Allgaier Overcomes 2-Lap Deficit in Kentucky to Score 3rd Place Finish in 1st Playoff Race

Saturday night's running of the 300, NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway was the first Playoff event to determine the 2017 driving title. If determination has anything to do with earning that title, people may look back at this race as the one Justin Allgaier and his race team gained their momentum en route to that championship.

Allgaier made up two laps during the second race segment and roared to life late in the race to finish a sparkling 3rd and move into a tie for the top spot in driver points after Playoff race number one heading to Dover International Speedway next week. Justin and rookie Cole Custer share the top spot with 2,057 points, two better than regular season point champ and Allgaier's JR Motorsports teammate, Elliott Sadler.

Allgaier qualified a strong 4th and said after the race that he had a car fast enough to win the race. While running 4th on lap 14, though, Allgaier's #7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture/Northeastern Supply Chevrolet suddenly started to slow with a flat, right front tire. By the time Justin got the car to pit road and the crew changed all four tires and put in fuel, the #7 found itself two laps down by the time it re-entered the action on lap 19.

Allgaier finished 30th after the first segment, still two laps down, but opted to stay out rather than pit to get the wave-around and get one of the two lost laps back.

The #7 took the green to start the second segment in 28th place on lap 52 of the 200-lap event but in just two laps of racing moved into the 21st position, one lap down. The team caught a break when the second of the race's three caution periods occurred for Angela Ruch's spin on lap 75. The #7 was the first car a lap down at that point so Justin automatically got back a second lap and back onto the lead lap.

Allgaier pitted during this yellow flag period for fresh tires, gas and a wedge adjustment as Allgaier did complain about some tightness in his race machine going thru the corners. Justin re-started the race after the caution in 21st and ran the next 11 laps to the end of segment #2 with a purpose, finishing a bright 11th after a small rally.

During the end-of-segment caution, Crew Chief Jason Burdett called Allgaier to pit road for a fuel-only stop while other leaders pitted for tires and adjustments. The maneuver produced a 3rd place starting position for Allgaier for the final segment of 103 laps.

By lap 108, Allgaier again radioed to Burdett that the car was still tight through the center of the corners and "a little tail happy". Justin remained on the track, though, and on lap 138, with the #7 running 5th, teammate Sadler began a string of green flag pit stops.

Allgaier made his stop 10 laps later for tires, fuel and an adjustment, and after all the lead-lap cars had made their pit stops, Allgaier was in 6th place and eyeing the 50-lap sprint to the checkers that ran without a caution.

Justin's car ran better on long runs, so a long, green flag run was perfect for him to complete his rally. He ran down and passed Custer for 5th place and then Sadler for 4th in just a couple of laps, and with 20 laps to go he set sail for the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Ryan Preece for the 3rd position. Justin finally chased down Preece and passed him for 3rd with just 10 laps remaining and from where he took the checkers to complete the long, hard rally to get his Playoff start off to an excellent start.

"(Crew Chief) Jason Burdett and the crew did a great job with my race car. When we were down, I'll be honest, I got frustrated and little hot under the collar just because we were running so good early," Allgaier said. "These guys never gave up though, and we kept having good pit stops and drove our way up through the field here. I thought we maybe had a car that could win the race tonight, but we came out of here with the best finish we thought we could get and moved ourselves up in points, so overall, it was a good night," Allgaier added.

Tyler Reddick, who has signed to drive the #9 Chevy for JR Motorsports starting next season as Xfinity Series rookie William Byron will move up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next season to drive the #5 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports, won the race with a dominant, final segment. Reddick led the race's final 39 laps and 66 altogether for his first-ever Xfinity Series victory and was almost a dozen seconds ahead of second place finisher and fellow Chip Ganassi Racing driver Brennan Poole. Allgaier followed Poole across the stripe four seconds later with Preece and Custer rounding out the top five.

Next week's Dover race will be supported by several hundred Northeastern Supply customers and employees as the company conducts another weekend of customer entertainment at the race track. It will also be the 2nd of the first three Playoff races with the top eight drivers in points following the race in Charlotte the week after Dover to advance to the second round. Allgaier will be looking to add to his point advantage at Dover and on a race track that he has had both good and bad runs.

Of the top eight in points after Playoff race number one, Allgaier and Custer share the top spot and are two points better than Sadler, five more than rookie Daniel Hemric, six more than another JR Motorsports driver in rookie Byron who finished a disappointing 18th, 10 more than Poole, 21 better than Matt Tifft and 23 ahead of Ryan Reed.

Based on how Allgaier and his race team came storming from behind in Kentucky, you can count on Allgaier and team to be ready to do whatever it takes again to secure good finishes and stay in the top eight in points beginning with Dover.