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Justin Allgaier Finishes Third; Falls Short of Maiden Xfinity Series Championship

The conclusion of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Phoenix Raceway will likely be a difficult pill to swallow for Justin Allgaier, who once again fell short of collecting his first championship, finishing in third place – two spots behind Cole Custer.

Making his sixth appearance in the Championship 4, Allgaier was in an amazing position to take advantage of the race’s final restart, getting to the outside of race-leader Cole Custer to leave himself in contention for the victory.

As the field came to the white flag, Allgaier sent his JR Motorsports Chevrolet deep into the third corner, in hopes of getting clear of Custer for the lead, but instead washed up the track, leaving him vulnerable to the Stewart-Haas Racing driver, as well as Sheldon Creed.

“I don’t know, I’m going to replay this one back in my head a couple times,” Allgaier told NBC Sports after the race. “I drove in there pretty deep and just kind of washed up. [Custer] had the turning car all night and we were just a bit too free.”

Granted, the fact that Allgaier even had the opportunity to fight for the championship after the third lap, was amazing in itself, after the 37-year-old spun himself out on the left-side door of John Hunter Nemechek, and somehow avoided major contact.

“I about cleared myself and John Hunter [Nemechek] on the second lap,” Allgaier said of the early-race mistake. “I guess I thought it was going to stick. I think my lap was like his last restart. I drove in there expecting it to stick and it didn’t quite. I had two options, run right into the side of him which I think we did touch a little but, but I was going to clean up both out, or spin it out.”

That incident was a setback, having lost all of the track position that he had so quickly picked up in the opening laps of the race, but truthfully, it didn’t take long for the No. 7 BRANDT Chevrolet to return to the front of the pack.

“I think the resiliency is I didn’t get hit by anybody, so that makes it a plus. But, just all night we battled back through here. We were on an old set. We actually put that set we spun on back on it, so you second-guess some adjustments.”

Even as the conclusion of Saturday’s 200-lap contest loomed closer and closer, Allgaier wasn’t really in position to win the championship, sitting third-place behind both Custer and Nemechek.

However, before the second-to-last caution of the evening, for Connor Mosack slamming the outside wall, both Allgaier and his JR Motorsports teammate Sam Mayer were gaining quickly on the leaders, and positioning themselves to have a shot.

“I felt like for me, we were a little too loose on the short run. I was bummed to see the last caution. We were gaining three to five-tenths a lap on both Cole [Custer] and John Hunter [Nemechek], and it was going to — like if you looked at the way it was going to shake out, we were literally going to be right on their bumper whenever we got to the end of the race. I felt like we did all the right things. We just had way too good of a long-run car and not quite good enough on the short run.”

Despite notching his second runner-up finish in NASCAR Xfinity Series point standings, Allgaier’s outlook on things following Saturday’s event is much more positive than in recent years, with the driver almost feeling at peace with the outcome of this weekend’s race.

“All in all, it was a good night for us,” Allgaier said. “Disappointing, but I walked out of here last year really bummed about the way the night went because I felt like I didn’t do a good job. Tonight, I walked out of here, I gave 100 percent. We did everything right. Just didn’t work out for us.”

And even though the disappointment of losing yet another Xfinity Series title likely hangs in the balance for Allgaier, the Riverton, Illinois native is still chomping at the bit to get back to Daytona International Speedway in February.

Proud of the effort, and we’ll be back. We’ve got three months – two months until Daytona and we’ll come back stronger and try to get to Victory Lane again.”

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