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THREE TAKEAWAYS: GALAXY 200 at PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY

The Galaxy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway was a fitting precursor to next week’s season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.

While Kyle Busch won the event, the final eight battled for their shot at the playoffs. From the beginning of the race, each proved to be competitive – many driving against each other in the top-10. However, a few were met with heartbreak, and their championship hopes faded away. Nevertheless, four drivers have advanced and will have the opportunity to race for the title next week at Homestead.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday night.

Allgaier Fights Back

Justin Allgaier came into Saturday night’s event one point outside of the Final Four cutoff. With many strong competitors in the running, it would be a formidable challenge to advance into Homestead. When the green flag waved, the driver proved his resilience and slowly climbed the leaderboard. At one point, he claimed second, behind Busch.

In the end, the driver was the highest placing Chase competitor – fourth. He joins Elliott Sadler, Daniel Suarez, and Erik Jones as the Final Four to fight for the title at Homestead.

Wallace Jr’s Emotional Night

Darrell Wallace Jr. already had a tough week losing his grandmother unexpectedly. Racing with a heavy heart, the driver battled for the fourth and final Chase seat. However, his night was cut short when Blake Koch unknowingly drove down in front of Wallace, causing him to hit the wall. The damage resulted in a DNF for the No. 6 team, and the end of their 2016 title hopes.

The Mobile, AL native was emotional after the race but kept the night in perspective.

“My grandmother was giving me the ride of my life,” he told NBCSN. “It was the most fun I’ve had all year. Just circumstances took us out… going to Homestead and let her ride again.”

Out But Not Down

The playoff journey of Blake Koch and Kaulig Racing has been a popular story in the series, but Saturday night it met its conclusion. Facing off against his Chase competitors, the driver began in the fourth position, but was shuffled back and finished eighth – tying his best career finish in the series.

“We did the best we could all night,” Koch told NBCSN. “It was probably our best night of the year.” While the driver’s title run has come to an end, he and his team still have plenty to smile about. The 2016 season has been their most competitive year to date, which leaves promise for the future.

EMAIL STEPHANIE AT stephanie.adair@popularspeed.com

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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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Commentary

THREE TAKEAWAYS: O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas

As the Round of 8 nears an end in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, series regulars have still not won a race in the round. Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway was controlled by Cup drivers and was mostly uneventful for the Chasers.

 

Cup Driver Dominance

Brad Keselowski seemed poised to take home a dominant victory after leading 145 of 200 laps. But on a late race restart, Kyle Larson hung tough on the top. Larson eventually cleared the No. 22 and never looked back. The two Sprint Cup drivers led 175 laps between them.

Only two XFINITY drivers, Erik Jones and Brennan Poole, led laps. Jones took the lead at the start and led for the first 23 laps, while Poole held the lead for two laps during green flag pit stops. Jones crossed the finish line in fourth as the highest finishing XFINITY regular, while Poole finished eighth.

Kevin Harvick in the No. 88 Chevrolet never led, but finished third, making it a Cup sweep of the top three positions. Austin Dillon was the only other Cup driver in the field and came home seventh.

 

Must-win Situations?

All eight Chase drivers finished in the top 15, but that wasn’t enough for some drivers.

Brendan Gaughan is 23 points behind the cutoff heading to Phoenix. Gaughan started 16th and ran around this position for most of the race, battling a tire rub and was lapped twice. The No. 62 Chevrolet finished 15th.

Darrell Wallace Jr. stayed out of trouble and finished 11th, but he is still 20 points behind fourth.

Both drivers will likely need a win or lots of luck to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead.

 

Bubble Spots Still Close

Coming into Saturday’s race, all that separated the bubble drivers was a tie breaker. Now it is a single point. Justin Allgaier finished 10th, yet fell a spot in the standings to fifth, one point behind Blake Koch.

Jones jumped up into the top four with a fourthplace finish at Texas, but he is still only seven points to the good. In fact, only 11 points separate the driver of the No. 20 Toyota from Ryan Reed, who sits sixth in the standings.

Expect even more points shuffling over the course of next week’s race at Phoenix.

 

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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

Allgaier, Koch in Precarious Position after Texas

Justin Allgaier and Blake Koch collected solid finishes at Texas Motor Speedway – finishing 10th and 14th, respectively – but their Chase situations are anything but stable.

Koch’s weekend got off to a rocky start when he wrecked during practice, but his backup car didn’t disappoint in qualifying. The Kaulig Racing Chevrolet started 12th Saturday afternoon and hung around the top 15 until he feared tire issues. After pitting for a fresh set and going a lap down, Koch worked his way back up into the top 20 before a speeding penalty halted his progress. He used the last 50 laps to climb through the field and bring the No. 11 home in 14th.

Koch praised his team for overcoming the rough start to the weekend, saying, “I’m so proud of my team for rebounding off of that and getting out the backup car. They had it out before I even got my car back into the garage.”

The Texas result places him fourth on the Chase Grid, one point above the cut line. Koch knows his championship position isn’t ideal, yet he is grateful for the finish and some momentum for next week’s cutoff race at Phoenix International Raceway

“To come out of here with a top 15 and still in the Chase, I couldn’t be any more pumped and proud. We have a great Phoenix car, and we have a great Phoenix backup,” he said. “We’re ready, and it’s one of my best racetracks … I feel like I’ve gotten so much better as a driver. We’ve gotten so much better as a team at that point. I can’t wait to see what we look like at Phoenix.”

Allgaier’s day went a lot smoother than Koch’s; the JR Motorsports Chevrolet started sixth and stayed in the top 10 throughout the afternoon. The No. 7 team executed consistent stops and avoided trouble, finishing 10th.  Although he gave a stout performance, Allgaier sits one point below the cutoff line – meaning he and Koch will go against each other next weekend.

The JRM driver is confident in his team after this weekend and hopes to leave Phoenix with a trophy.

“We executed and came away with a top 10 finish. I’m very proud to drive this car,” he said, adding,” Phoenix was one of the tracks that I had circled in the Chase as I’ve always done well there.”

There is a lot of positivity surrounding their respective situations, and both feel their teams are prepared for whatever comes their way. Winning would be the best Chase scenario for Allgaier and Koch.

However, the JRM driver is hoping for another outcome – one that would benefit both him and Koch.

“I get to race my buddy Blake Koch for the final spot. I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “Hopefully, something happens, and we both get in.”

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

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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

THREE TAKEAWAYS: KANSAS LOTTERY 300 at KANSAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

The NASCAR XFINITY Series Kansas Lottery 300 Saturday evening proved that the heartland can be heartless. With Cup drivers like Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano joining the series regulars, the event turned rocky towards the final 50 laps. In the first battleground of Round Two, many Chase contenders stayed consistent, but some were not as fortunate. In the end, Busch took home the checkered flag, but that wasn’t the only story of the evening.

Here are three takeaways after the battle at Kansas Speedway.

Hangin’ with the Big Boys
A few XFINITY Series regulars held their own against the Cup veterans. Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez managed to lead eleven and six laps respectively, while Elliott Sadler stayed strong within the top-five. Later on in the event, Ty Dillon joined the front of the field after good pit strategy.

However, contact was made between Dillon, Larson, and Jones during the restart with 17 laps to go. The damage caused Dillon to lose a part of his tire, along with his track position, and he ultimately finished 17th. Jones also suffered from the contact, drifting back into the pack and finishing 15th. However, Sadler managed to take home second place, along with the top position in the point standings heading into the second event of the round.

Reed with Engine Troubles
Ryan Reed faced engine issues early on in the event. After fading to the back, the driver came onto pit road. The No. 16 team fixed the problems but were put two laps down. For the rest of the event, Reed fought back to salvage a better position. In the end, he placed 16th and settled into sixth in the point standings – 15 points above the cutline.

Wreck Shakes Up Standings
A big accident struck with 34 laps to go when the No. 33 of Brandon Jones made contact with Chase contender Justin Allgaier. Allgaier’s No. 7 car became loose and moved up toward the side of the No. 5 of Cole Custer. From there the accident unraveled collecting others, including playoff contender Darrell Wallace Jr. The No. 7 team was able to overcome the damage to their car and finished 14th. However, Wallace Jr. was faced with a DNF and joins Dillon in the bottom two of the standings.

EMAIL STEPHANIE AT stephanie.adair@popularspeed.com

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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

Allgaier’s Resilience Attests to Team’s Championship Potential

Competitors can’t afford a poor performance in the Chase. One bad run has proven costly for many title contenders across all three series through the opening playoff races. As championship implications continue to grow as Homestead-Miami approaches, limiting the impact of mistakes will be key.

Justin Allgaier faced adversity throughout the XFINITY Series’ first elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday.

From a vibration and shifter issue in the first half of the race to going a lap down later in the event, the No. 7 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet team battled potential problems that could have been costly in the driver standings. However, Allgaier gave it his all given the circumstances.

“When you have down days, you’ve got to make the most of them,” Allgaier told POPULAR SPEED. “Today, not only did we have a shifter issue, we got caught a lap down there. We knew it was going to be a challenge to get back on the lead lap and Jason Burdett, my crew chief, did an awesome job keeping me out.”

As he continued to push through the problems and gain ground on the track, he believes his crew chief was more nervous than he was about what could happen. 

“It was probably a lot more nerve-wracking in the pits for him than it was for me on the race track,” Allgaier said. “I just knew I needed to keep doing what I was doing, and not doing anything stupid. And not be the caution that we needed.”

Once the much-needed yellow flag came out, it benefited Allgaier and placed him on the lead lap and up front with 12 laps to go.

“Ultimately, we got it,” Allgaier said. “We were able to get back on the lead lap and have great track position. Ultimately, that led to a really solid day and a great points day obviously, putting us in the next round.”

Allgaier finished sixth, his 24th top-10 finish of the season, fifth consecutive, and 12th in the last 13 races. He had the best finish in the first round among non-winners advancing to the Round of 8 of third at Dover and will be reseeded third.  

Now the focus shifts to earning a position in the Championship 4. Two of three races in the Round of 12 featured series regulars in Victory Lane as a result of limited participation from Sprint Cup Series competitors. However, that likely won’t be the case for the second round with three race weekends featuring both series.

If title contenders are unable to earn a victory, they must use consistency to put themselves in a position to contend for a spot in the season finale. Allgaier took this approach in the opening round and will continue to use it throughout the Round of 8.

“Consistency has been the key for these first three,” Allgaier said. “I think next three are going to be a lot tougher.”

With more challenging competition ahead, speed will also play a factor in who earns the opportunity to compete for the championship.

“You’re going to have to have the speed and the consistency,” Allgaier said. “For us today, we were off a little bit on speed, kind of as a company. In the beginning of the race, it didn’t look good for any of the three of our cars. Then we all rallied for three cars in the top-10.”

JR Motorsports has seen improved speed as the season has progressed and they have emerged as a greater threat at mile-and-a-half facilities. With two of the three races in the next round at 1.5-mile tracks, building upon their current speed will be crucial.

Allgaier didn’t have the strongest performance in the Drive for the Cure 300. However, at the end of the day, this team secured a position in the next round and moved one step closer towards competing for the championship.

“Ultimately, onto the next round and that is all that matters.”

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @NASCARJason

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.

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Commentary

Drivers, Championship Format Increase XFINITY Competiton

The NASCAR XFINITY Series is finally living up to its slogan, “Names are made here.”

Amid the hectic atmosphere surrounding the inaugural Chase field, four series regulars have won in the past five races. Daniel Suarez extended the streak during the impromptu doubleheader at Dover International Speedway. Last season, series regulars took home five trophies throughout the whole season. This competitive season could eclipse that statistic.

Although many variables are surrounding the XFINITY Series, two stand out when asking what changed between 2015 and now, the drivers and the championship format. Significant alterations to these factors have jacked up the competition level and are pushing the entire series in a whole new – and needed – direction.

Silly season was extra chaotic for a few drivers in the Chase field, and two of them didn’t have a ride until JR Motorsports solidified their 2016 lineup. After a disheartening Sprint Cup Series stint with HScott Motorsports, Justin Allgaier, and JRM team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. struck a deal for Allgaier’s XFINITY return. The No. 7 team has benefited from his talents, with 12 top fives and 23 top 10s in 28 races. The same can be said about Elliott Sadler; his contract with Roush Fenway Racing left him without a XFINITY seat until Earnhardt called. The partnership has led to three victories, as well as 11 top fives and 25 top 10s.

Allgaier and Sadler’s move isn’t the only change that has increased someone’s title chances. After a successful rookie season, Daniel Suarez refuses to fall victim to the “sophomore slump.” The Joe Gibbs Racing driver claimed his first XFINITY win at Michigan International Speedway and backed it up with the Dover trophy. The equipment at JGR has significantly improved, but so has Suarez’s abilities. His aggressive style takes center stage when the No. 19 is fighting for positions.

These are more changes on the driver spectrum, such as Brennan Poole’s full-time status with Chip Ganassi Racing and Kaulig Racing aligning with Richard Childress Racing to give Blake Koch stronger equipment. However, the three drivers mentioned earlier are currently making headlines under the Chase format, which has led to some improvements of its own.

When NASCAR first announced the Chase format for XFINITY, the initial reaction was negative; the low competition level in the series prompted many to assume top dog Erik Jones would run away with the championship. That is currently not the case whatsoever, with Jones struggling to piece together an entire race. The other 11 drivers’ execution emphasizes the No. 18 team’s missteps and increases everyone else’s chances at the title; when there is blood in the water, the sharks start swarming. This title hunt is fierce, and various drivers are experiencing the championship battle for the first time. That leads to aggression and desire, forgotten elements that are now making a resurgence.

For the first time in ages, the race for the XFINITY Series championship is unpredictable. The new Chase format clicks with new driver relationships and mentalities, creating one of the most competitive seasons in series history. This trend of series regulars finding winning races is good for XFINITY, which has struggled to find a unique identity over the past few years. Despite initial reactions, the championship system is working very well – and making the most of what XFINITY has to offer.

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

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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

Consistent Season Fuels Allgaier’s Championship Charge

Some may consider Justin Allgaier an underdog in this year’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. The JR Motorsports driver failed to win a race during the regular season, gathering three second-place finishes in the process. Although he has been consistent throughout the first 26 races of 2016, victories lock contenders into the next round under this championship system. Can he and his No. 7 team gather up the extra speed they need?

Of course they can – they’ve been doing it all season long.

Allgaier and crew chief Jason Burdett prefer to stick to what they know, and it has done wonders for their season; the No. 7 team accumulated 11 top fives and 21 top 10s so far. For this being his first season with JRM and Burdett, those statistics are more than just impressive.

While some teams would try new approaches to outperform their fellow Chase participants, Allgaier is the exact opposite. He knows what’s working and doesn’t want to mess up their mojo.

“I don’t feel like we need to reinvent the wheel. We need some speed, we need to be able to be a little better each and every week, but we don’t need to deviate too far from where we’re at,” Allgaier told POPULAR SPEED. “We’ve made it to the Chase because of our consistency and our pace, so I don’t think we change anything other than refining what we have, make it better, and execute these races.”

Harnessing that extra speed won’t be difficult for JRM; the organization did not make any significant adjustments, even while Joe Gibbs Racing dominated the top three. The No. 7 crew have had their share of bad luck and communication issues, but it has not slowed them down.

The three-car organization has since closed in on the Toyota team without making huge adjustments, even getting teammate Elliott Sadler to victory lane at Darlington Raceway. Although impressed by the organization’s gains and his consistency, Allgaier refuses to doubt JGR’s – or any other Chase teams’ – capabilities.

He said, “That’s probably the best part for me, knowing we haven’t made any major changes and picked up a tremendous amount on the Joe Gibbs cars. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if we go into this Chase, and they come out guns blazing, even better than they’ve been since the beginning part of the season. For the most part, I feel like all the teams and drivers have done a good job of maxing out what we have equipment-wise and what we have as far as personnel.”

Competition levels steadily increased throughout the regular season, and the Chase factors into that shift. That trend will continue throughout the final seven races as the 12-car field battles for the series title. Allgaier is focused on running well, but he understands when a good race isn’t in the cards for the No. 7 team. He also plans to keep an eye on all his competitors, who will probably come out swinging Saturday night.

“Some weeks, we’re going to be better than others, and some weeks, we’re going to be worse than others. It’s going to be about managing the bad days and excelling on the good days,” he said, adding, “You can name everyone in the Chase, and they’ve shown really good speed at certain racetracks. A lot of those guys probably feel they’re seeded lower than they should be. They’re going to be pushing and more aggressive, and they want to come out and have a couple of strong first races to try and make that next round.”

Amid working with a new organization and crew chief, Allgaier put together strong runs and contended for multiple victories. He hasn’t found victory lane just yet, but that isn’t dampening his championship hopes. Drivers have won series titles without wins before, so he isn’t worried about winning.

Allgaier is optimistic the work he and his team put in during the regular season will soon bring the series title within reach.

“They say, ‘Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.’ We definitely have the preparation; there’s no doubting that,” he said. “We just need the right opportunity to capitalize on it, and this Chase is a great format for that. We have a race car and a race team that is capable of winning a championship.”

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

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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

Chicagoland Could Determine XFINITY Series Chase Favorites

The XFINITY Series regular season will come to a close this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. While there likely won’t be any movement surrounding the Chase bubble, competing at a mile-and-a-half track will be very telling for determining who will perform best this postseason.

Five of the seven Chase races will take place at 1.5-mile facilities, making speed at this type of track critical to playoff success.

XFINITY Series competitors haven’t visited a 1.5-miler since Kentucky in July, which adds to the importance of this weekend’s race. It will be crucial for Chase contenders to get back in a rhythm on intermediate tracks to sharpen their skills ahead of the playoffs.

Running well at 1.5-mile tracks will be key in each round. The Round of 12 starts at Kentucky and will conclude at Charlotte. The Round of 8 features back-to-back mile and a half races to kick-off the round, beginning at Kansas and then Texas.

Once the field is narrowed to four championship contenders, they will duel for the title at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The series has visited five mile-and-a-half tracks in 2016, and Erik Jones has performed best. He’s scored four top-five finishes, including a second-place finish at Texas in April.

Once the series arrives at Texas in November, a victory could earn Jones a spot in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami. Texas is also home to Jones’ first XFINITY Series victory in April 2015.

While Jones’ performance this season qualifies him as an early title favorite, other contenders who could provide the greatest challenge include Daniel Suarez, Justin Allgaier, and Ty Dillon.

Suarez earned the second-most top-five finishes with two, including a third-place run at Kentucky where the Chase will commence next weekend.

Allgaier and Dillon both picked up one top-five finish and four top-10 results in the five mile-and-a-half races so far in 2016.

The JR Motorsports driver finished highest among series regulars at Charlotte in May, which could provide an advantage for the No. 7 team as Charlotte is an elimination race.

His JRM teammate Elliott Sadler also posted four top-10 finishes this season and has been one of the most consistent performers in the series, also placing him in the conversation.

Chicagoland will provide the first look at which competitors could emerge as the top threats for the championship. Unlike a typical regular season finale, Saturday’s focus won’t entirely be on the bubble. Eyes will be on the title contenders preparing for battle in the Chase to see who can carry the most momentum into the playoffs.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @NASCARJason

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.

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XFINITY

JR Motorsports Could Lay Challenge to Joe Gibbs Racing

After the first couple months of the season, a lot of people locked in Joe Gibbs Racing for winning the XFINITY Series Championship this season. However, don’t start engraving the championship trophy just quite yet as there may be another team on top in November.

Consistently on a weekly basis, JR Motorsports has placed cars in the top-10, breaking into the top-five on some occasions with Elliott Sadler picking up a pair of victories. While JGR drivers Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez certainly have better statistics – four wins, 23 top fives and 34 top-10s in a combined 50 races, the JRM duo of Sadler and Justin Allgaier is right there with two wins, 19 top fives, and 42 top-10s.

There is also something said about having momentum going into the Chase for the Championship, and JR Motorsports seems to be peaking at the right time.

Sadler’s second win only came a week ago at Darlington Raceway, and he scored his 10th straight top-10 on Friday at Richmond International Raceway. It’s worth noting there have been four top-five finishes in those 10 events, too. While Allgaier has yet to reach victory lane, he has proven he can run up front and be close as he has posted nine straight top-11 finishes, including four top-fives.

In contrast, Daniel Suarez hasn’t found the same consistency as he has three finishes outside of the top-20 in the last nine races. It’s worth noting he’s either hot or cold as while he has those three poor finishes, he has six top-eight finishes. Meanwhile, Jones has four finishes outside of the top-10 in the last nine races to go with a win at Iowa Speedway and a runner-up on Friday night.

If you can, score a victory, it automatically bumps you into the next round. However, if you can’t win, having consistency can be key in being one of those who moves on and solid finishes for both Sadler and Allgaier point the direction.

The organization may also have an advantage due to experience. Sadler has taken part in the Chase for the Sprint Cup previously, which he says gives him an advantage in understanding “how things get ramped up and emotions are going to get high – it’s kind of life or death as we move forward.”

Though on top of that, Sadler’s crew chief Kevin Meendering has experience with the format as an engineer for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series.

“He understands what is getting to come towards us from a car preparation point,” Sadler said. “We started preparing for the Chase near the end of July and we saw a little bit of the effects of that at Darlington in getting cars lined up, testing things. We understand each car we’re going to run at each race coming up. We feel very prepared about our position is going into the Chase.

“We don’t think we will get outrun in the Chase – we’re definitely going to be fast enough. It’s just going to be about keeping ourselves in good situations, not shooting ourselves in the foot. Kevin has been done a tremendous job of not only while we’re on the track, but stockpiling data and notes, parts that we need so when Kentucky gets here, we will be prepared.”

The Chase is supposed to bring intrigue, interest, twists, and turns. Right now, it appears JR Motorsports could put a twist in Joe Gibbs Racing’s plans.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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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

Allgaier’s Consistency Continues in Bristol

It was quite the night in Bristol for the man who eventually finished second  Justin Allgaier.

Despite the finish, the night wasn’t all positives for the Illinois native.

Following a strong eighth place qualifying effort, Allgaier was forced to start in the rear of the field due to his team having to make repairs to the No. 7’s track bar mount.

During the early portion of the race, it seemed as if starting in the back had an effect on the veteran, as he moved through the field quick and with ease. Lap 35 he’d make his way into the top-20, and into the top-15 by lap 50. Unfortunately for Allgaier, the quick progress began to get halted, which ultimately kept him outside the top-10.

Stuck in traffic and losing time, Allgaier went a lap down and looked to be an unfavorable situation. Luckily for the 30-year-old, a caution fell in his favor placing him back on the lead lap in the late stages of the Food City 300.

The lucky dog began a chain of strategy for the No. 7 team, being they had the opportunity to pit. It played into their advantage as during the next caution, they stayed out and enter the top-five for the first time all night with under 100 laps to go. Despite losing a few spots initially, Allgaier found himself third on the final restart following problems for some of the race’s top performers. Allgaier got a great restart, passing by Kyle Larson to capture second place and come home as the highest finishing XFINITY Series regular.

The 2016 season has proven to be a year of resurgence for Allgaier, who has now nine top-5’s (tied for most of XFINITY regulars) and 18 top-10’s in just 22 races. With that in mind, the Bristol night race may have proven to be the most impressive feat for the No. 7 team yet. They showed strength and strategy, and it led to a runner-up finish.

Allgaier has shown consistency all year, which is already crucial for success in the Chase. But, if he can begin adding more performances like this one, there will be a good chance Allgaier will be fighting for his first XFINITY Series Championship come November.

 

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66