INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Justin Allgaier still remembers his father making the 3½-hour drive from Illinois to Indianapolis every Wednesday for driving classes.
So maybe a rain-delayed celebration was the perfect tribute for his first career victory at the Brickyard.
Allgaier led each of the final 10 laps on Monday and held off a last-lap challenge from teammate Tyler Reddick to claim his fifth victory of the season. Allgaier won by 0.092 seconds. Ryan Blaney was third.
“Never in a million years when I was sitting in the grandstands did I think I could win here,” Allgaier said. “I used to come here all the time. I used to sit in the grandstands down here in turn one, which is why I wanted to go down there after I won. My dad brought me over here to take classes so I could be the best I could be.”
Lately, nobody has been better than the 32-year-old driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet.
After sharing the traditional kiss of the bricks with his wife and daughter, Allgaier goes into the regular-season finale assured of a playoff spot and holding a 16-point lead over Elliott Sadler. Sadler’s day ended when he got caught up in a six-car crash on lap 23 of the 250-mile race on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval.
Waiting an additional 48 hours, after heavy rain wiped out the entire weekend schedule, didn’t bother Allgaier, either. The only real challenge he faced over the final stage came from Reddick, his teammate with JR Motorsports, the team owned by retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I wanted to make my move, but I didn’t want to make it with 10 to go or five to go or four to go or three to go,” Reddick said. “I wanted to make it on the last lap.”
He tried to pull side by side with Allgaier. But Reddick didn’t have enough momentum to make the pass, then smartly backed out and settled for second.
“I knew within probably two or three laps that I had a good chance to have a great finish,” Allgaier said. “It’s amazing. It’s pretty incredible.”
Allgaier started fast and stayed near the front but didn’t win either of the first two stages. John Hunter Nemechek edged out Ryan Preece in a four-wide finish across the finish line in Stage 1. Nemechek drives the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing while Preece competes in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Daniel Hemric edged out Christopher Bell for the Stage 2 victory in a near-photo finish. Hemric drives the No. 21 Chevy for Richard Childress and Bell competes in the No. 20 Toyota for Gibbs’ team.
With 12 starters in the Xfinity race making their first start at Indy and no on-track work before the green flag waved, series officials announced there would be a competition caution on Lap 10. Six more yellow flags came out during the race including the crash that collected six cars and Pearce’s crash into a tire wall that briefly brought out a red flag so track workers could repair the damage.
For the second straight year, the Xfinity drivers experimented with a different aero package than the Cup Series. If it works the way race organizers and series officials hope, it could be used in the future Brickyard 400s. And so far the reviews have been good.
“I like the package we’ve run here. I think we’ve been able to race each other really well,” Allgaier said. “I think it suits this race track very well.”
The series heads to Las Vegas for Saturday’s regular-season finale.