Justin Allgaier used bold strategy and fresh tires to top the field in the Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Allgaier, driving the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, gave up the lead under caution with less than 50 laps to go to put on four fresh tires while his main rivals remained on the track. Methodically picking his way through the field, Allgaier had a thrilling side-by-side battle with Daniel Hemric before pulling away and clinching postseason advancement after taking the checkered flag in the debut race of the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs.
“I’m speechless – we won Bristol,” said Allgaier, who led a race-high 110 laps, collected his second Bristol victory, third win of the season and 22nd of his Xfinity Series career. “This team has done such an amazing job at this racetrack. The fans were unbelievable.
“The pit strategy – coming down pit road all by myself was nerve-wracking.”
Winning owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., making his first Bristol start since 2017, also had an eventful night, leading 47 laps and thrilling thousands of fans before a mechanical issue caused a fire under the hood and a hole in his firesuit.
“Somehow or another the shifter caught on fire,” said the NASCAR Hall of Famer, who finished 30th. “I smelled it and said hopefully that’s not me. My uniform was burning up. We were going to finish top 5 or top 10.
“I had a blast and Justin wins. Thanks to all the fans. We had a great crowd tonight. It makes me want to do it more.”
Hemric was 1.695 seconds behind as the runner-up, followed by fellow championship contenders John Hunter Nemechek in third, Cole Custer (109 laps led) in fourth and rookie Chandler Smith in fifth.
“Clean air was king,” Hemric said. “We had just enough race car there and once the top [groove] came in I had to live with it. [Allgaier’s] tires were just too much at the end. We came a long way from the drop of the green flag to the checkered flag.”
Hot tempers flared throughout, as is typical at Bristol. What was unusual was they stemmed from not-so-friendly-fire incidents between teammates in championship contention, with JR Motorsports drivers Josh Berry and Sam Mayer bumping on Lap 166 and Richard Childress Racing’s Sheldon Creed tapping Austin Hill along the frontstretch on Lap 216.
Hill finished 33rd while Mayer wound up 35th and Berry placed 36th.
Among other playoff contenders, Sammy Smith finished ninth, Creed placed 11th and Parker Kligerman was 31st.
Allgaier averaged 85.521 mph around the .533-mile concrete oval at The Last Great Colosseum, completing the 300 laps in 1 hour, 52 minutes and 11 seconds. Six caution periods took up 48 laps, with 14 drivers finishing on the lead lap and five drivers exchanging the lead eight times.
“The pit stops were amazing,” Allgaier said. “I don’t know if this is shots fired for the playoffs but it feels good.”
The remaining NASCAR Playoff Weekend schedule includes:
- Saturday, Sept. 16: Bass Pro Shops Night Race (6:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio).
Off-track activities for the weekend include:
- Saturday, Sept. 16: Kenny Wallace and John Roberts host Trackside Live (Food City Fan Zone Stage, 3 p.m.)
- Saturday, Sept. 16: Midland concert (4:15 p.m.)
- Saturday, Sept. 16: BMS tradition-rich driver intros with host Michael Buffer (5:45 p.m.)
See a full entertainment schedule on www.BristolMotorSpeedway.com.
To purchase tickets, visit www.BristolMotorSpeedway.com or call (866) 415-4158.