Allgaier Moves To Win At Chicagoland

Justin Allgaier celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. [Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images]

Justin Allgaier celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. [Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images]

by Paul Gohde

The 300 NASCAR Xfinity race at Chicagoland Speedway looked like a three-way fight for the win as Eric Jones, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney each appeared poised to win at times. Jones led 94 laps early, Larson 22 mid-race and Blaney 28 near the end, but due to penalties on those leaders and various scrapes, home-state driver Justin Allgaier made what car owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. called “the move of the race” for the lead on a lap 186 restart, held serve the rest of the way, and won for the second time this season.

“Nothing’s cooler than to win at home; our sponsor, Brandt, is also from Illinois. But at one point I didn’t think we’d even finish in the top-10,” explained the eventual winner who led his two other teammates into the upcoming Xfinity Series playoffs. “But things happened to those early leaders that we took advantage of at the end.”

Those “things” included penalties for: speed exiting the pits (Blaney, Lap 96) and (Larson, Lap 185); speed entering pits and passing on a restart (Jones, Laps 96 and 196). And it was the two later in the race that helped earn Allgaier his fifth career series win and his second at his home track. “How cool it is to win the last race before the playoffs: what momentum that gives us!”

But for those early leaders it looked like they would horde any of the momentum that came rather easy to them. The race was a story of two halves as pole-winner Jones’ Joe Gibbs Toyota dominated both Stage 1 and 2 and looked like a sure winner. But those two penalties, coupled with tachometer issues and restart contact with Blaney sealed his fate and he finished 18th.

Larson’s Ganassi Chevrolet was fast all day as he came from the back several times to finish second; 1.772 sec behind the winner. “I was really, really loose and we worked on it during our pit stop at the end of Stage 1. I couldn’t run on the top and couldn’t keep the pace and that’s how I scraped the wall just before we pitted.” Larson also worked his way back to finish second in just the final 15 laps after being sent to the tail-end of the pack for that speeding no-no.

Blaney’s Penske Ford came alive after pit adjustments on Lap 143 and he took the lead from Larson on Lap 155. But the contact with Jones caused a long pit stop to repair fender damage and he dropped to a 26th-place finish. “I sped on pit road after the second segment, which was my fault. We drove back up to third and then got the lead on a restart, but later we pitted on a caution…and we lost a couple of spots and we had to line up second. The 20 (Jones) got in there three-wide (on the restart) and we kind of got run into I guess. It stinks.”

Allgaier’s lauded dart for the eventual win came after Daniel Suarez’ spin caused a restart on Lap 186. He moved to the lead as the tightly-bunched field headed for Turn 1 while Larson’s speed coming out of the pits sent him to the rear. He wove back through the field and was on the winner’s bumper at the checkered flag.

Elliot Sadler, the series’ regular season’s champion was third followed by Daniel Hemric and Austin Dillon.

“Speed is one thing,” noted Allgaier, talking about those penalized early leaders. “But you’ve got to execute.”
And Dale Jr. may still be smiling after seeing his driver execute that move to the lead.

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”