Saturday's motors: Allgaier wins at Phoenix to race for Xfinity championship
Avondale, Ariz. — Justin Allgaier raced to his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season Saturday at ISM Raceway to advance to the championship finale.
Allgaier will race Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and reigning champion Tyler Reddick for the title next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only Reddick has a championship.
“We said we needed to come in and win to get to Homestead, and we did that,” Allgaier said.
Allgaier cried as he crossed the finish line, the emotions of a frustrating season. He’d gone 39 races without a win, nearly all year just a season removed from a five-win campaign. He was on the cutline to race for the title next week at Homestead, but with only Bell already locked in, Allgaier was one of five drivers vying for three spots.
Custer locked up the second berth on points after the second stage, and the race was on. But Bell had controlled the race through the first two stages and a win-to-get-in scenario seemed improbable.
Until Bell was flagged for speeding on pit road and dropped from the lead to 13th. He had worked his way through traffic to eighth when he spun with a flat tire. Bell, the championship favorite, finished 16th.
Custer was second, Reddick third while John Hunter Nemechek and Zane Smith rounded out the top five.
The win was the eighth career victory for Allgaier at JR Motorsports, most by a driver in team history.
“To have the year we’ve had, it’s not been a bad year, but to not be able to get to victory lane,” Allgaier said. “To do what we did, we didn’t have the best car, Christopher did, but then we capitalized and now we have a lot of momentum going into Homestead.”
Kyle Busch won the pole and all eight title contenders qualified in the top 10 for the final race to decide the championship field.
Busch earned the top starting spot for Sunday’s race at ISM Raceway outside of Phoenix. He turned a lap in Saturday qualifying at 140.116 mph in his Toyota to earn his first pole of the season.
It puts him one spot ahead of reigning NASCAR champion Joey Logano on the starting grid, and Busch and Logano are the two drivers above the cutline to earn berths in next week’s championship field.
Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have both already locked themselves into the final four, and six drivers are vying for the final two positions.
Denny Hamlin, the Daytona 500 winner and Busch and Truex’s teammate for Joe Gibbs Racing, qualified third and Truex was fourth.
Kyle Larson was the highest-qualifying Chevrolet at fifth, followed by Chase Elliott and Harvick.
Ryan Blaney was the lowest qualifying playoff driver at 10th.
Larson, Elliott and Blaney likely need to win to advance to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hamlin needs Busch or Logano to have some sort of issue, or, a win Sunday.