It has been an eventful weekend for Justin Allgaier. From receiving a call to fill in for one of NASCAR’s icons to pulling double duty between two of the sport’s major division series at a famed racetrack, the Illinois native, who races as a full-time competitor in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, was aiming for a strong result in his return to the sport’s premier series. Instead, Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at the Brickyard did not fall in the favors for Allgaier and the No. 48 Ally/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team after a bizarre wreck on pit road left them out of contention and exiting early in the race.
For Allgaier, it started on Friday, July 3, when he was called to serve as an interim driver of the No. 48 Ally/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE for seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who had tested positive for COVID-19 along with his wife, Chani, and was unable to compete in the Cup Series for the first time in 663 races, none since November 2001. In addition to Johnson and his wife, one member of Johnson’s crew went under self-quarantine due to coming into contact with the driver during the last few days. Johnson’s positive test of COVID-19 was something that Hendrick Motorsports quickly alerted NASCAR and was following all the necessary guidelines under the sport’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Based on a random draw, the No. 48 team led by crew chief Cliff Daniels was due to start fourth, but the driver change sent Allgaier to the rear of the field when the green flag waved at Indy. For the first 12 laps, Allgaier was able to methodically work his way up to 30th when the competition caution flew. Things changed, however, under caution when Allgaier was entering pit road. It was past the pit road entrance when he was caught up in a pileup as a result of a stack up. In the ensuing chaos, Allgaier was hit in the rear end by rookie Brennan Poole, ran into the back of Corey LaJoie and pinned the right-rear tire changer of Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 crew against Blaney car before coming to rest alongside Ryan Preece’s crumbled car with significant front nose damage.
Following a red flag period spanning more than 11 minutes, the No. 48 crew went to work to repair the car. By the time the damage was repaired, Allgaier returned to the track in 39th, multiple laps down. Shortly after a restart on Lap 20, the right-front tire blew on the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet and Allgaier was off the pace while trying to make his way back to pit road. Shortly after, crew chief Daniels made the call for Allgaier to park the car in the garage as his race came to an end.
“[Poole], actually, got in the back of me,” Allgaier said after being released from the infield care center. “I didn’t know if I got [hit] the gentleman on [Blaney’s crew] or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into. It’s just a shame. I hate it for these guys on this Ally No. 48 [team]. They’ve done such a great job. They’ve prepared so well for the circumstances. Obviously, our hearts and thoughts are for Jimmie and his family right now. That’s the most important piece of all this is getting him back to the race track soon. And, I wanted to do well for them today and it’s disappointing to be standing here talking to [TV interviewer] unfortunately. But we’ll go on. I don’t know what next week looks like yet. We’ll go run the Xfinity Series race and go have a good shot at it. It’s a disappointing way to end the Brickyard 400.”
Allgaier’s 37th-place result in his 77th Cup career start, first since August 2016 at Bristol Motor Speedway, was a result he did not have in mind, especially at a track where he won at in the 2018 Xfinity Series season and coming off his seventh-place result in the Indianapolis Grand Prix Circuit the day before. Nonetheless, he remained humble and thankful for the opportunity to race at Indianapolis in the iconic No. 48 machine and for Johnson, who is scheduled to retire at the conclusion of this season following an illustrious racing career.
“I told Mr. [Hendrick] and I told Jimmie as well just how honored I was that they would ask me to be in this role. It means a lot. It means a lot as a driver. It means a lot to everybody involved and my family. Hopefully, I get the opportunity to do it again.”
There are no current plans established for Johnson’s return to racing nor for the No. 48 Ally/Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team in terms of driver plans for next weekend’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. He may return only after receiving clearance from his physician and has two negative COVID-19 test results spanning 24 hours apart. His initials plans of testing an IndyCar vehicle for Chip Ganassi Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Wednesday, July 8, has been cancelled.
Allgaier will return for the upcoming NASCAR Xfinity Series’ doubleheader weekend at Kentucky Speedway on July 9 and 10, which will both air at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. The NASCAR Cup Series will return for its next scheduled race at Kentucky on July 12 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FS1.