Allgaier Leads JRM Top-10 Trio in Atlanta

JR Motorsports | 2/23/2019

Atlanta News XFINITY Series

Justin Allgaier showed the way for JRM Saturday with a third-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on a cold, cloudy afternoon in the Peach State.

Race 2 of 33: Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Track Specs: 1.54-mile quad-oval / 163 laps
Weather: Cloudy; 51 degrees
Race Winner: Christopher Bell

Allgaier's Finish: 3rd
Preece's Finish: 7th
Gragson's Finish: 9th
Annett's Finish: 12th

Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier piloted the Cessna Chevrolet Camaro SS to a third-place finish in the Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The No. 7 team’s second top-three finish in two races moved Allgaier from fifth up to third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings.

After qualifying was canceled due to rain, the field was set by 2018 owner points. Allgaier started the race in seventh and drove up to fourth in a hurry. He relayed on lap 6 that the No. 7 Cessna Chevy was tight landing in Turns 1 and 2 and pretty good everywhere else. The Illinois native moved into third place on lap 8 and as the run went on, he reported he was loose on exit, but held on to the third spot through the rest of Stage One. At the stage’s conclusion, the team made a pit stop for four tires, fuel and adjustments.

He started the second stage in fourth on lap 48 and lost some positions after the car ahead of him spun his tires. A few laps into the run, Allgaier radioed that the changes during the last pit stop made the Cessna Camaro tighter and hurt the center. By the end of Stage Two on lap 80, Allgaier was in 11th. Under the stage-ending caution, the team opted to reverse the most recent changes and gave the No. 7 Chevy four tires and fuel.

Allgaier was in the eighth position when the green flag dropped for the final stage on lap 88 and he was up to fifth by the end of the lap. It didn’t take him long to let the team know that the handling of the Cessna Chevrolet was much better. He climbed into the fourth spot on lap 93 and remained there until he came down pit road on lap 121 for a scheduled green-flag stop for four tires, fuel and an adjustment.

When green flag stops cycled through, Allgaier was in the second position and fell back to third after battling with the No. 2 of Tyler Reddick. He was in that same spot when the caution flag waved on lap 156 for a car that spun. The field came to pit road for one last stop for tires and fuel. Allgaier restarted in third with three laps to go and he battled hard, but third is where he would ultimately finish the race.

Christopher Bell won the Rinnai 250 and was followed by Cole Custer and Allgaier, with Brandon Jones and Tyler Reddick rounding out the top five.

Justin Allgaier, driver No. 7 Cessna team

“The weather made it a little bit tricky today. We were just a little bit too tight today with our Cessna Camaro. We struggled to get the balance exactly where we wanted it, but the guys did a fantastic job and made great pit stops. That last run there we got the inside and I thought we were going to be ok and I chose to go to the middle, thinking I could get the run down the back, and I let Cole (Custer) by me. It was a great race. Hats off to Christopher Bell. He had the best car today and we just came up a little bit short.”

Ryan Preece

Ryan Preece and the Louisiana Hot Sauce team brought home a seventh-place finish in the Rinnai 250 on Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The finish is the No. 8 team’s second top 10 of the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

Preece began the 251.02-mile event in sixth place after qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather – the lineup was set per the rulebook, based off the 2018 owners points. Following the green flag the Louisiana Hot Sauce driver got caught on the outside, slipping to ninth before he began to make his way back forward. As the field approached the halfway point of Stage One, Preece began recording lap times that were the quickest in the field. With tight handling and being unable to run his preferred line due to lapped traffic, Preece was held to a ninth-place finish to conclude the first stage.

It wasn’t until the stage break that the Louisiana Hot Sauce team came to pit road. After pitting for fresh tires, fuel and an adjustment, Preece restarted for Stage Two in sixth place. On lap 60, the Connecticut native made his way into the top five and relayed positive handling changes. As the Louisiana Hot Sauce driver battled with teammate Michael Annett throughout the remainder of the caution-free stage, the handling of his No. 8 Chevrolet grew loose. When the green-and-white checkered flag waved, Preece was in ninth place.

Before the final stage began, Preece returned to pit road for additional adjustments, four tires and fuel. After restarting in sixth, Preece drove quiet and focused until he once again began to report tight handling. On lap 121, the Louisiana Hot Sauce team made a scheduled green-flag pit stop for tires, fuel and another adjustment. With the help of the changes, Preece began gaining track position as the final laps at Atlanta drew closer. It was with just under 10 laps to go that the yellow flag was displayed. The No. 8 team took advantage of the caution and came to pit road for fresh tires, fuel and an adjustment. Preece restarted in eighth with three laps remaining and gained one position before the checkered flag waved, ultimately finishing the race in seventh place.

Christopher Bell took the NXS checkered flag at the 1.54-mile track and was followed by Cole Custer, JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones and Tyler Reddick to round out the top five.

Ryan Preece, driver No. 8 Louisiana Hot Sauce team

“It was a fun day driving for JR Motorsports and the No. 8 team. I can’t thank Dale, Kelley and Louisiana Hot Sauce enough for this opportunity. We had a good run today, I just needed more forward drive to gain those final positions in the end. We’ll take what we learned and use it when I’m back with the team in just a few short weeks.”

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, fought through a persistent loose-handling condition to record a hard-earned ninth-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The result is Gragson’s fourth top-10 finish in just his fifth career NXS start.

Gragson took the green flag for the 163-lap event from the fourth position after rain cancelled Saturday morning’s qualifying session, causing the field to be set by owner points per the NASCAR rulebook. After initially battling for position inside the top five, Gragson reported to crew chief Dave Elenz that the Switch Chevrolet had become loose rolling through the corner. With the handling worsening throughout the caution-free opening stage, Gragson was ultimately shuffled back to the 13th position by the time the green-and-white checkered flag was displayed on lap 40.

In-between stages, Elenz called the Las Vegas, Nev. native to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment in the hopes of alleviating the loose-handling condition. Gragson returned to the track following the stop in the 12th position but continued to fight a Switch Chevrolet that was loose. Despite not handling to his liking, the 20-year-old driver remained inside the top 15 for the duration of the caution-free second stage, taking the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 80 in the 14th position.

The driver of the Switch Chevrolet returned to pit road prior to the beginning of the final stage for four tires and another chassis adjustment, lining Gragson up for the lap 87 restart in the 14th position. Once back under green, Gragson reported that the loose-handling condition had returned. Although the handling woes continued, Elenz opted to have Gragson stay out as long as possible during the lone round of green-flag pit stops, moving the JR Motorsports driver into the race lead before ultimately having to come to pit road on lap 134 for four tires and adjustments.

Gragson came back out following the stop in the 16th position, one lap down, but wasted little time moving into the free pass position. The driver of the Switch Chevrolet was then rewarded when an opportune caution on lap 155 moved Gragson back onto the lead lap. Elenz took advantage of this caution period to bring Gragson back to pit road for the last set of fresh tires as the field was set for a three-lap shootout to the finish.

Taking the final restart in 12th on lap 160, Gragson improved three positions in the closing laps to take the checkered flag in the ninth position. With the result, Gragson has now recorded a top 10 in four of his five career starts in the NXS.  

Christopher Bell scored the victory, with Cole Custer, JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones and Tyler Reddick rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“We battled hard today with our Switch Chevrolet and I can’t thank everyone on this JR Motorsports team enough for all of their hard work and for never giving up. We were able to come away with a top-10 finish and can build off of that for sure next weekend at a place I’m very comfortable at, Las Vegas. I’m ready to go.”

Michael Annett

A stubborn tight condition over the final two stages in Saturday’s Rinnai 250 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at Atlanta Motor Speedway cost Michael Annett in the end, as the most recent race winner in the series came home 12th at the checkered flag.

With the same livery he had on the No. 1 Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association Chevrolet when he rolled to victory at Daytona a week earlier, Annett was 12th when the only non-stage caution flag of the day waved on lap 157. Crew chief Travis Mack called Annett down pit road for four tires, fuel, a chassis adjustment and some tape to help the handle. The No. 1 pit crew gained Annett two spots on the exchange and sent their driver back out in 10th spot. On the three-lap dash to the checkered flag, the tight condition balked a solid restart and Annett slipped back to 12th by the time the race reached its conclusion.

After rain washed out qualifying for the event, the field was set by 2018 owner points. That put Annett 16th for the initial start, though he moved up to 12th once the field got rolling as two cars went to the rear of the field. In the early going, Annett advanced to 10th on a couple of occasions but wound up exactly where he started when the green-and-white checkered waved at the end of Stage One. Over the radio, Annett told Mack that his car was tighter than it was in practice the day before and he had to lift on entry, which cost him drive off. Mack responded with wedge and air-pressure adjustments plus some tape on the grille, and the pit crew gained two spots on the stop to put Annett 10th for Stage Two.

When the 40-lap stage got under way, Annett used the new adjustments to move forward, passing JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier for eighth on lap 67. With two laps to go in Stage Two, Annett got past another JRM driver, Ryan Preece, for seventh and the No. 1 Chevrolet stayed there through the finish. Annett told Mack at that point that the changes he’d made to the car were steps in the right direction and that his car was a lot more forgiving. Four more tires, fuel and air-pressure adjustments came on the Stage Two stop and Annett went back out for the final stage in eighth place.

After a brief stint in sixth place, the tight condition returned and Annett dropped to 13th by lap 93. Some 20 laps later, Annett reported that his car was tighter than it was at the start of the race. In response, Mack brought Annett back down pit road under green-flag conditions for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to help the tight condition, falling a lap down in the process. As the rest of the field cycled through under green, Annett emerged 12th on the lead lap as the laps started to wind down.

On lap 157, John Hunter Nemechek spun off Turn 2 to bring out the day’s lone caution flag, setting up Annett’s final stop for tires and adjustments. He crossed the line 12th at the checkered.

Christopher Bell won the race, topping Cole Custer, Allgaier, Brandon Jones and Tyler Reddick. Jeffrey Earnhardt led the second five, with Preece, Justin Haley, JRM’s Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric rounding out the top 10.

Michael Annett, driver No. 1 Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association team

“We just couldn’t get our Pilot Flying J/American Heart Association Chevrolet to loosen up today. We had some good runs and were as fast as anyone at times, but we just couldn’t get the tight condition to go away. It was a good day, we got decent points out of it but we were looking for a little more. Coming down for tires on that late caution, we thought we could get a few positions on the last restart, but it went the same way it did in the previous stage. We’ll take a look at what we need to do before we get to Las Vegas next week.”

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • March 30 01:00 PM ET
    My Bariatric Solutions 300Texas Motor Speedway
  • April 6 01:00 PM ET
    Alsco 300 at BristolBristol Motor Speedway
  • April 12 07:00 PM ET
    ToyotaCare 250Richmond Raceway
  • April 27 01:00 PM ET
    MoneyLion 300Talladega Superspeedway
  • May 4 01:30 PM ET
    Xfinity Series at DoverDover International Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Production Alliance Group 300

Auto Club Speedway | 3/16/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick2200
2Cole Custer213-7
3Christopher Bell206-14
4Brandon Jones183-37
5Austin Cindric179-41
6Michael Annett178-42
7Justin Allgaier171-49
8Noah Gragson #161-59