Annual Chili Bowl Meet Features Allgaier, Elledge, Drivers with JRM Ties

Ron Lemasters | JR Motorsports | 1/14/2019

Chili Bowl jason burdett Justin Allgaier Karsyn Elledge News

There's a chance a driver with ties to JRM will make some noise in this week's running of the Chili Bowl Nationals, the annual motorsports season kickoff.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Jan. 14, 2019) – The 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals is here, and there’s a good chance a driver you’ve heard of—who has raced with JR Motorsports—will make some noise in the annual kickoff to the motorsports season.

That list begins with Justin Allgaier, who drives the No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet for the two-time defending NASCAR Xfinity Series championship team, and this year it includes 18-year-old Karsyn Elledge, daughter of JRM General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller. Both Allgaier and Elledge are slated to run their preliminary nights on Thursday.

Among the others with JRM ties entered into the massive open-wheel extravaganza include Kyle Larson, Landon Cassill, Brad Sweet, Kasey Kahne and Alex Bowman, all of whom have competed in JRM machinery in past years.

For Allgaier, the annual trek to Tulsa in pursuit of the Golden Driller trophy is something he does to pay homage to his open-wheel roots. The 32-year-old Illinois native has had some success at the week-long meeting of the open-wheel world and is seeking another trip to Saturday’s A-Main this year. Allgaier made the A-Main in 2006, 2007 and 2009, with a best finish of third place in 2007. In that race, he finished behind winner Tony Stewart and runner-up J.J. Yeley.

Last year, Allgaier came close to making it again, but finished 16th in the B-Main, the last race prior to the finale, and failed to advance. After finishing second in the C-Main, contact from another car caused his brakes to fail in the B-Main. In 2017, Allgaier was involved in a crash on the final lap of his qualifying night and that put him at a disadvantage trying to qualify from the C-Main.

This year, he’ll have a new Ripper Chassis sponsored by Federated Auto Parts at his disposal, and will run the No. 1A, in homage to his open-wheel-racing roots. He’ll also be taking Jason Burdett, his crew chief at JRM, along for the ride. Burdett will be there all week long, providing some help and some continuity to the effort.

“What’s cool about Jason coming is, he’s been there the last two years, at least a couple of days, but he’s never gone and spent the week out there,” Allgaier said. “Jason and I have a great relationship as driver and crew chief, but this is completely different because neither one of us really know what we’re doing. We can fake it until we make it, but we’re both in the same kind of boat. We both love dirt racing and have both been around it a lot, so it’s not that we don’t know what we’re doing. We both know that there are other people we’re going to rely on to be successful at it.”

While it will be a bit of a change from their normal at-track roles, it’s a great chance for driver and crew chief to get an early start on the 2019 season. The pair has combined for seven victories, 40 top-five and 68 top-10 finishes in the last three NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons, which includes two trips to the winner-take-all Playoffs finale.

“(Jason) is the type that when you show up at the track, he has no ego,” Allgaier said. “To him, he’s someone that’s there to get his hands dirty, whether it’s grooving tires or changing setups on the car. Give him some direction and some tools and he’s all in. That’s really cool to watch, to see his excitement. It’s fun to have a familiar face there too, not that I don’t know the guys that will be in the pits really well, but it’s that consistency that puts you in that mode where you’re able to give information and do things differently that you wouldn’t normally have. That’s going to be really cool to have him there.”

The timing of the Chili Bowl Nationals is problematic in the sense that preparation for the NXS season is reaching pandemonium level in North Carolina, Allgaier said.

“It’s hard because this is the busiest time of the year,” he said. “It’s that final push to get everything ready to go. We kick off the season with either the Chili Bowl or dirt racing in Florida or at Daytona with the Xfinity Series, and they’re all the biggest races that we run. It makes a big difference.”

Getting a solid result in one of the biggest Midget races of the year is the goal for Allgaier, who knows what he’s up against in Tulsa.

“There are 24 guys who are going to make the A-Main, and there are 400 cars that are going to show up,” he said. “Odds are really stacked against you. For me the hardest part that I have is, I race one time a year. I’m jumping in a car that, No. 1, has some of the most talented drivers in the world behind the wheel that I’m racing against, and they do it all the time. That makes it even harder to just jump in and go be successful. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but it does make it a challenge. From that standpoint that’s where I struggle.

“We still run well, still do the things we need to do, still have great qualifying nights, usually and put ourselves in position. Like two years ago, we were in great position to make the A-Main, had a right-rear bleeder stick, the tire was going flat. I ended up digging the wheel in and turning over going through Turn 3 and 4 on the way to the checkered flag. That completely ruined the weekend. Once I turned over, we had a lot of damage that we had to fix and then when we fired off for the B-Main on Saturday night, the ignition box was internally hurt, so...it was just one of those odd situations.”

The margins in the Chili Bowl are very small, Allgaier said.

“I don’t believe in luck, but the definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation,” he said. “Chili Bowl is one of those places where, the majority of the cars you’re going to race against are prepared. It’s just that right opportunity, the two cars in front of you getting together that opens up the gap that you take and it works out for you and the car behind you tries to take and it doesn’t. It’s all those little bitty details...even when everything goes your way you still might not get it done. That’s probably the hardest part about Chili Bowl. Your lap times are extremely fast and the margin of error is in the single-digit percent.”

Elledge, who competed in several Midget races for Tucker-Boat Motorsports last year, will make her first attempt at splashing on the national stage. Currently a college student, Elledge has a good chance of making some noise in the open-wheel ranks on a national—and international—stage.

“I’m really excited, but knowing there are 300-something cars in that building, I like to be real and set expectations for myself, so I know that I’m probably not going to go out there and set the world on fire,” she said. “Regardless, I feel like how you do at Chili Bowl doesn’t matter; the feeling of being in that building and rolling onto the frontstretch at the Expo and seeing all the fans and photographers and everything, coming up the ramp and down the ramp...it’s just a feeling you don’t get anywhere else.”

Elledge ran eight races with Tucker-Boat Motorsports in 2018, six in the USAC POWRi Series and two in the USAC National Midgets, and is hoping for a full season in the open-wheel ranks this year. “The first half of the season is pretty well buttoned up and we’re trying to work out the rest of it,’ she said. “I would say I want to just to get some valuable seat time in the Midget and maybe run those this year and maybe next year, if I can get that worked out, and then see what opportunities might present themselves to keep moving up the ladder.”

The sheer size of the field at the Chili Bowl makes it tough to put a number on what constitutes a success, but Elledge has her own idea of what would make the journey worth it.

“There’s a lot of stacked talent at Chili Bowl, and it’s the luck of the draw, so you never know what can happen,” she said. “If I can make a qualifier on my prelim night, and race my way up in that, that would be good. It would be cool to make a qualifying-night feature, but I don’t know how that is going to go.”

Elledge does have some help on-site this week, as Allgaier has long been a supporter of her racing efforts.

“Karsyn’s been a friend for a lot longer than even me being here at JRM,” Allgaier said. “We both ran out of her dad’s shop with Mini-Outlaw Karts, and I got to kind of watch her grow up. She was basically running the kids’ class then, and now she’s not only competing but being successful at an extremely high level. It’s fun to watch.

“She’s super talented and that makes a big difference. Just watching her, she’s kind of elevated herself on her own terms. She’s hard on herself, she works hard and pushes herself to be better. You watch the success that she’s had and it’s pretty awesome to see her to become the race car driver that she’s become.”

Stay tuned for updates from the 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

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  • May 25 01:00 PM ET
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XFINITY Series Standings

After ToyotaCare 250

Richmond Raceway | 4/12/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick3620
2Christopher Bell338-24
3Cole Custer333-29
4Austin Cindric299-63
5Justin Allgaier275-87
6John Hunter Nemechek #263-99
7Michael Annett262-100
8Chase Briscoe #255-107
10Noah Gragson246-116