NEWTON, Iowa – The green flag would soon wave, but before Justin Allgaier went elbows up, he draped his arms around his four-year old daughter, Harper Grace.
The tender embrace painted a poignant Father’s Day image moments before the outset of the hotly-contested eighth annual Iowa 250 presented by Enogen at the .875-mile Iowa Speedway.
But another stirring photo op developed two and a half hours later, as dad exulted amid strands of confetti in Victory Lane – and this time the triumph came with vital playoff-sealing points attached.
“Our (No. 7) BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet was fast,” said Allgaier, who won last month at Dover, but didn’t accrue playoff points because of a post-race inspection penalty. “Incredible. We’re in the middle of corn fields – how could you not enjoy this? … Doing it on Father’s Day, it was really cool having my daughter here.”
Allgaier dominated the field despite intense and near-constant challenges from hard-charging Christopher Bell, who came from the rear at the start of the race to finish second. He also notched his second win of the season – but first one that counts, playoffs-wise.
Bell settled for second but overcame a slew of adversity while nearly pulling off the win. He started 39th because his No. 20 Rheem Toyota did not pass pre-qualifying inspection.
“Man, I just needed to be in front of him,” Bell said. “Our (car) was really good. … I just didn’t have enough to clear him. He could just kind of ride ride that outside there, outside my door, just keep me pinned down. But we had a really good Rheem Camry, just unfortunately not good enough to get by him.”
Allgaier also shook off recent encounters with bad luck – and the fence – to win stage one. The Xfinity Series veteran powered his car between pole sitter Austin Cindric and the lapped car of Alex Labbe to win the opening 60-lapper. Cindric, who earlier earned his first career pole, had led the first 58 laps of the stage before Allgaier made his daring three-wide maneuver.
Bell surged to sixth in 60 laps.
As Bell ascended, series points leader Elliott Sadler struggled for the second straight week. A cut tire forced him to pit with a handful of laps to go in the first stage. That mishap relegated him to the back of the pack. He finished 28th and maintains a four-point lead over Cole Custer in the standings.
Daniel Hemric finished third, with Custer and Brandon Jones completing the top five.
Allgaier claimed the second stage playoff point, as well – doubling his season total of stage wins to four.
Bell finally took the top position with 70 to go, but Allgaier immediately regained it and maintained a slim advantage as the final stage eclipsed the midway point.
“Hopefully we put on a good show for the fans,” Bell said. “We were side-by-side for half the race.”
Bell later nearly completed another pass of Allgaier, but a caution for debris halted his momentum.
All of the top five cars steered onto pit road for four fresh tires and fuel.
After the restart, Allgaier again wheeled to the top spot, with Bell in tow.
Allgaier faced another restart with less than 20 laps to go, but remained calm – and in front.
Elbows up. Hugging the steering wheel. Until he could finally hug his daughter again after raising his arms in Victory Lane.
“Unbelievable,” Allgaier said. “First of all, all glory to God, man. We had a great car today. These guys did a fantastic job. I can’t thank everybody at JR Motorsports enough.”
— NASCAR Wire Service —