Having Fun Key to Allgaier’s Title Hopes in Homestead

Ron Lemasters | 11/14/2019

Brandt Homestead Justin Allgaier News Playoffs XFINITY Series

Justin Allgaier's journey to the Homestead-Miami Speedway is all about having fun... and winning the Xfinity Series Championship.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Nov. 14, 2019) – Justin Allgaier, JR Motorsports’ lone representative in the Championship 4 this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, is going to South Florida to have fun.

Yes, there’s a 300-mile test of speed and endurance ahead of the 33-year-old Illinois native, and yes, he’ll have to vanquish three strong competitors to earn his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, but he’s there to have fun, first and foremost.

“I started racing when I was five years old because it was fun,” he said last weekend at the winner’s podium inside the media center at ISM Raceway in Phoenix. “If you’re not having fun, it ain’t worth it. This is a business, there’s a lot of pressure in it.

“I get to go have fun (this weekend) and run the fence at one of the coolest 1.5-mile tracks we go to, and oh, by the way, there’s a championship at the end of it if you can beat the other three. I don’t know if that’s the right way to look at it, but I’m looking at this week as being a blast. I am not nearly as good a race driver when I’m not having fun as I am when I am having fun.”

Winning his way in at ISM Raceway was fun, he admitted, despite a late-race challenge from Cole Custer. “I got a little nervous with about 15-20 laps to go (at Phoenix), but if I had opened my visor, you’d probably have seen a lot of teeth,” he said.

This weekend’s race will be Allgaier’s third in four seasons with a title on the line, and he has had mixed results in the previous two. In 2016, he was battling with JRM teammate Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez for the race win on a late-race restart when Cole Whitt spun his tires and jammed up the outside line. That caused mayhem behind him and ended up with Allgaier finishing fifth. In 2017, he finished 12th as rookie teammate William Byron took the title.

This year, he’s going to have fun, no matter what else happens.

“I look at (this) week like we have nothing to lose,” Allgaier said. “I’m going to go down there and put everything I’ve got into it. My plan is to do a lot of studying. That sounds crazy, because I’ve been down there a bunch of times and been in this scenario a couple of times. I know we have to be prepared this week. They’ve (his title rivals) had the speed this year. They’ve made a lot of mistakes, but they have fast cars. I’ve got to do a better job of figuring my program out. You hit the fence on lap 25 or 30, it changes the balance.”

Winning at Phoenix, one of his better tracks, and besting rivals Custer, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell in doing so gave him a new lease on title life, and it also flipped a switch of sorts for Allgaier.

“(The media) has been talking about the Big Three all year, and they’ve been the strongest cars every week and they’ve been winning races,” he said. “We are going into this weekend’s race with a new mentality and we’re going to try and win a championship. It’s going to be fun and I’m going to have a good time.

“The momentum from the win...if I had been chased down by Cole and gotten passed, mentally that’s going to defeat you. You did everything you could do, you played the strategy the right way, you ran the last restart as best you could to try to pass those guys as quickly as possible to get to clean air and not wear the tires out. If he had passed me, that would have been really defeating. Winning a race makes this week a lot more enjoyable and puts us a lot more in the conversation about having the opportunity to win a championship.”

Despite the fact that both Custer and Reddick have won at Homestead and run well there, and Bell has been fast everywhere for two seasons, Allgaier said winning the title would mean redemption for what he considers a terrible season. It hasn’t been, if you look at the numbers, but seasons have their own feel, and Allgaier feels it wasn’t his best one.

“If I win the championship, it will be redemption,” he confirmed. “That might be the only thing. I label this as a terrible year. We’ve had 16 straight top 10s and I think this is still a terrible year. Compared to last year, we executed better. We had the speed and things went our way. The definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation. The weekends we’ve been prepared, the opportunity hasn’t been there. The weekends we had an opportunity we may not have been prepared. At Phoenix, we had both.

“This sport is really ‘what have you done for me lately?,’” he continued. “Winning five races before the playoff started (in 2018) was awesome, and when it started we were a ghost town, nowhere to be found. I don’t know why. It was terrible. I didn’t handle last year like I should have. I didn’t do a good job.

“For me, it was figuring out how to do a better job. My guys deserve a better job. These guys put their heart and soul into this, work way too many hours, put in way too much effort. If the guy holding the wheel doesn’t do a good job, it’s all for naught. This year I’ve taken a completely different approach and had more fun with it. Just trying to put myself in better positions.”

He’s in position, as one of only four drivers to have a shot at the championship this year. It would be JRM’s third consecutive title in the NXS and fourth overall. It would also be the first for a non-rookie driver at JRM. His No. 7 team, led by crew chief Jason Burdett, is also in contention for the owner’s title along with the No. 2 (Reddick), the No. 20 (Bell) and the No. 00 (Custer.)

There’s a lot of hay to be made by winning the last battle of the season.

That he’ll be the only driver from the JRM stable with a chance has occurred to him as well.

“We’ve had such a great job of having multiple cars in when we get to Homestead,” Allgaier said. “It’s going to be tough. Noah (Gragson) has done a great job all season in the No. 9 Chevrolet and Michael (Annett) has had an incredible season in the No. 1. We have to carry the momentum. We only have one car going for the championship and we’ve got to keep this momentum going for 2020.”

However it all shakes out, Allgaier will have fun in South Beach. And, depending on how things go Saturday night, he could continue the fun through the offseason by celebrating a series title.

XFINITY Series Schedule

XFINITY Series Standings

After Ford EcoBoost 300

Homestead-Miami Speedway | 11/16/2019
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Tyler Reddick (P)40400
2Cole Custer (P)4035-5
3Christopher Bell (P)4032-8
4Justin Allgaier (P)4023-17
5Chase Briscoe #2302-1738
6Austin Cindric2294-1746
7John Hunter Nemechek #2253-1787
8Noah Gragson #2246-1794
9Michael Annett2239-1801