HAMPTON, Ga. – After a sluggish start to the NASCAR Xfinity Series season, Justin Allgaier knew coming into Atlanta Motor Speedway that he needed to find a way to bounce back.
The Riverton, Ill., native got that rebound in the form of an impressive triumph over a former NASCAR Cup Series champion, punching his ticket to the playoffs in the process.
Allgaier held off a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. in the final laps of Saturday evening’s EchoPark 250 to earn his 15th career Xfinity Series win and first victory in 13 races, dating back to last season.
He assumed control of the race with 50 laps left, when Truex was busted for speeding entering pit road during a caution-flag pit sequence, and led all but three laps the rest of the way.
Driving the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, Allgaier fended off every advance Truex made over the final 10 laps and then pulled away to win by 1.449 seconds.
“We didn’t start out the day like we wanted to — these guys persevered through it,” said Allgaier. “They pushed and made great adjustments on pit road — (crew chief) Jason Burdett and all the guys on the team did a great job. My wife and daughter are here. They may not be able to come out here (to victory lane), but I get to go celebrate with them. Just proud of the effort that we put in today.
“Martin had a great race car. They definitely had the car to beat at the beginning,” Allgaier added. “We made good adjustments, and that’s what it came down to at the end.”
Prior to his speeding penalty, Truex dominated Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, his first series start since 2010. He led 103 of the first 113 laps and swept both stages with Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 54 Toyota.
But following a caution for a spinning Mason Massey, Truex was shuffled back outside the top 20 due to the speeding ticket, leading to a furious rally back through traffic down the stretch run to the finish.
Truex caught a break with a quick caution on the next restart with 46 to go, when Jeb Burton and Jeremy Clements made contact and ended up in the outside wall, and then carved through the field.
He rocketed from 20th to sixth in three laps after the green flag waved with 40 to go, holding serve there after a short battle with Noah Gragson until the seventh and final yellow flag of the day with 32 laps left when Josh Berry spun and had the front end of his Chevrolet demolished by the infield grass.
That generated a final round of pit stops for fresh tires and a 26-lap run to the finish, during which Truex got back to second but couldn’t get close enough to do anything with Allgaier over the final 12 circuits.
“We got back up there, but obviously, we were kind of out of tires at that point,” said Truex, a two-time Xfinity Series champion. “Got close, and then the last 10 (laps), the right rear was completely smoked off. I just had to use too much to get there.
“Thanks to (sponsor) Stanley and everyone else at JGR for letting me go do this. It was fun until I screwed it up. Just came up a little short at the end there.”
Truex’s teammate, Harrison Burton, crossed third ahead of Noah Gragson and A.J. Allmendinger.
Riley Herbst, Michael Annett, Justin Haley, Daniel Hemric and Ryan Sieg filled out the top 10.
Gragson and Hemric exchanged blows on pit road after the race due to an incident between the pair during a mid-race round of pit stops, when Gragson backed up in his pit stall and hit Hemric’s Toyota.
Saturday’s race was also the qualifying event for the Dash4Cash bonus program, which pays out $100,000 bonuses to Xfinity Series regulars over a four-race stretch of the regular season.
Allgaier, Burton, Gragson and Allmendinger made themselves eligible to chase the first bonus as the four highest points-eligible finishers in the Atlanta event.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series gets two weeks off before resuming action April 9 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.