NASCAR Xfinity: Justin Allgaier makes long-awaited return to victory lane
Justin Allgaier celebrates in victory lane after winning the DC Solar 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 18, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Justin Allgaier took all on Saturday, winning the DC Solar 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix International Raceway and simultaneously claimed the first series Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus of the season.
“I’m not going to like to you,” Allgaier said. “There are moments in my racing career when I wondered why I got up and went to the race track.”
The win was Allgaier’s first in 81 races and his first trip to victory lane since 2012.
Allgaier led a race-high 85 laps of the 200 that made up the race, but a four-tire stop during a caution with 44 laps to go but him in fifth for the restart. After being the first off pit road with four tires to the front-runners’ two, Allgaier took his final lead of the race with 35 laps remaining and maintained the position through three additional restarts.
The ninth and final caution of the race came with 11 laps remaining for a wreck by Austin Dillon, who led 31 laps. Contact with Cole Custer sent Dillon into the wall and out of the race.
“The No. 00 car (Custer) just overdrove the corner, missed the corner and took me out with him,” Dillon said. “It sucks. It was a hard hit. The Rheem Chevy was pretty solid all day. We decided to take two tires on the last pit stop, and we probably weren’t as fast as we had been all day, but when you’re taken out of a race at the end under those circumstances, it just makes your day worse.”
Ryan Blaney took runner-up honors after getting by Erik Jones on the final lap, relegating Jones to third. Blaney started the race 33rd after failing to make a qualifying attempt earlier in the day because of difficulty getting through inspection. He was in the top-five by the end of the 60-lap stage.
“It was just all about kind of being patient and aggressive at the same time, working your way up and making sure you don’t hurt your car any or anything like that,” Blaney said. “We had a great long-run car, spectacular after about 30 to 35 laps. After that, it just kept getting better. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any long runs at the end.”
Three of four JR Motorsports entries finished in the top-five. Joining Allgaier with finishes near the front were teammates William Byron and Elliott Sadler finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. Those three teammates also were three of the four drivers competing for the Dash 4 Cash bonus in the final 80-lap stage of the race, along with part-time series driver, Tyler Reddick.
The fourth JR Motorsports driver, Michael Annett, also finished in the top-10, taking ninth.
“As a team owner, you just want the guys to be competitive,” JR Motorsports owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “But I was really, really happy to see how well we qualified and how strong the cars were throughout the day. That’s our responsibility as owners — to provide our guys with the best that we can, and I feel like we gave them some good stuff to work with today.”
Jones and Blaney were stage winners, with Jones running up front at the end of stage one and Blaney leading at the end of the second stage.