LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. swears he never visited victory lane at New Hampshire as an Xfinity Series team owner. Or even a pop in to congratulate a driver during his Cup career. For no reason at all, that he could remember.
He wasn't so sure he'd make a trip Saturday, either.
“At the start of this race, I told everybody, the Gibbs guys, I felt like were still the cars to beat here,” Earnhardt said.
Earnhardt found out having the hottest driver in the series sure made the difference in finally celebrating in victory lane.
Justin Allgaier outran 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for his third Xfinity Series victory of the season.
“We outlasted them today,” Earnhardt said. “It was a bit of an attrition race.”
Allgaier won all three checkered flags over his last eight races, a hot streak that started in May at Darlington Raceway and he added his second win last month at Nashville Superspeedway.
The 36-year-old Allgaier controlled a wreck-filled race late in his No. 7 Chevrolet is again in the hunt to win his coveted first Xfinity championship. Allgaier took the lead with 48 laps left and grabbed the checkered flag for Chevrolet and JR Motorsports — and a trophy he planned to share with his wife, Ashley.
“If I can’t be with my wife on her birthday, the best thing to do is take home a trophy,” he said.
His family couldn’t attend the race because their daughter had a softball game. Allgaier also gave Chevrolet its first win at New Hampshire since 2007.
Series points leader AJ Allmendinger was 22nd.
Bayne, one of the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers that worried Earnhardt, also finished second to Allgaier in Nashville.
“Congratulations to Allgaier,” Bayne said, then added a beat, “again.”
Landon Cassill finished third, then was disqualified for failing post-race inspection. He has yet to win a NASCAR race over 332 career Cup races, 194 Xfinity races and eight Truck Series races. His 17 laps led were as many as he had total in his Xfinity career entering the race.
“Usually the best way to stay out of trouble is to run in the top five,” Cassill said.
A series wrecks knocked all sorts of contenders out of the race. Josh Berry, the pole sitter, got loose and spun to trigger a wreck that knocked the back of Ryan Sieg’s car into the air. Jeb Burton had nowhere to go and plowed into the rear of Sieg’s car. NASCAR red-flagged the race.
Julia Landauer had to bring her torch after the former “Survivor” contestant hit the wall in her first Xfinity race. Allgaier smacked the side of her No. 45 Chevrolet and sent the car sideways into the wall. Landauer stayed on the track and later slid into another car to bring another caution and was forced to garage 96 laps into the race. Allgaier apologized for the incident.
“Never do I want to make contact with a competitor,” he said. “It through me off my game for a long while.”
Noah Gragson was fourth, but also was disqualified for failing post-race inspection.
JR Motorsports has now won races at all but five tracks on the schedule.
“You put enough race cars on the race track, that gives you better odds,” Earnhardt said. “We put enough winning on the cars so our odds have never been better than they are this year. We're taking advantage of it and enjoying it, for sure. We go home and we have beer toasts.”
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