TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 20: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, waves to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 20, 2024 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) | Getty Images
TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - APRIL 20: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, waves to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Ag-Pro 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 20, 2024 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Justin Allgaier reflects on longevity of Xfinity Series career

By Dustin Albino

When Justin Allgaier dominated the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway, not only did he crack the top 10 in all-time wins in the series, but he eclipsed Kyle Busch for the most top 10 finishes in series history. The new mark was 267, something that may never be touched again.

That theory lasted just two weeks, as Richard Childress Racing entered a third car for Busch into last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch finished sixth and Allgaier crashed from the lead with 25 laps remaining and ended the day in 33rd.

With Busch being allowed to compete in a maximum of five Xfinity races per season (he’s only run Charlotte and can run four more before the playoffs, though none are announced), Allgaier will likely set the new benchmark – potentially as early as this weekend at Portland International Raceway – by a considerable margin with nearly two-thirds of the season remaining.

Allgaier isn’t the biggest stats guy. However, he is a beloved fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. He also watches his daughter, Harper, play softball and knows how much stats matter in stick-and-ball sports.

“I’ve found a good home where I’m at and I love the people that I’m around,” Allgaier, the series leader in laps led, said of JR Motorsports. “I wouldn’t change that. I feel like it’s a cool stat, but it’s not something that I ever strived for or thought would ever happen.

“Whether someone beats it or not, records are meant to be broken. We’ve seen an incredible run by a number of guys that have been able to be in this sport for a long duration. I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve done in my career and it’s been a lot of fun to be able to set that record.”

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 11: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Heritage Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Crown Royal Purple Bag Project 200 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2024 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Allgaier earned his first top-10 finish in a stacked Xfinity – then Nationwide – field in 2009 during his rookie season for Team Penske at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He led five laps and finished eighth after making contact with Greg Biffle and hit the wall.

As a rookie, Allgaier collected 12 top-10 finishes. It took four races into his sophomore season at Bristol Motor Speedway for him to win his first race. He ended that season and his Penske tenure third in the championship standings to his teammate Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards.

“I wish I knew what I know now and could go back to then,” Allgaier said. “It would have been a lot different story. If the rules are what they are now, I win the championship and it’s a completely different story of how my career goes, probably.”

Allgaier acknowledged that he would do many things differently in hindsight. After being removed from the No. 12 car, he jumped to Turner-Scott Motorsports for three seasons, scoring a pair of victories at Chicagoland Speedway and Montreal. He dabbled into the Cup Series for two seasons with HScott Motorsports before finding a new home at JRM for the 2016 season. He’s stayed with the team ever since.

By some metrics, including top 10s, 2016 was among Allgaier’s best seasons. His 27 top-10 finishes were tied with Daniel Suarez for the second-most in the series. To this day, it’s his highest total for a single season. But the Illinois native explained it as being the toughest season of his career, going winless and leading just 34 laps.

“It was brutal,” a reflective Allgaier said of 2016. “I had a great relationship with my team and I was happy and back again in the Xfinity Series, but it was a struggle. I think some of that, though, is expectations. There were times in 2014 and 2015 where we would get lapped (in the Cup Series) and just having bad days and things weren’t going our way, but I wasn’t as disappointed as I was in 2016.”

Allgaier fired out of the gate in 2017 and won the fourth race of the season at Phoenix Raceway. Since then, he’s picked up 20 additional victories and made five Championship 4 appearances.

Being a mentor within JRM for younger drivers has also been a role that Allgaier has excelled in. He’s helped the careers of multiple drivers who are now at the Cup level.

“He gave me a lot of help when I first got [to JRM] and was thinking about going there,” Noah Gragson said. “I called him before the opportunity came about when we were talking with JRM at the end of 2018, beginning of 2019. He was like, ‘You’re going to have to put a lot of work in here because we have good stuff, but we’re going to have to put a lot of work in to build up the program to what our standard is.’”

Meanwhile, Josh Berry, who was teammates with Allgaier for parts of three seasons, knows how good of a driver Allgaier is.

“When Justin is on it, I think he’s a very underrated racecar driver,” Berry said. “He’s probably a lot better than he gets credit for. He’s always in the front, always in the battles every week, year after year and does a good job.”

AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 04: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 BRANDT Chevrolet, waves to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 04, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images
(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Allgaier has finished in the top 10 in 59.3% of his total starts (267 out of 450). That’s slightly down from Busch’s 72.8% (267 out of 367).

“I feel like if you’re going to be in this sport, batting over .500 is pretty good,” he said. “No complaints about having that.”

Allgaier has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s always said that departing NASCAR at 40 years old was the minimum. That number is rapidly approaching, as Allgaier is 38 years of age.

“I’m going to go as hard as I can until that day comes, and I will know,” Allgaier said. “I think at that moment, I’m going to know that this is it, this is where I’m at. I don’t know when that is.”

The series heads to Portland this weekend where Allgaier has a pair of top five finishes in two starts. Through 12 races in 2024, he ranks fourth in the regular season standings, which has been feast or famine. He has eight stage victories, double the amount of the next best driver. However, his 16.3 average finish is on pace to be his worst since his rookie season.

But Allgaier believes the No. 7 team will start turning in more consistent results.

“If the [No.] 7 team is on, Jim Pohlman and everyone that is on the 7 team, I feel like we’re the car to beat week in and week out every week,” he said. “I feel like we have that opportunity. As a racecar driver, the only thing I could ever ask for is to have the people that are behind you and be 100% in your corner and pushing in the same direction as you are and we’re doing that right now.

“My only goal right now is how do we get back to Phoenix. How do we manage the year, do the best job that we can and get back to Phoenix because I feel like we left one on the table last year.”

Allgaier is coming off a memorable Charlotte weekend, serving as the fill-in driver for Kyle Larson, who was stuck in Indianapolis and couldn’t compete in the rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600. Allgaier, who didn’t practice the car and used Larson’s seat, finished 13th, tied for his fourth-best finish in 82 Cup starts. It was his first intermediate start in the Next Gen car.