Top-10s for Preece, Allgaier at California

JR Motorsports | 3/16/2019

Brandt Justin Allgaier Michael Annett News Noah Gragson Pilot Flying J Ryan Preece Switch Velveeta XFINITY Series

Ryan Preece and Justin Allgaier both scored top-10 finishes Saturday for JRM in the final race of the 2019 West Coast Swing at Auto Club Speedway in California.

Race 5 of 33: Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway
Track Specs: 2-mile D-Shaped oval / 150 laps
Weather: Sunny; 76 degrees
Race Winner: Cole Custer

Preece's Finish: 8th
Allgaier's Finish: 9th
Gragson's Finish: 12th
Annett's Finish: 13th

Ryan Preece

Ryan Preece and the Velveeta Shells and Cheese team battled adversity to bring home an eighth-place finish in the Production Alliance Group 300 on Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway. The finish is Preece’s second top 10 in his two starts with JR Motorsports and is the No. 8 team’s fourth top 10 of the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

Preece began the day strong, advancing to the final round of single-car qualifying to earn a seventh-place starting position for the 300-mile event. During the opening laps, the 28-year-old driver wheeled the Velveeta Chevrolet into the top five and began racing teammates Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson to remain inside. On lap 14, Preece relayed over the radio that his Camaro was handling tight through the center of each turn, which ultimately allowed his teammates to complete the pass, putting him in the seventh position. As the long-run continued, the Connecticut native remained focus and fought the ill-handing condition. It wasn’t until the stage ended that the No. 8 team made its first trip to pit road to make the needed adjustments. When Stage One concluded, the Velveeta Chevrolet was in eighth place.

After pitting for four tires, fuel and taking the time to make multiple changes, Preece restarted for Stage Two in 12th. On lap 49, the Velveeta Camaro made its way back into the top 10 and claimed another two positions within the next three laps. Preece was running in the eighth position with 15 laps remaining in the stage when he reported that the handling of his Chevrolet had improved, but that he still needed more forward drive. When the green-and-white checkered flag waved to end Stage Two, the Velveeta team was in seventh.

Under the stage-ending caution, Preece returned to pit road for fresh tires, further adjustments to the No. 8 Chevrolet and fuel. After restarting in sixth, Preece drove quiet and focused until the caution flag was displayed on lap 85. The driver of the Velveeta Chevrolet relayed that his car was handling the best it had been all day, but that he still needed more turn. Crew chief Taylor Moyer made the call to bring Preece down pit road for tires, fuel and an adjustment. When the field restarted, the No. 8 team was in ninth place after a few competitors remained on track.

On lap 94, Preece returned to the radio to report the latest set of tires had tightened back up his Camaro’s handling. It was under the lap-112 caution that the Velveeta team pit for tires, fuel and to make another adjustment. With just over 30 laps to go, Preece took the restart in sixth place and began working with Allgaier. It was on lap 125 that the No. 19 of Brandon Jones spun in front of Preece, causing the No. 8 Chevrolet to also spin to avoid contact. The No. 8 Chevrolet came to pit road under the yellow flag for fresh tires and potential damage repair. Preece restarted in 13th with 20 laps remaining. When the checkered flag waved, the Velveeta team had claimed five positions to finish eighth.

Cole Custer took the NXS checkered flag in the final race of the West Coast swing and was followed by Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe to round out the top five.

Ryan Preece, driver No. 8 Velveeta Shells and Cheese team

“Our Velveeta Shells and Cheese team had a pretty eventful day. We battled a lot of adversity, but kept fighting to bring home another top-10 finish. We just needed to find a little more turn in our No. 8 Chevrolet – I had to slow the car down a little too much to get it to turn, which cost us. I’ve got two more races with JR Motorsports and look forward to building on these past weekends.”

Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier and the BRANDT Professional Agriculture team earned their third top-10 finish of the season on Saturday, placing ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway. The effort moved Allgaier up to seventh in the NXS point standings.

Rolling off the grid from the eighth spot for the 300-mile race, Allgaier advanced his position to fifth by lap 4. He radioed to the team early in the run that the BRANDT Chevy was loose on corner exit in Turns 1 and 2 and pretty good in Turns 3 and 4. Still he continued his forward momentum, moving into the fourth position on lap 14 and remaining there until the green-and-white checkered flag waved to end Stage One on lap 35. Under the stage-ending caution, crew chief Jason Burdett called Allgaier to pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments to try to help the loose condition on exit.

Starting Stage Two in fourth, Allgaier worked his way forward to third within the first few laps. Giving the team some feedback, he reported that the adjustments helped the BRANDT Camaro on exit, but hurt the center. He maintained his position on the track, fighting through the tight-handling condition that developed in the center of the turns. When the caution came out to end Stage Two on lap 70, Allgaier was still in third. He brought the No. 7 Chevy to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment.

Taking the green flag for the final stage in third, he was running in the same spot when the yellow flag waved on lap 84 for an incident on the frontstretch. The team called him to pit road for fresh tires, fuel and an adjustment. Allgaier restarted in sixth and worked his way up to fourth. He battled for the position with Christopher Bell and Austin Cindric but was ultimately able to hold them off. The Illinois native then made the pass on Tyler Reddick to take over the third position on lap 107.

On lap 111, the yellow flag waved once again for a spin by the No. 22 of Cindric. Under the caution, Allgaier relayed to the team that he was still tight center and free on exit. The team took the opportunity to make a pit stop for tires, fuel and another adjustment. He restarted in fourth and advanced one position before another caution came out on lap 124. Opting to come to pit road, the team gave Allgaier four fresh tires and fuel.

The 32-year-old driver restarted in fourth and continued to race inside the top five, however the tight-handling condition worsened and Allgaier ultimately took the checkered flag in the ninth position. Cole Custer won the race and was followed by Kyle Busch and Bell, with Reddick and Chase Briscoe rounding out the top five.

Justin Allgaier, driver No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture team

“Yesterday in practice the balance on our BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevy was really good and I thought that Turns 1 and 2 were going to be our strength today but that wasn’t the case. I’m not sure if it was the different temperatures or what. I thought we had a great shot today but it just didn’t work out for us towards the end there. I’m really disappointed that we finished ninth. We didn’t run that far back all day. I still love this racetrack, but this West Coast swing has just been tough on us.”

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, overcame a flat right-front tire and a penalty on pit road to earn a 12th-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Gragson has now finished 12th or better in all eight of his NXS starts and remains eighth in the championship standings, 59 makers behind leader Tyler Reddick.

Gragson took the green flag for the 150-lap event from the fifth position after advancing to the final round of knockout qualifying on Saturday morning. After getting forced three-wide on the initial start, Gragson maintained his top-five track position despite reporting to crew chief Dave Elenz that the Switch Chevrolet was loose rolling through the corner. As the caution-free opening stage progressed, Gragson battled with JR Motorsports teammates Ryan Preece and Justin Allgaier before ultimately taking the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 35 to end Stage One in the fifth position, earning six valuable stage points.

Elenz opted to bring Gragson to pit road following Stage One for four tires and a chassis adjustment in the hopes of improving the loose-handling condition. Gragson returned to the track following the stop in the third position and remained there for a handful of laps before reporting that the Switch Chevrolet had shifted toward the tight-side. Although not handling to his liking, the Las Vegas, Nev. native continued to fight for position inside the top 10 until a piece of debris punctured the right-front tire, forcing Gragson to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop on lap 61.  The 20-year-old Rookie of the Year contender found himself one lap down to the race leaders as a result of the unscheduled stop, but Gragson never gave up and raced into the free pass position by the time the green-and-white checkered flag was displayed to end Stage Two on lap 70.

During the stage-ending caution, Gragson returned to pit road for four tires and another round of adjustments, lining the driver of the Switch Chevrolet up in the 14th position for the ensuing restart. Once back underway, Gragson needed only three laps to charge back into the top 10 before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 83. While under caution, the decision was made for Gragson to stay out on the racetrack while the leaders came to pit road due to the tire disadvantage that was created by the flat right-front tire during Stage Two. As a result of staying out, Gragson took the lap 89 restart as the race leader but was quickly shuffled back to the 12th position as the fresh tires prevailed on the worn-out track surface in Fontana. Despite being shuffled back, Gragson maintained his track position and took advantage of a lap 111 caution period to return to pit road for four fresh tires.

However, an untimely penalty during the pit stop for an uncontrolled tire forced the driver of the Switch Chevrolet to take the lap 117 restart from the rear of the field. Undeterred by the penalty, Gragson once again pressed forward, driving up to the seventh position before another quick caution on lap 123. During this caution period, both Elenz and Gragson discussed their options over the radio before deciding to gamble on a late-race caution and stay out to save their last set of sticker tires. With the majority of the race leaders opting to come to pit road, Gragson moved up to the second position for the lap 130 restart.

Unfortunately, the gamble didn’t pay off as the Switch team had hoped as the late-race caution never fell and fresher tires prevailed. In the end, Gragson took the checkered flag in the 12th position.

With the result, Gragson remains eighth in the championship standings, 59 points behind leader Reddick. 

Cole Custer earned the victory, with Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, Reddick and Chase Briscoe rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“Today was a great learning day with our Switch Chevrolet. We took a gamble and went for the win by staying out and unfortunately, we didn’t catch the caution we needed. But I am really proud of everyone on this JR Motorsports team. We had great speed all weekend long and we are getting closer and closer to the top every week. I’m ready for Texas.”

Michael Annett

Michael Annett and crew chief Travis Mack gambled on a late-race pit stop and were in position to earn another top-five finish or possibly a victory in Saturday’s Production Alliance Group 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines at Auto Club Speedway. The hoped-for caution flag did not come out, however, and Annett wound up 13th in the No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet.

It was an otherwise solid day for Annett and his No. 1 team, finishing in the points at the end of each stage and leading five laps on the day. It could have been even better. Annett was running eighth on lap 125 when Brandon Jones looped his car in Turn 3 to bring out the fifth caution of the day. Having just stopped on lap 113 for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment, Annett and Mack opted to stay out when the majority of the lead-lap cars came to pit road for their last sets of tires. The only other lead-lap car that stayed out was JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson, and the two teammates led the field to the green flag on lap 131.

Annett and Gragson were immediately swallowed up by the cars with fresher tires and fell back through the field. Annett was 14th when the field crossed the stripe on the first green-flag lap and stayed there as the laps clicked away. With eight to go, Annett passed Jeremy Clements for 13th spot and that’s where he finished. Prior to that, the No. 1 team had been in the thick of the battle for the top 10 all day long.

Starting 16th, Annett wasted little time in moving forward. He was 15th at the end of the first lap and kept marching forward until he hit the top 10 on lap 22. Over the remaining laps in the 35-lap Stage One, Annett advanced to sixth and gained five stage points. On pit road at the break, the No. 1 crew installed four new tires and added fuel, gaining a spot to fifth for the restart to begin Stage Two. That restart proved problematic for the Iowa driver, however, as he got pinned on the low line and lost six spots once the green flag waved. After working his way back to his preferred groove, Annett began carving his way back toward the upper reaches of the top 10. When Stage Two ended, Annett was ninth, earning two more stage points on the day.

On his pit stop for the 80-lap run to the checkered, Mack made the call for an air-pressure adjustment and added four tires and fuel, sending his driver back out in seventh place. After a solid restart that saw Annett rise to sixth place early on, the caution flag waved seven laps later for a two-car incident and Annett followed the lead pack back onto pit road for tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment to help his drive off Turn 2. During the stop, Annett slid through his pit box and had to back up before service began, which cost him eight spots on the track. Another good restart saw the Iowa native gain three spots on the initial break to 11th. By lap 112, Annett was ninth when the caution waved again. Another visit to pit road saw four more tires, fuel and a slight air-pressure change for the Pilot Flying J Camaro, and it also saw a gain of two spots when others ahead of him were hit with penalties, including Gragson and race-long leader Kyle Busch.

Just a few laps later, the caution for Jones waved, and that set up the gamble the team took in order to go for the victory. “I love results,” Annett told Mack on the radio. “But I love win stickers too.”

Cole Custer won the race, followed by Busch, who had won the past two NXS events. Christopher Bell was third, followed by point leader Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe. Austin Cindric wound up sixth, followed by Jones, the JRM duo of Ryan Preece and Justin Allgaier, and Justin Haley to round out the top 10.

Michael Annett, driver No. 1 Pilot Flying J team

“With a victory in our back pocket, we were able to gamble a bit late in the race, thinking that another caution was going to come out before the end and allow us a shot at winning another one. I had a feeling it was going to happen that way, and we had a set of tires in the pits just for that. It didn’t work out that way and we were out there on old tires, but it’s a nice feeling to be in the position where we can take that gamble. We had a good Pilot Flying J Chevrolet and Travis (Mack) made a good call for the situation. It will come our way one of these days. We led laps and doubled up on stage points today, so all in all, it was a successful run for us.”

XFINITY Series Schedule

  • August 24 03:00 PM ET
    CTECH Manufacturing 180Road America
  • August 31 04:00 PM ET
    Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200Darlington Raceway
  • September 7 03:00 PM ET
    Indiana 250Indianapolis Motor Speedway
  • September 14 07:30 PM ET
    Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300Las Vegas Motor Speedway
  • September 20 07:30 PM ET
    Go Bowling 250Richmond Raceway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Food City 300

Bristol Motor Speedway | 8/16/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick9780
2Christopher Bell924-54
3Cole Custer839-139
4Justin Allgaier819-159
5Austin Cindric785-193
6Chase Briscoe #742-236
7Noah Gragson #728-250
8Michael Annett695-283