JRM Rebounds for Four Top-10 Finishes at Iowa

JR Motorsports | 7/27/2019

Iowa Justin Allgaier Michael Annett News Noah Gragson PatientPop Switch TMC U.S. Cellular XFINITY Series Zane Smith

It was an up and down day at Iowa Speedway but a late surge resulted in all four JRM Chevrolets finishing in the top-10 in Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250.

Race 19 of 33: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway
Track Specs: 0.875-mile oval / 250 laps
Weather: Fair; 87 degrees
Race Winner: Chase Briscoe              

Gragson's Finish: 4th
Allgaier's Finish: 6th
Smith's Finish: 9th
Annett's Finish: 10th

 

Noah Gragson

Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Switch Chevrolet Camaro, rebounded from damage sustained in an incident on lap 43 in Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Iowa Speedway to earn a fourth-place finish. With the result, Gragson has now recorded eight top-10 finishes in the last nine NXS races and improves the JR Motorsports driver to 120 points ahead of the 12th and final cutoff position for the Playoffs. In addition, Gragson’s top-five finish is also the 300th top-five overall for JRM as an organization, dating back to 2005.

Gragson wasted little time climbing forward from his 13th starting position once the 250-lap event was underway, needing just four laps to drive into the top 10. Gragson march continued until contact with the No. 22 of Austin Cindric while battling for eighth on lap 43 damaged the nose and right-front fender of the Switch Chevrolet. As a result of the damage, Gragson was forced to come to pit road under the ensuing caution for repairs, shuffling the Las Vegas native back to 24th for the final eight-lap sprint to the end the opening stage. Despite the loss of track position, Gragson pressed on, improving nine positions in the closing laps to take the green-and-white checkered flag to end Stage One on lap 60 in 15th

Prior to the beginning of Stage Two, crew chief Dave Elenz called the driver of the Switch Chevrolet back to pit road in order to make further repairs to the damaged right-front fender. Returning to the track following the extended stop in 23rd, Gragson again pushed forward, improving seven positions to 17th before the field was slowed by another caution on lap 73. The rookie-of-the-year contender continued his climb up the leaderboard following the lap 78 restart, taking advantage of a long green flag run to race back into the top 15 and up to 13th by the time Stage Two came to a close on lap 120.

Then, while under the stage-ending caution, Gragson brought the Switch Chevrolet back to pit road for four tires and a chassis adjustment after reporting to Elenz that he had developed a tight-handling condition rolling through the corner. Lining up following the stop in 13th for the lap 129 restart, the 21-year-old driver quickly raced up to 11th before the caution flag was displayed once again on lap 151. After debating between taking their final set of fresh tires or not during the caution period, Elenz made the decision to play with some strategy and called Gragson back to pit road for fuel only while several of the race leaders opted to put on their final set of tires. The strategy call paid off as Gragson improved to the seventh position for the lap 158 restart.

The driver of the Switch Chevrolet continued to fight for position inside the top 10 for the run that followed until an opportune caution on lap 200 provided Elenz with the chance to again work with some strategy. With the majority of the leaders stuck on older tires, Elenz made the call to bring Gragson back to pit road for the final set of fresh tires that had been saved during the previous lap 151 caution.

Returning to the track following the stop in ninth, Gragson methodically worked his way forward, utilizing the fresh tires to charge into the top five over the final laps and ultimately take the checkered flag in the fourth position.

The top-five result is Gragson’s fourth of the 2019 NXS season and the 300th overall for JRM as an organization.

Chase Briscoe earned the victory, with Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, Gragson and Tyler Reddick rounding out the top five.

Noah Gragson, driver No. 9 Switch team

“I can’t thank my guys on this Switch team enough. They never gave up all day long and we were able to comeback from getting that damage to our right front to get a really solid top-five finish. It just shows again how this group has no quit in them and will fight to the very end. It makes going to the track a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get this road course stretch going, it’s going to be a fun couple of weeks for sure.”

 

Justin Allgaier

Justin Allgaier drove the U.S. Cellular Camaro to a sixth-place finish in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway. It was the No. 7 team’s 11th top-10 effort of the season and Allgaier’s 12th top 10 in 16 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the Iowa short track. The JR Motorsports driver remains fourth in the NXS point standings.

Qualifying fifth for the 250-lap race, Allgaier raced inside the top 10 for the first portion of Stage One.  He was running in the fifth position when the first caution flag of the day waved on lap 44. Under the yellow, crew chief Jason Burdett called Allgaier to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment to try to help a tight-handling condition in the center of the turns. He restarted seventh on lap 52 and was able to gain two positions to finish Stage One in fifth on lap 60.

Staying out under the stage-ending caution, Allgaier lined up fifth for Stage Two. Back under green, he continued to battle inside the top 10, but reported to the team that the U.S. Cellular Camaro was still tight in the center and free on exit. He fought through the tough-handling condition to end Stage Two in the 10th position. During the caution, Allgaier came to pit road for four tires, fuel and multiple adjustments.

When the green flag dropped for the final stage, Allgaier drove from eighth to fifth in a hurry. He relayed that the adjustments helped, but that he could use a little more. When a caution came out on lap 152, the team took the opportunity to come to pit road, along with several other teams, for their last set of fresh tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Restarting 12th on lap 158, Allgaier again surged his way forward and was running in the third position when a yellow flag waved on lap 201.

Opting not to pit under the caution, Allgaier restarted third, but lost some positions due to cars being on fresher tires because of varying pit strategies. The Illinois native was in seventh when the last caution of the day came out on lap 219, and the team called him to pit road for a set of scuffed tires from earlier in the race, fuel and an adjustment in hopes of gaining some positions in the closing laps. Lining up 10th for the restart on lap 228, Allgaier was able to work his way up to the sixth position before the checkered flag waved.

Chase Briscoe won the race and was followed by Christopher Bell and John Hunter Nemechek, with Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick rounding out the top five.

Justin Allgaier, driver No. 7 U.S. Cellular team

“These guys worked hard all weekend long on our U.S. Cellular Camaro. It looked like we were going to get a nice top-five finish, but at the end there, we were kind of sitting ducks with some of the others having fresher tires. The fastest car doesn’t always win the race, but strategy does. Today our strategy didn’t prevail, but all in all it was still a solid day.”

 

Zane Smith

Rookie Zane Smith turned in another veteran performance Saturday at Iowa Speedway, driving his No. 8 PatientPop Chevrolet Camaro to a ninth-place finish in the U.S. Cellular 250 for NASCAR Xfinity Series machines. The result was Smith’s fourth top-10 finish in seven starts with JR Motorsports and third with the green-and-white PatientPop colors on his machine.

Rolling off 12th for the initial start of the 250-lap event, the 20-year-old Californian stayed just outside the top 10 for the first 30 laps before radioing crew chief Taylor Moyer that the handling on his Chevrolet had swung from quite loose at the start to a tight condition. Running 15th at lap 40, Smith was having to wait on the front end to turn. Five laps later, the caution flag waved and Moyer elected to keep Smith on the track, advising his driver to take care of his tires and battle through the 60-lap Stage One before coming to pit road for changes. The rest of the field, however, came to pit road and that left Smith with the lead, which he held for two laps.

Firing off from the top spot, Smith knew his car was going to be handful against cars with fresher tires, and it was. He was 11th the first time under the flag stand under the green flag and finished Stage One in 13th position. On the stage break, Smith told Moyer that his car was inconsistent in its handling, and Moyer called him down pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments. He returned to the track in 15th position. Firing off for Stage Two at lap 67, Smith needed just eight laps to gain three positions to 12th when the caution flag waved again at lap 75. Smith told Moyer that his PatientPop Chevrolet fired off better and that it handled better in Turns 3 and 4, but he was still waiting on the front end to turn to get back to the gas.

When the race returned to green-flag conditions, Smith put his head down and started gaining positions. He was 11th by lap 81 and cracked the top 10 two laps later, battling with JR Motorsports teammate Michael Annett as the pair rose up the running order. Smith was 10th at lap 100 and finished Stage Two in ninth position, earning a pair of stage points along the way. Telling Moyer that his car was over-rotating and warning of a potential problem under the hood, Smith came back to the attention of the pit crew for four tires, fuel and further adjustments to help his lateral grip. He returned to the track in 11th position for the final stage.

After quickly gaining a position to 10th, Smith stayed there until lap 152, when the caution waved again. The loose-then-tight handling condition had returned, so Moyer brought him down pit road for more tires, fuel and adjustments and Smith restarted 14th on lap 158. The changes appeared to solve much of the handling issue as Smith was in seventh position when the caution waved again four laps later, prompting Moyer to warn Smith to take care of his tires. Smith was sixth on lap 171 and reached the top five four laps later. He was still there at lap 198, when the young driver switched to the top lane to take advantage of building shade at the top of Turn 4.

A caution slowed the action again at lap 202 and Smith stayed out. On the restart at lap 208, Smith had cars with fresher tires behind him and dropped to 10th in just two laps. The caution waved again at lap 218 for Brandon Brown’s blown engine, and Moyer brought Smith to pit road from 11th place for scuffed tires, fuel to the end and a fresh water bottle. Restarting 12th, at lap 229, Smith again got up on the wheel and drove to ninth place over the next 16 laps, finishing the race there five circuits later.

Chase Briscoe won the race, followed by Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, JRM’s Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick. JRM teammate Justin Allgaier was sixth, followed by Shane Lee, Justin Haley, Smith and Annett. The finish was the 13th top-10 result for JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet in 19 races so far this season, and the team is currently 11th in car owner points.

Zane Smith, driver No. 8 PatientPop Chevrolet team

“I made a few mistakes, on pit road mostly, and we sort of struggled all weekend, but it definitely wasn’t from a lack of effort. We threw everything at it. In the late middle part of the race, I think we were definitely going the right direction, but we were on a strategy where we had to put on scuffs and hang on from there. Those guys who got tires at the end were really good. Overall it was another top-10 day for us and the PatientPop Chevrolet, and I’m looking forward to my next race with JRM, Taylor and the No. 8 team.”

 

Michael Annett

Michael Annett and the No. 1 TMC Transportation Chevrolet team from JR Motorsports overcame a spin late in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 for NASCAR Xfinity Series cars at Iowa Speedway and rallied to finish 10th at his home track, much to the delight of a huge contingent of TMC Transportation employees and their families in attendance. It was the Iowa native’s 13th top-10 finish in 19 races this season and eighth in the last 10 events.

On lap 202, while battling for 11th place, Annett got a bit too high off Turn 2 and into the accumulated rubber and dirt at the top of the track. He spun across the track to the apron, and the right rear tire popped as he did so. The car came to rest at the bottom of the track, and Annett got it pointed in the correct direction and back to pit road, losing a lap to the leaders in the process.

Crew chief Travis Mack called for right-side tires—one half of the last set of new Goodyear Eagles in the stall—and to clear the damaged crush panels, then sent Annett back out. He returned to the pits a lap later for left-side tires and one last check of the damage repair, then went back out in 20th position.

With 42 laps remaining in the 250-lap race, Annett took 19th on the first lap of green-flag racing and was 17th at lap 210, directly behind Brandon Brown, the first car one lap down. Five laps later, Annett had passed Brown for the free-pass position, and the latter’s engine blew at lap 218, bringing out the final caution of the day. That put Annett back on the lead lap, and over the remaining laps, Annett moved toward the top 10, finally getting 10th spot with five laps to go.

Annett started the 250-lap event in ninth place on the inside lane, which is not the preferred line around the 0.875-mile short track. On the initial start, Annett lost two positions trying to get to the high line then settled into 10th position for most of the 60-lap Stage One. On lap 44, the caution waved for an incident in Turn 2 and Annett inherited two positions as the crash involved cars ahead of him. Pitting for four tires and fuel on lap 49, Annett jumped to ninth for the restart and finished there at the stage break.

Restarting ninth for Stage Two, Annett again dropped two positions trying to get to the preferred high groove, but the caution came out again on lap 75, which allowed him to move up to the high side for the following restart. After more than 20 laps battling with JRM teammate Zane Smith and others, Annett’s black, gold and red TMC Transportation Camaro gained three spots when two cars tangled off Turn 4 ahead of him. That put him eighth with 13 laps remaining in Stage Two. A nifty low-line pass of Ryan Sieg advanced Annett to seventh by the end of the stage, and Annett reported to Mack that he could run anywhere on the track that he wanted to run. Mack called him back down pit road for four more tires and fuel with no adjustments and the No. 1 pit crew held serve, which put Annett seventh for the restart.

Losing two more positions when the green flag waved at lap 130, Annett settled into ninth place in the order for the 120-lap final stage. The yellow came out again at lap 153, which pulled several cars to pit road for fuel and tires. Annett stayed out and assumed the third position for the restart, once again on the inside line. Cars with fresher tires charged forward, putting Annett seventh the first time by under green, and he was in the midst of a tight battle off Turn 4 when the cars underneath him squeezed Annett’s Camaro into the outside wall. The caution waved soon after that, and Mack called his driver down pit road for fuel and to check the right-side for damage, which was minimal. That put Annett 18th for the following restart.

Annett took the green flag and began working his way forward. He gained three positions on the first lap of green-flag racing, and was up to 12th by lap 187. Twelve laps later, as he was battling for 11th place, Annett drifted high off Turn 2 and spun, setting up the final charge at the end.

Chase Briscoe won the race, followed by Christopher Bell, John Hunter Nemechek, JRM’s Noah Gragson and Tyler Reddick. JRM teammate Justin Allgaier was sixth, followed by Shane Lee, Justin Haley, Smith and Annett.

Michael Annett, driver No. 1 TMC Transportation team

“When I spun there late in the race, nobody panicked on our No. 1 team. I got a little too high in Turn 2 and got into the dirt at the top of the track, then the right rear tire went flat as I was sliding. We got it around to the pits and Travis (crew chief Travis Mack) and the team got tires on and fixed the crush panels. If they hadn’t been calm, it could have been a really bad thing for us today, and luckily we still had a set of new Goodyear tires in the pits. We rallied back and earned another top-10, which is great, and we did it in front of a ton of people from TMC Transportation. That’s a good day all around.”

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