Annett Third, Gragson Sixth at Chicagoland

JR Motorsports | 6/29/2019

BN3TH Brandt Canadamark Chicago Justin Allgaier MagnaFlow Michael Annett News Noah Gragson Pilot Flying J XFINITY Series Zane Smith

Michael Annett and Noah Gragson's teams both used alternative pit strategy at the end of Saturday's 300-miler to put Annett in the top-five and Gragson in the top-10 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Race 15 of 33: Camping World 300 at Chicagoland Speedway
Track Specs: 1.5-mile D-shaped oval / 200 laps
Weather: Mostly Cloudy; 91 degrees
Race Winner: Cole Custer

Annett's Finish: 3rd
Gragson's Finish: 6th
Smith's Finish: 17th
Allgaier's Finish: 32nd

Michael Annett

The strategy from crew chief Travis Mack was perfect at the end of Saturday’s Camping World 300 for NASCAR Xfinity Series cars at Chicagoland Speedway. Staying out more than 20 laps longer than his rivals, driver Michael Annett was leading the 200-lap event but hoping for a caution flag. He got it with 27 laps to go, pitted for tires and precious fuel, and led the field to the green flag with just 21 circuits remaining.

Cole Custer, starting directly behind Annett’s No. 1 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet on that restart, made a lunge to the inside of Annett’s car and made the pass stick down the back straightaway. Custer went on to win the race. Annett kept the leader in sight before falling into the clutches of Joey Logano and Christopher Bell. Logano got past with 19 laps remaining and Bell worked his way past four laps later with a low dive into Turn 3. Annett powered home third, his sixth straight top-10 finish and his fourth in the top five through 15 races. The third-place run was also the Iowa driver’s best this season in the four races on 1.5-mile tracks, and his average finish on those tracks is a stellar 5.3.

After pitting on lap 112 for four tires, fuel and adjustments, Annett stayed out as the others in the lead pack drifted to pit road once their pit windows opened. Annett kept the hammer down and took the lead for the first time on lap 155, as Mack had played a strategy card that depended on catching a caution before the team’s window closed. When B.J. McLeod slapped the wall off Turn 2 on lap 172, that caution waved, and Annett’s thirsty Pilot Flying J Chevrolet came down pit road three laps later for fuel and the team’s last set of tires. The pit crew got Annett out still in the lead, and that set up the final run to the finish.

Starting 16th when the race went green, Annett wasted little time getting toward the front. In just seven laps, he was 11th in the order and advanced to the top 10 a few laps later when the yellow waved for a spin. Through the rest of the 45-lap Stage One, Annett was in the top eight and finished there when the green-checkered flag waved to end it. On his pit stop, Annett got tires and fuel along with an air-pressure tweak, and his Pilot Flying J crew earned two spots on the stop to send him back out in sixth position.

After a caution flag on lap 79, Annett pitted from sixth for more tires and fuel, plus an air-pressure adjustment. Unfortunately, NASCAR called him for speeding in the final section of pit road, and that put him 20th for the restart. Despite having just a handful of laps remaining in the stage, Mack told his driver he had time to get back to the top 10, and Annett very nearly did. Annett gained four spots on the first lap of green-flag racing and was 11th when the flag ended Stage Two. Pitting again, Mack put on four more tires and added fuel, sending Annett back out in 10th spot. In the final stint, Annett was ninth when the caution waved again at lap 112, and Mack brought Annett down pit road again for tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Restarting 16th, Annett needed just two laps to get back to the top 10 and stayed there the rest of the way. As his rivals pitted near the end, Annett had the Pilot Flying J Chevrolet flying in the top groove and eventually took the lead at lap 155.

Custer won the race over Logano, Annett, Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric. JRM Teammate Noah Gragson was sixth with Justin Haley, Ross Chastain, Tyler Reddick and Riley Herbst rounding out the top-10 finishers.

Michael Annett, driver No. 1 Pilot Flying J team

“That strategy from Travis (Mack) worked out perfectly, and we were in a good spot there at the end. We got the caution we needed a lap or two before were going to have to come down pit road. Our Pilot Flying J Chevrolet was fast all weekend, and Cole (Custer) made a great move underneath me on that last restart. We have a win in the bank, so going for another one made sense. We have been really good on 1.5-mile tracks this season and that’s going to help us when it comes to the Playoffs.”

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 MagnaFlow Chevrolet Camaro, overcame a penalty early in Stage Three to earn a sixth-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Chicagoland Speedway. The result is Gragson’s fifth-consecutive top-10 finish and moves the JR Motorsports driver up to seventh in the championship standings.

Gragson took the green flag for the 200-lap event from the 10th position and continued to fight for position inside the top 10 until the first caution of the day came out on lap 11. Despite taking the ensuing restart in ninth, the driver of the MagnaFlow Chevrolet was shuffled back to the 13th position after getting forced four-wide entering the first corner. Undeterred by the loss of track position, Gragson took advantage of the green flag run that ended the opening stage to take the green-and-white checkered flag on lap 45 in the 12th position.

Prior to the beginning of Stage Two, crew chief Dave Elenz called the 20-year-old driver to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment after Gragson reported that the MagnaFlow Chevrolet needed more grip rolling through the corner. Returning to the track following the stop in 10th, Gragson maintained his top-10 track position until a lap 77 caution period provided Elenz an opportunity to play with some strategy. With a handful of the leaders choosing to come to pit road, the decision was made to keep Gragson out on the track in order to save a set of tires for the final stage. Although restarting in the fifth position as a result of the strategy call, the fresher tires prevailed as Gragson was shuffled back outside of the top 10 over the final five laps of Stage Two to take the green-and-white checkered flag in 15th.

During the stage-ending caution, Gragson returned to pit road for four tires and some slight repairs to the right-rear fender due to some minor contact with the outside retaining wall just prior to the end of Stage Two. As a result of the repairs, the driver of the MagnaFlow Chevrolet lined up for the lap 96 restart in 23rd and wasted little time charging forward, improving 12 positions to 11th before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 110. While under caution, Elenz decided to call Gragson back to pit road for four fresh tires, but a penalty for an uncontrolled tire forced the JRM driver to fall to the rear of the field for the lap 115 restart.

Once again unfazed by the loss of track position, Gragson persevered, taking advantage of the long run that ensued to drive back up to the 11th position before the lone round of green flag pit stops commenced for the leaders. Knowing that the leaders would be pitting sporadically, Elenz opted to keep Gragson on-track for as long as possible in the hopes of catching an opportune caution. Then, with just a handful of laps remaining on fuel, the caution flag Elenz was looking for was displayed with Gragson scored in the second position on lap 172. Gragson returned to pit road during the caution for four tires and another round of chassis adjustments.

The driver of the MagnaFlow Chevrolet returned following the stop in the second position for what turned out to be the final restart of the afternoon. After initially getting forced three-wide heading into Turn 1, Gragson slid back to sixth but was able to maintain his track position for the final nine laps to earn his fifth-consecutive top-10 finish.

With the result, Gragson improves to seventh in the championship standings. 

Cole Custer earned the victory, with Joey Logano, JRM teammate Annett, Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 MagnaFlow team

“I feel like we learned a lot today with our MagnaFlow Chevrolet. Dave (Elenz, crew chief) made some really good adjustments throughout the race that let us overcome a penalty to bring home another top-10 finish. I’m just really proud to be driving these racecars for JR Motorsports. These guys never quit and we are continuing to build some great momentum moving forward. Hopefully we can keep this going next week in Daytona.”

Zane Smith

Zane Smith drove the Canadamark/BN3TH Chevrolet Camaro to a 17th-place finish in Saturday’s Camping World 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Chicagoland Speedway. Smith and the team did a stellar job positioning themselves among the front runners, even leading three laps under caution, until a pit road penalty hampered the team’s efforts and relegated them to the finish.

Smith fired off in 13th when the green flag waved, and early in the race he moved up to 11th, eyeing a position among the competitors in the top 10. As the laps clicked off in the opening stint and Smith was able to assess the handling condition of the No. 8, he reported it was “tight all around [and] needed more rotation.” With a good pace, the team came home 16th in Stage One.

After coming to pit road for a scheduled stop under the stage-ending caution, Smith took the Stage Two restart in 19th and quickly settled in. He climbed to 15th before a caution slowed the field on lap 78.  The Canadamark/BN3TH team then took its second opportunity to come to pit road for fresh tires and another chassis adjustment, restarting in 13th. With the green flag in the air, Smith fired off like a rocket. He cut his way through four-wide traffic to gain nine positions and surfaced in fourth. He held on to sixth and led the JRM charge for the conclusion of Stage Two.

Under caution, the team opted to come back to pit road in an attempt to make further adjustments on the No. 8’s handling, positioning themselves in ninth for the final stage restart. Once back up to speed, Smith went to work and jumped to fifth before a caution on lap 111 slowed the field. In an effort to gain paramount track position, crew chief Taylor Moyer made a strategic call for track position and elected not to pit. This propelled Smith to the lead for the restart. Though the track position proved critical, Smith gave way to cars on fresher tires and drifted to ninth.

The benefit of a caution that would set the field back on the same strategy never came and Smith came to pit road under green-flag conditions with 48 laps to go. During his exit off pit road NASCAR deemed Smith was speeding and he was forced back into the pits to serve a pass-through penalty. This set the team back to 17th, two laps down. The misfortune proved too much to overcome in the limited number of laps remaining, although the Canadamark/BN3TH team did manage to earn one of its laps back in the closing stages.

Cole Custer won the race and was followed to the line by Joey Logano, Michael Annett, Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric.

Zane Smith, driver No. 8 Canadamark/BN3TH Chevrolet team

“It was not the day we were hoping for today. At times it was a struggle out there. We didn’t have the car we had yesterday but I think we definitely went the right way on adjustments as it handled better as the team worked on it. But it was sweet to put tires on that thing and drive up to fourth the way we did. And I love that call to get track position, it’s so critical at these types of track. Unfortunately, we kind of screwed ourselves speeding at the end of pit road. There was no time to rebound from that.

“I want to give a big thanks to Canadamark and BN3TH. Their support meant a lot to us today and I can’t wait to be in the car back at Iowa.” 

Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier and the BRANDT Professional Agriculture team had an early end to their day at Chicagoland Speedway after damage sustained from contact with the wall due to a blown tire sent the No. 7 Camaro to the garage. Allgaier was scored with a 32nd-place finish and is now fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings.

Saturday started out promising for the Illinois native when he and the team qualified fourth for the 200-lap NXS race. He took the green flag and started his surge forward, but the No. 7 Chevy got loose and spun, bringing out the caution on lap 12. Allgaier was able to avoid damage to the BRANDT Camaro and he came to pit road for four tires, fuel and an adjustment to help with the loose-handling condition.

He restarted 31st and wasted no time climbing towards the front. Allgaier was back up to ninth by lap 20 and took the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage One in sixth. Under the caution, Jason Burdett called Allgaier in for four tires and multiple adjustments as he was still loose on entry and exit and tight through the center of the turns.

The JR Motorsports driver took the green flag for the second stage on lap 51 and was running in eighth when he reported that the BRANDT Camaro was better on entry and exit, but still plowing in the center. When a caution came out on lap 78, a majority of the field came to it road but the No. 7 team opted to stay out since they were down a set of tires due to their earlier spin. Allgaier restarted in third and was able to end Stage Two in ninth place despite being on older tires. During the stage-ending caution, the team took the opportunity to make several adjustments to improve the handling of the BRANDT Chevy.

Allgaier lined up in the 15th position to start the final stage on lap 96 and worked his way up to sixth by lap 103. He reported that the No. 7 Camaro fired off good, but was starting to go back to the free side on entry and exit. A spin by the No. 39 brought out a caution on lap 111 and the team called Allgaier to pit road for four tires and fuel. Allgaier was in eighth when the field went back to green as some cars opted to stay out. During the chaos of the restart a car got loose below Allgaier and forced the No. 7 Camaro into the wall.

The BRANDT Chevy suffered damage to the right side, so Allgaier came to pit road for right-side tires and repairs. He got back on track two laps down, but not long after, the damage caused a tire to go down and sent Allgaier into the wall, forcing him to go to the garage. Allgaier ended the day with a 32nd-place finish.

Cole Custer won the race and was followed by Joey Logano and JRM driver Michael Annett, Brandon Jones and Austin Cindric rounding out the top five.

Justin Allgaier, driver No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture team

“I hate how today went for our BRANDT Professional Agriculture team. We had so many people from BRANDT here cheering us on. Our No. 7 Camaro was fast and these guys worked hard all weekend long. I fired off loose at the start of the race and had that spin, but we recovered nicely and I thought we were going to come home with a strong finish. Unfortunately our bad luck returned.”

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • July 20 04:00 PM ET
    Lakes Region 200New Hampshire Motor Speedway
  • July 27 05:00 PM ET
    U.S. Cellular 250Iowa Speedway
  • August 3 03:00 PM ET
    Zippo 200Watkins Glen International
  • August 10 03:00 PM ET
    B&L Transport 170 at Mid-OhioMid-Ohio Sports Car Course
  • August 16 07:30 PM ET
    Food City 300Bristol Motor Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Alsco 300 at Kentucky

Kentucky Speedway | 7/12/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick7640
2Christopher Bell697-67
3Cole Custer689-75
4Austin Cindric621-143
5Justin Allgaier617-147
6Noah Gragson #569-195
7Michael Annett540-224
8Chase Briscoe #531-233