Springfield, Ill. Native Wins Xfinity Race

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Justin Allgaier acknowledges there were some very down moments in his long NASCAR Xfinity victory drought.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “There are moments in my racing career when I wondered why I got up and went to the race track.”

But his family’s support kept him trying, he said, and Saturday, in scorching heat, he earned his first victory in nearly five years.

Allgaier held off Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones. Blaney, who started the day 33rd after missing the qualifying, pulled ahead of Jones before the final lap to finish second.

Jones and Blaney won the first and second stages of NASCAR’s three-stage format.

There were nine caution flags for 54 laps of the 200-lap race.

The temperature at Phoenix International Raceway in the barren hills southwest of the city was 93 degrees when the race started and 96 by the end.

Elliott Sadler finished fifth and remained the series points leader.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn’t driving Saturday, but he sure had a big day. Three of the cars he owns finished in the top five in NASCAR’s Xfinity race, led by Allgaier’s Camaro.

“As a team owner, you just want the guys to be competitive,” Earnhardt said, “but I was really, really happy to see how well we qualified and how well we qualified and how strong the cars were throughout the day.

“That’s our responsibility as owners, to provide our guys with the best that we can and I feel like we gave them some good stuff to work with today.”

NASCAR officials summoned Austin Dillon, his crew chief and spotter to a meeting, ordering the car off the track, after he appeared to retaliate by knocking Cole Custer’s car into the wall during the final caution. Custer tapped Dillon’s Toyota into the wall to force the caution initially.

When Custer came around during the caution flag, Dillon ran Custer’s Ford into the wall and the yellow flag became a red flag with spilled fuel on the track.

NASCAR had no immediate comment on any possible penalties.

The final restart came with four laps remaining, and Allgier said his car was “lights out.”

In an earlier restart, Dillon had driven his car low, allowing Jones to take the lead briefly but Allgaier had the fastest car at the end.

Allgaier’s crew replaced all four tires late in the race while Jones’ went with two and it made a difference on the pavement slickened by the fuel.

“It’s so hot that I think that two tires aren’t going to be as competitive here as they might have been in the past,” Allgaier’s crew chief Jason Burdett said.

Allgaier is the first Xfinity series regular driver to win this year in the three races. The first two races were won by NASCAR Cup drivers Kyle Busch and Joey Logano but no Cup veterans competed on Saturday.

The race was a preliminary to Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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