Keys to the Championship: No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Team

Ron Lemasters | JR Motorsports | 2/8/2018

Brandt Justin Allgaier News XFINITY Series

The Keys to the Championship series continues with Justin Allgaier and the No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture team.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Feb. 8,  2018) – For Justin Allgaier and Jason Burdett, 2017 ended just the same as 2016 did, with unfinished business remaining to be expunged at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That, as they say, is an excellent place to start. In the two seasons Allgaier and crew chief Burdett have been together, they’ve made the final four each time, but have yet to bring home the big hardware.

A lot of good things happened in 2017. Allgaier posted his first multi-victory season with triumphs at Phoenix and Chicagoland (the latter in the breadbasket of primary sponsor BRANDT), led a career-best 495 laps (a total that was nearly double any other NXS regular and exceeds the laps he led over his previous four NXS seasons combined) and he made the final four again. There were bumps along that road too, as evidenced by mishaps on superspeedways and road courses that cost him the solid finishes he had the previous two seasons.

Keys to the Championship in 2018 for the No. 7 team include regaining that consistency, adjusting to the new regulations and crew restrictions and finally closing the deal at Homestead.

CLOSING THE DEAL: Allgaier is a reflective sort, and you can bet he analyzed his 2017 season up one side and down the other. Weighing pros and cons is kind of his thing. “Last year, we kind of fell flat on our face at Homestead,” he said. “We had a great season up until that point. Two years ago, we had an OK season and a great Homestead and it didn’t work out. It’s been an honor to be with a race team that is capable of putting three of four cars in the final four at Homestead and to be with a manufacturer like Chevy that put all four cars in there.

“I think it’s just that right opportunity and being prepared when the opportunity comes. Two years ago, if one car starts in a different lane, you very easily maybe win a championship, and vice versa. If we’re in a different situation this year and the tables are maybe a little bit different, maybe you win a championship this year. There’s a lot of variables that play into it. If I go out and give it 100 percent, there’s nothing more we can do.”

Winning the title, honestly, is the only mountain left to climb for the 31-year-old Illinois native. “I would want to think that a championship is the next level,” he said. “On the other hand, nothing in this sport is guaranteed. I’ve been lucky enough to have been a contender, but we haven’t quite sealed the deal. I need to go out and we need to do everything we did this year, put ourselves in that good spot again and put ourselves in that final four...if you put yourself in that position enough times, it works out, hopefully.”

NEW FACES: There are two new components of the No. 7 team for 2018. Engineer Ryan Shumate left and will be replaced by Cody Jones. Austin Simmons is the new underneath mechanic. Allgaier has a new spotter this year, as Eddie D’Hondt comes in for the departed TJ Majors. The core of the team—crew chief Burdett, car chief Billy Wilburn and race engineer Allen Hart—all return, as does front-end mechanic Anthony Alonzo. That kind of consistency is key to a team’s success, and the No. 7 team has been remarkably stable in that regard for the past several seasons.

“With the changes, there are going to be times in the first four or five weeks where it’s going to be awkward and different, but this year it’s going to be easier to blend in new guys.” Burdett said. “Every new guy coming doesn’t have an old habit to break, so it will be easier to get them into where they need to be.”

BEING BETTER: Allgaier said he “evolved” as a driver last season, which came about because of stage racing. “I’m typically not a short-run person, not a good qualifier and I wouldn’t say leading laps is a strength of mine,” he said. “I’ve been more of a long-run person, being there at the end of the races. This year, I led more laps than I ever have in my career, more than double anyone else in the Xfinity Series, won multiple races in a season...there’s a lot of things where you go, ‘man, that was a good year.’ The hard part is, when you get all the way to the end of it, you have nothing to show for it. I do, I mean, we finished third, but it wasn’t the ultimate goal we were looking for. I look at the season as a success, no matter the outcome, but I want to go back and do it again this season and be better in all ways.”

Burdett said the key to 2018 was doing everything the team did the last two years, but with a better result in the last race of the season. “The key is the same as every year, right? This year, we have the new body and the new crew deal,” he said. “The format of the race is the same, but the body is a little different, so we’re going to have to learn about that and keep learning as the season goes, trying to get better so you’re at your best at the end, which is the obvious thing. It all comes down to one race track.

“Two years ago we were really good and then last year, we weren’t as good. We have to focus on getting there and then you worry about Homestead when it comes. As far as getting to that final race, our goal will be to try to get a little bit better.”

MANAGING THE CHANGES: Burdett, entering his fourth campaign at the helm of the No. 7 team, said that the new bodies and the crew restrictions will be different, but not overwhelming. “I don’t know that it’s going to be a huge impact,” he said. “At first, it’s going to be weird because you’re used to everyone having a specific job. We were already at fewer people than a Cup car to begin with, so the jobs got split up differently. Take one more person out of that, and I don’t know that it’s going to be a huge factor other than just reorganizing and splitting it up so you make sure you cover all the bases every week. The team that does that the best will probably get the most out of their season.”

The first five races will be the key, Burdett said.

“Once we get through those first five weeks, into that first couple of weekends off, everyone will have a pretty good idea where you’re at, things you need to do better or different, and you’ll have those two weeks to adjust,” he said.. “When you go back to Texas after that, it’ll be almost normal.”

SETTING A PACE: Burdett has a lot of experience adapting to new things, since the NXS has changed in some way or another every year he’s been in it. At the end of the day, it all comes down to setting the stage for a one-race shot at the big trophy.

“The pit stops are all different, the number of people at the track is all different...you’ll spend the first part of this year just adjusting to all that, working with the new body at all the tracks instead of just the few times we ran it last year,” he said. “There’s going to be gremlins that crop up with that, I’m sure. When it gets down to the final seven races, you’re locked in on what you’ve got and concentrating on giving yourself an opportunity to go to Homestead with a chance at the title.”

 

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • August 17 07:30 PM ET
    Food City 300Bristol Motor Speedway
  • August 25 03:00 PM ET
    Road America 180Road America
  • September 1 03:30 PM ET
    Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200Darlington Raceway
  • September 8 04:00 PM ET
    Lilly Diabetes 250Indianapolis Motor Speedway
  • September 15 05:00 PM ET
    DC Solar 300Las Vegas Motor Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Rock N Roll Tequila 170

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course | 8/11/2018
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Christopher Bell #7710
2Elliott Sadler754-17
3Daniel Hemric754-17
4Cole Custer752-19
5Justin Allgaier751-20
6Brandon Jones623-148
7Tyler Reddick #606-165
13Michael Annett405-366