With 48 laps remaining in Friday’s Xfinity Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway, Justin Allgaier was the only one of the front-runners to come down pit road, doing so from the lead to take on fresh tires.
It was a bold strategy call by crew chief James Pohlman, but it ended up being the right one, as the Riverton, Illinois native drove back through the field for his third NASCAR Xfinity Series win of 2023.
Restarting from about 12th, the slicing and dicing through the pack of lead-lap drivers wasn’t necessarily the difficult part – showing his face in the battle for a top-five spot just a couple of laps after the restart.
However, it was the act of getting to the lead of the race that proved to be a challenge for the 37-year-old driver, as 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Daniel Hemric proved to be a thorn in the side of Allgaier, despite being on much older tires.
Hemric, who announced earlier on Friday that he’d be returning to the NASCAR Cup Series in 2024, was holding his own on the outside lane, and looked capable of holding Allgaier behind him, until lapped traffic impeded his progress.
Once the lapped car of Ryan Ellis was occupying the outside lane, the difference between the No. 7 and No. 10 was visible, as Hemric had to venture to the inside lane to get around the lapped cars.
Allgaier would make the final pass for the lead on Hemric with 13 laps remaining in the 300-lap contest, allowing him to lead a race-high 110 laps on the evening, en route to his 22nd career win in the second-tier series.
Daniel Hemric would finish in the runner-up position, 1.695 seconds behind race-winner Justin Allgaier. John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, and Chandler Smith completed the top five at the end of 300 laps.
Ryan Sieg rebounded from an early-race spin to finish in sixth place, while Trevor Bayne came home in seventh, less than a day after the birth of his fifth child, Jett Bayne. Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith, and Kaz Grala rounded out the top-10.
The event, as is typical for Bristol Motor Speedway, provided some issues for NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff-eligible drivers, starting at the halfway point of the race, when a major crash took out both Josh Berry and Sam Mayer.
Parker Kligerman ended up being a benefactor of that accident, after some major mechanical issues left the Big Machine Racing team in the garage thrashing to get the No. 48 Chevrolet fixed.
Finally, Austin Hill suffered the most painful fate of the post-season drivers when he was turned around by his Richard Childress Racing teammate, sending the No. 21 into the inside wall hard, and ending his evening.
Leaving Bristol, the NASCAR Xfinity Series is set to travel to Texas Motor Speedway for its 300-miler from the unique 1.5-mile facility in Fort Worth, Texas, which will serve as the second race of a three-race ‘Round of 12’.
Race Results – NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 300 at Bristol