If Justin Allgaier was looking for a place to jump-start his season, he could not have picked a better track than Iowa Speedway.
Last year, Allgaier led 182 laps en route to his first career win at the .875-mile track. Including his victory in the CircuitCity.com 250, the driver of the No. 7 Brandt Chevrolet collected five wins for the season—a career best.
But the JR Motorsports driver is still searching for his victory in 2019.
“Iowa is one of the race tracks that just suits the dirt track driver,” Allgaier said. “There’s a lot of us in the series now, unfortunately, so that really doesn’t help me as much as I would like. But it’s one of those tracks where you move around a lot. You’re constantly searching for that fast line, trying to maneuver through the bumps. I just think it’s one of those places where it really pays dividends to have some experience on dirt.
“For me, it’s a place I love going. Obviously, Christopher and I, last year, we had great battles in both races. But we have a huge contingent of guys this year that are really, really fast. I think Iowa is one of those places that won’t disappoint for sure.”
In 2018, the series appeared headed for an Allgaier/Bell battle—and Iowa was no exception. Allgaier dominated the June race while Bell finished second. In the July rematch, the roles were reversed with Bell ending up on top.
With wins at Mid-Ohio, Elkhart Lake and Indianapolis, Allgaier appeared to be in prime form to capture his first Xfinity Series title when the Playoffs began. But wrecks at Richmond and Kansas slowed the team’s momentum, and Allgaier failed to reach the Championship 4. Bell and Cole Custer appeared to be the favorites entering the season finale, but Tyler Reddick surprised the competition.
This season, Allgaier has struggled to become part of the conversation, with his former JRM teammate—and defending NXS champion—Reddick, as well as Bell and Custer stealing the lion’s share of headlines. Allgaier has three second-place finishes and five podium results. But he hasn’t won since last September.
“We have to run better,” Allgaier said. “At the end of the day, we’ve had good finishes. We’ve run well but we haven’t had the speed to beat those guys—just raw speed. There’s a lot that goes into that. It’s not an easy fix. I wish I could tell you we’d fix it tomorrow. But the guys at the shop—everybody at JR Motorsports—has done a great job.”
With NASCAR putting the hammer down on teams breaking the rules—and disqualifying cars that fail post-race inspection—JRM has adopted a conservative approach when setting up cars this season. With four full-time cars and three full-time drivers, Michael Annett is the only JRM Chevrolet to win in 2019.
“We look really hard at making sure that when the races are over that we can pass post-race inspection,” Allgaier said. “Especially as tight as the tolerances are, if you can max out one little piece of your race car that someone else didn’t, it can make a big difference on the race track.
“For us, it’s finding the balance of what areas we can gain on? But we don’t want to step over that boundary and put us in the position of wondering if we’re going to make it through post-race inspection. There’s a fine balance there, but the guys are working hard. We just have to go to the drawing board and figure out what we need to get better.”