Three hundred and sixty-four days. Five second-place finishes. Over five hundred laps led. Justin Allgaier started the Mahindra Roxor 200 on the kind of winless streak that would make anyone doubt themselves. He ended the day in victory lane, scoring the 17th win of his Xfinity Series career.
Noah Gragson followed his teammate home in second, Riley Herbst put in a strong run to come home third. John Hunter Nemechek came fourth in another great run for Sam Hunt Racing, and Sam Mayer rounded out the top five. All three Kaulig Racing teammates finished in the top 10, including AJ Allmendinger’s eleventh straight top 10 to start the season.
The biggest story out of qualifying didn’t even make it to the race. Mother Nature shut down Xfinity Series qualifying, so the starting lineup was determined by owner points, leaving Chase Elliott, who was attempting the race in a fifth Chevy for JR Motorsports, on the outside looking in.
More bad news for JRM before the green flag flew: Allgaier suffered a battery issue on the pace laps. He’d lose his third-place starting position, but the No. 7 team was able to swap the batteries just in time, just one of the many clutch performances that pit crew would put in all day.
Allgaier was forced to start from the back of the field, but for one of the best Darlington drivers in the Xfinity Series, it wasn’t much of a challenge. By the end of the first stage, aided only by a couple of cautions, Allgaier took the green-and-white checkers in fourth. Then he jumped to the top spot on pit road. It took him just 49 laps to put the Dale Earnhardt throwback Chevy to the top of the scoring pylon.
His teammate Noah Gragson swept both stages, despite spending the majority of the laps running second, first to polesitter Ty Gibbs and later to Allgaier, but late-stage restarts gave the Las Vegas native the chance to steal the lead from the bottom. The green-and-white checkered flags were Gragson’s fourth and fifth stage wins of the year.
That No. 7 pit crew would not be denied. Both times Gragson won the stage, Allgaier’s crew sent him off pit road with the lead. All day, the pit crew never lost him a spot.
That crew put him in the position to roar past AJ Allmendinger, who threw out a hail Mary on old tires on a two-lap shootout in regulation distance. After 34 winless races and 364 days Justin Allgaier crossed the start-finish line to score his first win of 2022, and, as Dale Earnhardt Sr. would say, get that monkey off his back.
Featured image from JR Motorsports on Twitter