Road Courses Offer Excellent Chance to Make Points Rain

Ron Lemasters | 8/2/2018

Mid-Ohio News Road America Watkins Glen XFINITY Series

Watkins Glen kicks off a unique month for the JRM squad where the Xfinity Series competes on three road courses, each offering its own brand of twists and turns with opportunities for successes or failures.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 2, 2018) – The month of August in the NASCAR Xfinity Series is equal parts opportunity and peril. All three of the road-course events the series traditionally runs—the new “Roval” at Charlotte Motor Speedway offers a chance for chaos in October—are on the schedule during August, with the other race being at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

That’s a recipe that could produce a great points haul, given the propensity for mayhem to one’s rivals, or a lot of extra work for the fabrication shop and a resulting dip in the standings for the same reason.

That said, there is opportunity to be had when turning left and right.

“I’m looking forward to this stretch,” said Justin Allgaier, driver of the No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet. “We’ll see a lot of talent on the road courses that we otherwise don’t get a chance to see much of, and that’s exciting in a way. This stretch of races, three road courses and Bristol, tests every part of your team, and it’s a great opportunity to gain points. On the other hand, it’s also possible to have the opposite happen. It’s going to be important for everybody heading into the run for the Playoffs.”

As a team, JR Motorsports has one victory in 64 total starts on the three traditional road courses on the schedule at Watkins Glen International, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America. That came in August of 2015, when Regan Smith drove past Alex Tagliani on the final corner—with a little help from the front bumper of his No. 7 Chevrolet, which carried a special Nationwide Children’s Hospital paint scheme honoring NCH Patient Champion Laynie Roll.

Smith, fresh off a disastrous race at Watkins Glen in which he was spun by Ty Dillon in Turn 1 while running third and later encountered Dillon’s teammate, Brendan Gaughan, exiting Turn 5, which ripped the splitter off his No. 7 Chevrolet, had to make up ground to stay in the points race.

He did just that, too, leading 19 of the 75 laps and making up a deficit on the final lap before the cars hit Turn 12, the Carousel. Tagliani entered the corner on the outside, with Smith tucked up behind on the low line. Smith applied the bumper to move the road racer up the track, made the corner and sprinted to the line.

“I’ve been wrecked so many times on these road courses that I did what I had to do,” Smith said that day. “I didn’t spin him, just got the spot. I could have dive-bombed him anywhere on the last lap, but I’ve had that happen to me a lot on these road courses and I wasn’t going to do it to Tags. I had to do what I had to do, and I didn’t wreck him.”

Laynie Roll and her father, Randy, were on the pit box for the race and celebrated with the team in Victory Lane.

“We’re going to celebrate hard tonight,” Smith said. “I’m so happy for Laynie. She’s here in Victory Lane with us. She goes through way more than any kid should have to go through. I told her before we started I was going to do everything we could to win the race today.”

Ron Fellows, the ultimate road-course ringer, won for JRM in 2008 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, driving the GoDaddy.com-sponsored Chevrolet. He won after a tense battle with Jacques Villeneuve (son of Gilles, the Formula One superstar for whom the circuit is named), leading the final seven laps. That race was significant in that it was the first NASCAR event to be contested in the rain, as the skies opened on Ile Notre Dame, and Fellows and crew chief Cam Strader (in just his second race atop the box) brought it home first when NASCAR finally called the race.

Fellows, a Le Mans winner and one of the primo road-racers in the world, finally got a victory on the circuit named for his hero, too. “It’s emotional...,” he said, his voice cracking. “This was good fun...now I’m going to have to beg Dale Jr. to let me race next weekend!” That would have been at Watkins Glen, but as it worked out, Fellows did not race there that next weekend.

In total, JRM drivers have started 64 times at Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio and Road America. Smith still has the only victory on those courses, but JRM has combined for 16 top-five and 36 top-10 finishes in those starts, leading 84 laps in the process. In terms of average finish, Road America tops the list for the team with an 11.6 average. Watkins Glen is second at 13.5 and Mid-Ohio is close behind at 13.8.

Combined with the totals from Montreal (13 starts, Fellows’ victory, three top-five and four top-10 finishes) and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City (four starts, one top-10 finish), JRM teams have two wins, 19 top-five and 41 top-10 finishes in 81 starts, with an average finish of 13.7.

Allgaier also has a victory at Montreal, though for another team. Allgaier, with BRANDT colors on his car, beat the combined might of Team Penske in the 2012 event, leading only the final lap. Villeneuve led heading into the final circuit, but was short on fuel. He slowed in Turn 3 and Allgaier swept past with Sam Hornish Jr. on his tail. Allgaier drove it hard over the next 11 turns, scraping the wall on the exit of the final corner, but came away with the victory by .353 seconds over Hornish.

Notably, the point leader after the race was...Elliott Sadler, now the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet for JRM. Allgaier ranked fifth in points following his victory, and Michael Annett, driver of the No. 5 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet at JRM, was sixth. Fellows finished fifth in that race as well, driving the No. 5 JRM Chevrolet, and Danica Patrick was 27th in the GoDaddy.com No. 7.

Allgaier nearly had another road-course victory, this time at Road America in 2011. Allgaier led into the final lap on the 4.048-mile course, but ran out of fuel under caution (ironically, for Aric Almirola’s JRM Chevrolet stuck in a gravel trap). Allgaier finished 19th.

In 2017, Annett nearly took JRM to victory at Road America. Running third after pitting late in the race from the lead, Annett took advantage of a scrap on the penultimate lap between Jeremy Clements and Matt Tifft, who tangled off Turn 14 heading to the white flag.

Clements dived low into the right-hander and the two made contact. Tifft went spinning off the track, while Clements managed to keep a wheel on the pavement. He got back under way and led the final lap for his first NXS victory. Annett, steaming up on the pair, got past Tifft on the final circuit and finished second.

“We just stayed out there, and we didn’t really feel like we were losing anything on our lap times on old tires,” Annett said that day. “This is a really good day for us, good day in the points.”

That is what this series of road courses is all about: get your points, improve your position for the Playoffs and try to limit any chaos. Throw Bristol, a tough short track, in the middle and there’s a make-or-break atmosphere all through the month.

Usually, the road-course cars are mothballed after Road America, but not in 2018. The upcoming October race at Charlotte, on the “Roval,” adds another potential pitfall to the mix, as it is the transfer race to the second round of the Playoffs.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • November 3 04:30 PM ET
    O’Reilly Auto Parts 300*Texas Motor Speedway
  • November 10 03:30 PM ET
    Whelen Trusted to Perform 200*ISM Raceway
  • November 17 03:30 PM ET
    Ford EcoBoost 300*Homestead-Miami Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Kansas Lottery 300*

Kansas Speedway | 10/20/2018
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Daniel Hemric (P)30670
2Elliott Sadler (P)3058-9
3Tyler Reddick # (P)3055-12
4Christopher Bell # (P)3045-22
5Matt Tifft (P)3044-23
6Justin Allgaier (P)3040-27
7Cole Custer (P)3022-45
13Michael Annett562-2505