the race at Lap 17.

“It just blew up,” said Cindric. “At least we blew up in the lead. We had a real fast car. It’s unfortunate. We have to look back and see what happened. It wasn’t a missed shift in the race.

“There was a lot of debris on the track, maybe we got some debris caught up in the car. It just wasn’t meant to be today.”

Hemric never relinquished the lead for the Lap 18 restart holding off Tifft for his third stage win of 2018.

With Hemric and Tifft taking their opportunity to pit during the stage break, Justin Allgaier stayed from third and led the 40-car field back to the green for the start of Stage 3.

Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is a stop at the track “Too Tough To Tame” for the running of the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero from Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Sat., Sept. 1.

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News

Justin Allgaier Chases Down Austin Cindric for Mid-Ohio Win

LEXINGTON, OHIO – Justin Allgaier pulled off the NASCAR version of a “spin and win” to take the Xfinity Series victory in Saturday’s Rock N Roll Tequila 170 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The JR Motorsports driver of the No. 7 Brandt Chevrolet rallied from late-race contact and a spin to pass Austin Cindric with eight laps remaining, claiming his third win of the season and first at the famed 2.4-mile road course.

Cindric’s No. 22 Penske Racing Ford won the pole position and led a dominant 59 of the race’s 75 laps but his track position gamble out front on old tires couldn’t hold off a hard-charging Allgaier, who pitted for new rubber in the race’s final caution period with nine laps remaining.

Cindric held on for second place. Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric finished third, followed by teammate and Ohio native Matt Tifft. Ryan Truex rounded out the top-five. Allgaier beomes the sixth different winner in as many Xfinity races at Mid-Ohio.

The race was typically “road course aggressive” with lots of bumping and banging throughout the field, particularly in the waning laps. And the final pass for the lead was the result of dramatic back-and-forth, give-and-take between Cindric and Allgaier, who exchanged the front position three times on a single lap before Allgaier pulled away for the checkered flag by 2.095-seconds.

“I thought we gave it away when I went off (course),” Allgaier said of his mid-race collision with Ford’s Cole Custer. “But that pit call (for tires) at the end is what did it. …We’ve been good this year, but to do it (win) at a road course is even better.”

And, he added with a smile, “it was a real barn-burner at the end.”

For his part, Cindric was understandably disappointed to come home runner-up because he had clearly been the class of the field all weekend. The 19-year old Indiana-native came just two-seconds away from claiming his first Xfinity Series win, but did lead the most laps and earned a stage win as well.

“It was a big points day for me. .. but too bad we couldn’t capitalize with a dominant car,” Cindric said.

Four-time race winner and series points leader Christopher Bell ran as high as second place at one point, but heavy contact between him and veteran Elliott Sadler in the closing laps spun Bell’s No. 20 Toyota around and caused a final lap catch-up session. He ended up 11th and still holds a 17-point advantage over Hemric and Elliott in the standings with four races left to set the Playoff field.
Former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, Andy Lally led seven laps and finished 15th – leading the road racing contingent to a good showing on the afternoon.

IMSA standout and former IndyCar driver Katherine Legge finished 30th, having to retire her car 10 laps from the end with engine problems. She is scheduled to compete with the Xfinity Series again at Road America in two weeks – as is NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who is coming out of retirement for that race.

The Xfinity Series races the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway next Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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News

Allgaier Holds Off Bell to Lock Up Playoff Spot with Win at Iowa Speedway

NEWTON, Iowa – The green flag would soon wave, but before Justin Allgaier went elbows up, he draped his arms around his four-year old daughter, Harper Grace.

The tender embrace painted a poignant Father’s Day image moments before the outset of the hotly-contested eighth annual Iowa 250 presented by Enogen at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway.

But another stirring photo op developed two and a half hours later, as dad exulted amid strands of confetti in Victory Lane – and this time the triumph came with vital playoff-sealing points attached.

“Our (No. 7) BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet was fast,” said Allgaier, who won last month at Dover, but didn’t accrue playoff points because of a post-race inspection penalty. “Incredible. We’re in the middle of corn fields – how could you not enjoy this? … Doing it on Father’s Day, it was really cool having my daughter here.”

Allgaier dominated the field despite intense and near-constant challenges from hard-charging Christopher Bell, who came from the rear at the start of the race to finish second. He also notched his second win of the season – but first one that counts, playoffs-wise.

Bell settled for second but overcame a slew of adversity while nearly pulling off the win. He started 39th because his No. 20 Rheem Toyota did not pass pre-qualifying inspection.

“Man, I just needed to be in front of him,” Bell said. “Our (car) was really good. … I just didn’t have enough to clear him. He could just kind of ride ride that outside there, outside my door, just keep me pinned down. But we had a really good Rheem Camry, just unfortunately not good enough to get by him.”

Allgaier also shook off recent encounters with bad luck – and the fence – to win stage one. The Xfinity Series veteran powered his car between pole sitter Austin Cindric and the lapped car of Alex Labbe to win the opening 60-lapper. Cindric, who earlier earned his first career pole, had led the first 58 laps of the stage before Allgaier made his daring three-wide maneuver.

Bell surged to sixth in 60 laps.

As Bell ascended, series points leader Elliott Sadler struggled for the second straight week. A cut tire forced him to pit with a handful of laps to go in the first stage. That mishap relegated him to the back of the pack. He finished 28th and maintains a four-point lead over Cole Custer in the standings.

Daniel Hemric finished third, with Custer and Brandon Jones completing the top five.

Allgaier claimed the second stage playoff point, as well – doubling his season total of stage wins to four.

Bell finally took the top position with 70 to go, but Allgaier immediately regained it and maintained a slim advantage as the final stage eclipsed the midway point.

“Hopefully we put on a good show for the fans,” Bell said. “We were side-by-side for half the race.”

Bell later nearly completed another pass of Allgaier, but a caution for debris halted his momentum.

All of the top five cars steered onto pit road for four fresh tires and fuel.

After the restart, Allgaier again wheeled to the top spot, with Bell in tow.

Allgaier faced another restart with less than 20 laps to go, but remained calm – and in front.

Elbows up. Hugging the steering wheel. Until he could finally hug his daughter again after raising his arms in Victory Lane.

“Unbelievable,” Allgaier said. “First of all, all glory to God, man. We had a great car today. These guys did a fantastic job. I can’t thank everybody at JR Motorsports enough.”

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XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Iowa 250 presented by Enogen

People can continually debate whether Iowa Speedway is an actual short track or not, but one thing is for certain – the track puts on a show, no matter the series visiting.

After Noah Gragson‘s thrilling move to complete Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the 0.75-mile oval was back up to it’s familiar tricks on Sunday with the NASCAR XFINITY Series. From the drop of the green flag to the checkered, the Iowa 250 presented by Enogen delivered in excitement.

Starting from 11th, Justin Allgaier made his way to the front, taking the lead from Austin Cindric. From there, he dominated by pacing 182 of 200 laps, sweeping all three stages. However, the statistics don’t say everything as he didn’t go unchallenged. 

Christopher Bell had to start from the rear of the field due to issues in pre-qualifying inspection not allowing him to post a lap during the session. He didn’t stay back there long, though, as he was back up in the top-10 by the end of the first stage, and challenging Allgaier for the lead through the second. As the pair navigated their way through lap traffic, Bell would try high and low to make the pass, getting alongside at parts but unable to complete the pass and take the top spot. The final nail in the coffin was getting in the wall coming to the white flag, but he still managed to score a second-place finish.

Cindric also played a role after capturing the pole, as he made the move three-wide for the top spot on a restart with under 50 laps to go to really get the fans on the feet. And if these battles for the lead weren’t enough, there was always something going on through the field.

The XFINITY Series has struggled with finding it’s identity, trying to separate itself by saying “names are made here,” and limiting the amount of races that Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series stars can run. However, going to tracks like this and creating events like these with side-by-side competition will do more for the series than any of those antics. Why do you think the fans enjoy the stand-alone events?

Moving forward, the battle remains to see who will be the ones to watch for the championship.

A lot of people have looked towards JR Motorsports teammates Elliott Sadler and Allgaier given the start to the season. Momentum should be on Allgaier’s side now that he’s back locked in the playoffs after the first win was deemed invalid to qualify for the post-season with due to a post-race infraction. 

However, you don’t have to look far to see the young talents in Cole Custer, Cindric, and Bell that will certainly keep them honest and make a challenge for the championship.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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.