AVONDALE, Ariz. — When the Playoffs were on the line, Justin Allgaier rose to the occasion by winning the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino 200 as the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 has officially been declared.
“We had a hot rod today,” Allgaier declared.
After winning five races in 2018, Allgaier looks for redemption at Homestead-Miami Speedway this year by winning his first race of the season. It also came at the right time since the JR Motorsports driver was among the cutoff line throughout the race.
“I don’t think we could have beaten the 20 (Bell),” said Allgaier. “But when he made his mistake, we capitalized on it. That’s what it’s all about. No question (not winning) is a weight on your shoulders, man. You can’t even begin to describe it.”
Christopher Bell won last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his spot for the championship race. Bell led every green-flag lap in both opening stages, but a speeding penalty on pit road forced him to drop to the rear of the field on the restart of the final stage. Another caution, later on, forced him to pit again. The No. 20 car went one lap down and wasn’t able to recover.
“I feel like I gave up a winner,” said Bell. “It all comes down to this one next week. I’m ready for it. I feel really good about where we’re at, and our car is going to be extremely strong next week.
“We’ve prepared a ton for this. Ever since we left Homestead last year, we knew that this race was where we needed to improve. Pretty much all year long, we’ve been focused on Homestead.”
Since Brandon Jones won at Martinsville, no other driver was completely locked in yet. In a combination of stage points and other competitors falling out of the race, Cole Custer had a large enough gap in the points standings to mathematically lock himself into Homestead.
“I never got the memo,” Custer laughed when asked if he was told about the championship status update after Stage 2. “I was giving it all I had. I was really struggling with the brake pedal. I kind of lost it at the start of the run. I had to save the whole run until like 15 laps to go, and then I just let it happen. I just came up a little bit short, but I think that was the best run we’ve had at Phoenix in a long time.”
“I’m looking forward to Homestead, and hopefully we can do one spot better.”
The regular-season champion, Tyler Reddick, will now go for a second consecutive championship in the Xfinity series. Last year, he won with JR Motorsports. This year, he’ll look to bring a title to Richard Childress Racing.
Chase Briscoe, Michael Annett, Austin Cindric, and Noah Gragson were the four drivers eliminated after Phoenix.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will crown their champion next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.