2022 NXS Playoff Preview: Speed, Consistency Is Key to Title Challenge for Allgaier, No. 7 Team

Ron Lemasters | 9/20/2022

Brandt Hellmann's Justin Allgaier News Unilever

Allgaier looks to make the Championship 4 for the fifth time in his career as he continues to chase his first NXS title.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2022) -- Justin Allgaier, Jason Burdett and the rest of the No. 7 BRANDT Professional Agriculture team have qualified for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs ever since they began in 2016. As such, they are no strangers to the pressure of the seven-race series to determine the series champion.

In four of those seven seasons, the veteran duo has made the Championship 4 to compete for the NXS championship, only to have something happen on the way. In 2020, Allgaier finished second in the final standings at one of his best tracks, Phoenix Raceway, losing out to Austin Cindric in the finale. Allgaier led the most laps that night, but Cindric was in position to capitalize on late-race strategy.

Two third-place efforts and a fourth-place finish make up the other Championship 4 appearances for the perennial championship contenders.

There is a kicker this season, Allgaier said, and it is, simply, speed.

"For us, we've had speed this year and that's the biggest change," Allgaier said. "In the past, we had to elevate our speed to win and you can't focus on the other stuff—reliability and execution—as much. Now that we have that speed, we can concentrate on executing week in and week out. If you get a win, then you can go for broke, do what you're going to do. Managing every race is going to be extremely important."

The speed factor showed up early and it was team-wide, not just one or two cars, Allgaier said. It got him to thinking about the way the year would play out.

"Earlier this year, when we first showed the speed we had as a company, I said that it wouldn't surprise me if we put four in the Championship 4 at Phoenix," Allgaier said with a smile. "Everyone kind of laughed at me. When you look at it statistically, it's not out of the realm of possibility. We have four extremely fast Camaros in this building."

Allgaier named two rivals—Ty Gibbs and AJ Allmendinger—as having the same kind of consistent pace. "They are the two outliers, the two guys outside our company that have really shown that they have speed. The 19 (Brandon Jones) has been in the mix, but (Gibbs) and (Allmendinger) have been the two cars to pay attention to."

This season, Allgaier has earned three victories and been in contention for many more. Last week at Bristol, Allgaier had control of the regular-season finale, leading 148 laps and dominating the race from the front, until a speeding penalty on the final pit stop put him back in the field. The Illinois native rallied to finish ninth, but the damage was done.

His three wins came in the spring at Darlington Raceway, at Nashville Superspeedway in the early summer and at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. The latter win was notable in that Allgaier earned the first JRM victory at the 1.-058-mile track—one of five tracks the organization had not yet triumphed on.

By virtue of those three wins (worth five points each), eight stage victories and the 10 points for finishing second in the regular-season points, Allgaier and Burdett enter the Round of 12 just 18 points behind teammate Noah Gragson and within five of second-place Gibbs.

As for the Round of 12, which kicks off Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Allgaier said that the focus has changed in regard to making the Round of 8.

"The objective has kind of changed (in the first round) over the last couple of years," he said. "A couple of years ago, everybody was in an arms race to win and it didn't really matter. You'd just go for broke and try to win. If you have a bad race or two, no big deal.

"Now, I think you have enough guys who are fast, able to run up front and race for wins who are also really good at racing for points, getting stage points and wins and running in the top five even if you have a bad day. Your mulligans are definitely a lot fewer than they have been, and you're going to have to execute all day, every race, and get top-fives, top-10s and stage points."

Most of that focus had to do with the accumulation of bonus points heading into the playoffs. Even having a cushion for the Round of 12 is not a guarantee, however.

"We worked really hard in the regular season to get bonus points, so that we'd be in good shape when the playoffs came," Allgaier said. "We've done that, we're something like 29 or 30 above the cut line. Those are big and helpful, but that works out to two stages and eight positions. It's not that much. You can't afford to go out and run badly on any weekend."

"Looking at the tracks we have coming up, the first round is more unknowns, with Talladega and the (Charlotte) Roval. I feel like our speed is good at both of those places, but you never know. When we get to the second round, we as a company have been really good at Las Vegas and at Homestead. We've been good at Martinsville too. Anything can and will go wrong at those places, but in the past, we know we have the speed, we just have to execute. We have to focus on the little details. We just have to get to Phoenix."

Burdett said that the key to racing for a title in November at Phoenix is about controlling the chaos of the Round of 12.

"The biggest thing is to start off at Texas with a good day," he said. "We have a few points in hand, so just go in and have a solid day, get out of there with a win or some good stage points and a good finish. Go to Talladega and just survive. After that first round, it's just chaotic. Get some good points there and then give yourself a little room where you can go and try to have a decent day at Talladega. If you do both those things, you're in a good position. Take advantage of the opportunities you have."

Getting to Phoenix is one part of the ultimate goal of a championship. The other is sealing the deal. Allgaier and Burdett have been in the final four enough to know that first-hand. The extra speed helps, but it's not a sure thing, Allgaier said.

"If we had been in that fifth-to-10th-place range all year, I'd be a little bit worried about getting to Phoenix. You are not desperate by any means, but you'll race a little differently. With the speed we have now, as a company…everyone is working on the cars and their teams to get faster. When we show up for the playoffs, there is no doubt in my mind that the other teams are going to be prepared, just like we are here. We just have to do our job. I think we can approach it differently now that we have speed and that changes the game a lot."

Burdett said that this week at Texas is crucial to his team's hopes of being in the mix in the Championship 4 at Phoenix.

"It all starts this weekend," he said. "The smoother you can make it the better. When you keep the pressure off, it makes it smoother, and then you just have to go to Phoenix and actually do it. You have to go and be the best car, be the sharpest driver…you have to have all of it going your way.

"It's eliminating mistakes at this point. All of the years we've made it to the final race, we eliminated mistakes and gave ourselves opportunities. We've had a couple of years where we've had the opportunity and put ourselves in a bad spot. You get into that second round where there's only eight cars left, and you put yourself behind you're in trouble. It's hard to make it up when you get down to the final eight. Those guys are going to run in the top 10, more than likely, and if you get 10 or 15 points behind, it's hard to make that up in two weeks. You'll maybe gain a point here or there. We found that out last year at Martinsville."

For the playoffs as a whole, it's about who can string seven weeks together with the least number of mistakes, Burdett opined.

"You have six weeks, and you have to have six pretty solid weeks, keep momentum and at the end of the day, you need to feel pretty good about what you have done. When you get to Phoenix, you've just got to go and do it and get what you want, not make a mistake. We've had a couple of chances at Phoenix, but you never know who is going to show up and be fast."

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • October 1 04:00 PM ET
    Sparks 300Talladega Superspeedway
  • October 8 03:00 PM ET
    Drive for the Cure 250Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval
  • October 15 03:00 PM ET
    Alsco Uniforms 302Las Vegas Motor Speedway
  • October 22 04:30 PM ET
    Contender Boats 250Homestead-Miami Speedway
  • October 29 03:00 PM ET
    Dead On Tools 250Martinsville Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Andy’s Frozen Custard 300

Texas Motor Speedway | 9/24/2022
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Noah Gragson (P)21070
2AJ Allmendinger (P)2081-26
3Ty Gibbs (P)2080-27
4Austin Hill # (P)2064-43
5Josh Berry (P)2058-49
6Justin Allgaier (P)2054-53
7Sam Mayer (P)2035-72