As Justin Allgaier sat in his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet during a 28-minute red-flag period late in last Saturday’s race at Martinsville Speedway, he calculated his odds for winning the event and qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4.
He might as well have been playing roulette, trying to hit a single number.
“Sitting under the red flag at Martinsville truly was probably the best thing that ever happened,” said Allgaier, who was fifth in the running order at the time. “I looked at the odds of making the final four. I gave myself a five-percent chance, and that’s probably being a little bit generous.”
But Allgaier hit the number when Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed took each other out of the running with a bumping-and-rubbing overtime battle for the lead. Allgaier found an opening to the inside off the final corner and beat Creed to the finish line.
“I don’t know if there’s any destiny in it, but in order to win a championship, you’ve got to be in the final four,” Allgaier said. “And if the five percent doesn’t happen last week at Martinsville, I don’t even have a shot at it, right?
“I think that’s truly something for me that does go a long way. Whether we win or we don’t win, this year has been phenomenal. We’ve had fast race cars. Shoot, I’ve made more mistakes in 2023 than I’ve made probably in entire career combined—pit road speeding penalties and just dumb stuff.
“But when I look at the cars we’ve brought to the race track, this is arguably the most speed week-in, week-out, and a lot of it just comes down to preparation for me.”
A case in point was last Saturday at Martinsville, where Allgaier did not have a winning car—until he did.
“I knew we weren’t in position to win the race,” Allgaier said. “We didn’t have the car to win the race. But my team stayed relevant. They stayed behind me, they kept pushing me, and we had a five-percent chance, and we came out with a win.
“And the Red Sea parted—listen, at the end of the day, everything had to be exactly as it was, and it worked out in our favor, and I can’t be more thankful for that… we’re kind of playing with house money. When I sat under that red flag and I knew we didn’t have a shot at it, it kind of changed my perception of the season, and it’s all for the better. I feel like I come here with a new invigoration to be successful and to win races, and it’s good.”
Further buoying Allgaier’s confidence is the preparation of the track. Gone this year is the resin treatment that has made Phoenix top-lane dominant in recent seasons.
“We’re getting back to the old Phoenix, and I’m excited,” Allgaier said. “Hot, slick, all the things that I want it to be, so we’ve got it all.”
The 37-year-old Allgaier has two victories in 26 starts at Phoenix. Collectively, his Championship 4 competitors—John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer and Sam Mayer—are winless at the track.
“When we leave here,” Allgaier said, “I’d just like everyone else’s win column to stay zero still and ours to have one more.”
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