Joliet, Ill. — Justin Allgaier threw a victory bash in front of his home-state fans.
Allgaier pulled away off the final restart and won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.
Allgaier, from nearby Riverton, won for the second time this season in NASCAR’s second-tier series. JR Motorsports had a banner day with Allgaier’s win and the official coronation of Elliott Sadler’s regular-season championship.
“This is a race track I’ve loved dearly for a number of years,” Allgaier said. “The whole connection of being from Illinois and getting to go to victory lane was incredible.”
William Byron and Michael Annett give JR Motorsports four drivers in the Xfinity Series playoffs. Byron, who will replace Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 car next year at Hendrick Motorsports, enters the postseason as the points leader.
“If we have the opportunity to compete against each other at Homestead, once the green flag drops, it’s every man for himself,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.
Xfinity opens its postseason next week at Kentucky Speedway.
The rest of the playoff standings look like this: Allgaier, Sadler, Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole, Ryan Reed, Jeremy Clements, Cole Custer, Blake Koch, Matt Tifft, Brendan Gaughan and Annett.
Byron has three wins this season and should be the driver to beat in the seven-race postseason. But his No. 9 Chevrolet battled transmission issues and he finished 33rd. Earnhardt said he wasn’t picking a favorite among his championship drivers.
“These guys work really well together,” Earnhardt said. “The crew chiefs all have a close relationship that goes beyond JR Motorsports. I think that’s why we’re so successful, because of the way they work together.”
Cup regular Kyle Larson was second at Chicagoland.
“I was too loose to keep pace,” Larson said.
The 42-year-old Sadler has finished second in the final standings three times over an Xfinity career that dates to 1995. He thought he had the car to beat headed into last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway until his crew chief was suspended for the race. Daniel Suarez would become NASCAR’s first Mexican champion.
“I felt like last year, my team was primed and ready to go,” Sadler said. “Then we lost our crew chief for Homestead and that made it a lot harder to try and be as competitive. I think the difference is to make sure we get through the playoff with no mistakes, no issues.”
Erik Jones started from the pole, led 94 laps and was in position to win the race until he was penalized for changing lanes before he reached the start-finish line with seven laps left in the race. Jones finished 18th.
Allgaier benefited in the No. 7 Chevrolet from Jones’ mistake and won at Chicagoland for the second time in his career.
“This one, the meaning of it is a lot greater,” Allgaier said. “When we got to the point where we took the white (flag), the emotion just flooded over me and it was just incredible.”
Allgaier’s parents, in-laws, cousins and other friends and family celebrated with him in the post-race party. But the moment was truly capped when his 4-year-old daughter was with him for the first time in victory lane.
“I hope she realizes at an older age just how special that moment is,” he said.
At Sonoma, California, Josef Newgarden led a Team Penske parade in qualifying for the season finale with a blistering run that put him in control of the championship race.
Newgarden three times broke the track record, including on his final qualifying run at Sonoma Raceway. He powered his Penske Chevrolet through the 12 turns at 1 minute, 15.5205 seconds.
It is just the second pole of Newgarden’s career, and the bonus he earned with it gives him a four-point lead over Scott Dixon heading into Sunday’s season finale.
Penske drivers Will Power, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves qualified second, third and fourth. Dixon was sixth.
At Concord, North Carolina, Courtney Force took the Funny Car No. 1 qualifier with her Friday pass in the Carolina Nationals, the opening event in the Countdown to the Championship.
Force had a 3.891-second run at 330.07 mph during her second pass Friday. She has a Funny Car-best seven No. 1 qualifiers this year, but is winless.
“I’m really proud of my team for giving me a great race car, it’s been a lot of fun to drive this car and get these No. 1 qualifiers,” Force said. “We know we have to bring that same success into Sunday, and I am just looking forward to tomorrow as we try to end up in the winner’s circle.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also topped qualifying in the first of six playoff events.
Kalitta’s Friday run of 3.723 at 329.50 held up Saturday. Gray also held onto the top spot after driving to a 6.559 at 210.50 during his first pass Friday. Hines had a 6.825 at 196.50, also Friday.
At Singapore, Sebastian Vettel showed his mastery of the Marina Bay circuit to take pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix, while championship rival Lewis Hamilton struggled throughout and finished fifth.
Max Verstappen qualified in second place ahead of Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen steering his Ferrari to fourth place ahead of Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Vettel’s 49th career pole came on the track where he holds the record with four wins and six podiums overall, and his superiority showed in a lap record of 1 minute, 39.491 seconds. He would have gone even faster had he not nudged the wall on his final attempt.
It is a crucial pole for Vettel on one of the three hardest tracks to overtake on in Formula One.
His joy was evident as he let out a high-pitched shrill for several seconds, before shouting “Grande Lavoro!” (Great work!) in Italian. He is now in a great position to claw back Hamilton’s three-point lead and reclaim first place in a hard-fought title race.
Red Bull dominated all three practice sessions, with Verstappen posting the fastest time in the third and final practice and Ricciardo setting lap records in Friday’s two sessions.
Hamilton complained of problems with his tire temperatures and seemed completely out of sorts. It was even worse for Bottas, who could not find any rhythm.
The track, with its 23 corners, greatly reduces speed and was expected to favor Ferrari over Mercedes.
But not to this extent.
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff shook his head as he looked on anxiously from the team garage.