Dale Jr. paces field for Xfinity race; Allgaier beats teammate
Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 9, 2021
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his late father’s newly restored Chevy Nova out for a spin on Darlington Raceway’s throwback weekend to pace the field before the Xfinity Series race Saturday.
Then his JR Motorsports drivers did their part to honor the NASCAR legacy of their owner’s family.
Justin Allgaier held off teammate Josh Berry in overtime to win the Xfinity event at Darlington, becoming two of three JR Motorsports racers to finish in the top six.
A fourth JRM driver, Noah Gragson, had crossed the finish line fourth and appeared to win a $100,000 bonus. But he was disqualified after his car failed inspection and he dropped to 40th, last in the field.
It was about the only setback for the Xfinity team, owned in part by Dale Jr. and his sister, Kelley.
“Obviously, Dale’s history in this sport, Dale Jr.’s history in this sport, runs extremely deep,” Allgaier said. To win this race in that atmosphere, he said, “I don’t know if you can describe those emotions.”
Allgaier didn’t move in front until the final 10 laps, when he passed Berry for the lead. Then the race’s eighth and final caution five laps later set up the two-lap overtime shootout that Allgaier claimed for his first win at the track nicknamed “Too Tough To Tame.”
“This place is truly special,” said Allgaier, 34.
His victory capped a day filled with nods to the Earnhardts’ racing past.
Allgaier’s Chevrolet featured a paint scheme driven by the late Dale Earnhardt in the 2000 Daytona 500.
Before the race, Dale Jr. drove his father’s restored Nova to pace the field.
And then came the parade of JR Motorsports drivers on top.
Allgaier said the restored Nova was at the team’s race shop for a while and he was excited to see his boss take it out for a spin.
Not that victory came easily. He pushed past Berry on a restart with 10 laps left and looked like he had opened a big enough lead to close things out. But the eighth caution set up the overtime.
Allgaier chose the outside line for the last restart and, while Berry edged in front briefly, he powered past him to take the checkered flag.
“We’re not surprised we’re in the top five really,” Berry said. “We’re just trying to iron out our mistakes.”
It was Allgaier’s second win in the past four races and his 16th career Xfinity victory.
Defending Darlington Xfinity race winner Brandon Jones finished third, just ahead of Gragson before his car failed inspection.
Gragson led 40 out of 148 laps, the most of any competitor. But his car was found to have broken a rule preventing cars from having suspension mounts that allow for “beyond normal rotation or suspension and/or drivetrain travel, according to NASCAR.
The $100,000 bonus for winning a Dash-4-Cash promotion instead was awarded to AJ Allmendinger, who finished 12th.
Daniel Hemric moved up to fourth and Jeremy Clements was fifth, followed by Michael Annett, Brett Moffitt, Ryan Sieg, Alex Labbe and Harrison Burton to round out the top 10.
Annett, another JR Motorsports driver, moved up to sixth with his teammate’s DQ.
Earnhardt Jr., who has retired from full-time racing, last competed at Darlington in 2019 with a fifth-place finish in an Xfinity race. He plans on getting behind the wheel at Richmond for the Xfinity race on Sept. 11, honoring victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
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