Allgaier holds off Bell to lock up NASCAR Xfinity playoff spot with win at Iowa Speedway

NEWTON, IA - JUNE 17: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, with the trophy after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Iowa 250 presented by Enogen at Iowa Speedway on June 17, 2018 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Results Iowa 250 presented by Enogen

Iowa Speedway

Newton, Iowa

Sunday, June 17, 2018

1. (11) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 250.

2. (39) Christopher Bell #, Toyota, 250.

3. (2) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 250.

4. (5) Cole Custer, Ford, 250.

5. (3) Brandon Jones, Toyota, 250.

6. (9) Riley Herbst(i), Toyota, 250.

7. (17) Ty Majeski, Ford, 250.

8. (7) Tyler Reddick #, Chevrolet, 250.

9. (12) Matt Tifft, Chevrolet, 250.

10. (8) Kaz Grala #, Ford, 250.

11. (1) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 250.

12. (13) Justin Haley(i), Chevrolet, 250.

13. (10) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 250.

14. (6) Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 250.

15. (15) John Hunter Nemechek, Chevrolet, 250.

16. (14) Shane Lee, Chevrolet, 250.

17. (40) Ryan Reed, Ford, 250.

18. (21) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 250.

19. (16) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 249.

20. (19) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 249.

21. (27) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 249.

22. (26) Spencer Boyd #, Chevrolet, 247.

23. (18) Alex Labbe #, Chevrolet, 247.

24. (23) David Starr, Chevrolet, 247.

25. (20) Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 244.

26. (29) Chad Finchum #, Toyota, 244.

27. (32) Blake Jones, Chevrolet, 243.

28. (4) Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 239.

29. (22) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 239.

30. (28) Brandon Hightower, Toyota, Accident, 220.

31. (36) Vinnie Miller #, Chevrolet, Overheating, 205.

32. (25) Tommy Joe Martins, Chevrolet, 201.

33. (38) Stan Mullis, Chevrolet, 150.

34. (33) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, Electrical, 134.

35. (24) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, Driveshaft, 131.

36. (34) Josh Bilicki #, Toyota, Fuel Pump, 95.

37. (35) Timmy Hill, Toyota, Brakes, 75.

38. (37) Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 31.

39. (30) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 28.

40. (31) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Vibration, 21.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  102.1 mph.

Time of Race:  02 Hrs, 08 Mins, 33 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.745 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Cindric # 1-58; J. Allgaier 59-88; D. Hemric 89; J. Allgaier 90; D. Hemric 91; J. Allgaier 92-124; C. Custer 125-129; J. Allgaier 130-180; C. Bell # 181; J. Allgaier 182-197; C. Bell # 198; J. Allgaier 199-204; C. Custer 205; J. Allgaier 206-250.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Allgaier 7 times for 182 laps; A. Cindric # 1 time for 58 laps; C. Custer 2 times for 6 laps; C. Bell # 2 times for 2 laps; D. Hemric 2 times for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 7,22,21,19,00,20,9,42,18,3

Stage #2 Top Ten: 7,21,20,00,22,19,18,42,60,16

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