In a matter of one turn during an overtime shootout, Justin Allgaier went from being scored outside of the cutline to make the Championship 4 round to racing his way into the round and receiving an opportunity to contend for this year’s NASCAR Xfinity Series championship after notching a thrilling victory in the Dead On Tools 250 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, October 28.
The 37-year-old Allgaier from Riverton, Illinois, led twice for 21 of 256 over-scheduled laps in an event where he started on the front row and quickly took care of business in the early stages by winning the first stage period amid a strategic pit call to remain on the track on old tires. After pitting for fresh tires prior to the second stage, Allgaier spent the stage mired outside the top 10 and battling amongst his fellow Xfinity Series rivals to remain in contention of making the cutline.
Then amid chaos after chaos followed by a multitude of caution periods and restarts, including an overtime shootout, Allgaier, who restarted fifth in overtime, managed to muscle his way up to third place on the final lap. He then benefitted from a final lap altercation involving Richard Childress Racing’s Playoff contenders Sheldon Creed and Austin Hill to overtake both entering the final turn before edging Creed in a photo finish to win for the fourth time in this year’s Xfinity Series season and race his way into the Championship 4, where he will be one of four competitors who will battle for this year’s championship at next weekend’s finale at Phoenix Raceway.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, October 27, Playoff contender and rookie Sammy Smith notched his first Xfinity pole position of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 94.515 mph in 23.035 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Playoff contender Justin Allgaier, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 94.458 mph in 20.047 seconds.
Prior to the event, the following names that included Jeb Burton, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chris Hacker, Devin Jones and Brett Moffitt dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective entries.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Sammy Smith rocketed his No. 18 Pringles Toyota Supra ahead of the field prior to entering Turn 1 as he maintained the lead over Allgaier and Playoff contender Cole Custer. With the field running in two-wide formation and stacked through the backstretch, Smith proceeded to lead the first lap ahead of both Allgaier and Custer while Riley Herbst and Playoff contender John Hunter Nemechek pursued in the top five.
During the next three laps, Sammy Smith stretched his advantage to more than a second over Allgaier, who was being pressured by Custer for the runner-up spot while Nemechek and Herbst remained dead even for fourth place in front of Playoff contender Chandler Smith, Brandon Jones and Richard Childress Racing’s Playoff contenders Sheldon Creed and Austin Hill. Amid the early on-track battles, the first caution of the event flew on the fourth lap after Joe Graf Jr. spun with a flat left-rear tire in Turn 2.
When the race restarted on Lap 10, Sammy Smith and Allgaier dueled for the lead until Smith muscled away from Allgaier entering the backstretch. Behind, Custer was in third ahead of Nemechek while Herbst, Creed, Chandler Smith and Austin Hill battled for fifth. Amid the battles, Sammy Smith retained the lead by six-tenths of a second over Allgaier and a second over Nemechek by the Lap 15 mark.
At the Lap 20 mark, Sammy Smith was leading by half a second over Allgaier followed by Nemechek, Custer and Herbst while Creed, Hill, Myatt Snider, rookie Chandler Smith and Brandon Jones were in the top 10. With Daniel Hemric, Ryan Sieg, Josh Berry, rookie Parker Retzlaff and Parker Kligerman running in the top 15, Playoff contender Sam Mayer, who is already guaranteed a spot into this year’s Championship 4 by winning last weekend’s event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, was in 18th.
Fifteen laps later, Sammy Smith continued to lead by seven-tenths of a second over Allgaier while Nemechek, Custer and Herbst continued to run in the top five. Behind, Creed, Snider, Hill, Chandler Smith and Hemric were scored in the top 10 while Mayer was mired in 19th.
Another six laps later, the second caution flag of the event flew due to an incident involving Kyle Sieg in Turn 2. During the caution period, a majority of the lead lap field led by the leader Sammy Smith pitted while the rest, including Allgaier, Nemechek, Custer, Hill, Josh Bilicki, Anthony Alfredo, Rajah Caruth, Josh Williams and Brennan Poole remained on the track.
During the following restart on Lap 49, Allgaier briefly dueled with Nemechek through the first two turns before muscling his No. 7 Hellmann’s Chevrolet Camaro ahead from the inside lane to gain the advantage with the top spot. Shortly after, Custer battled and overtook Nemechek for the runner-up spot as Hill tried to join the battle amid a series of on-track battles ensuing behind the front-runners.
When the first stage period concluded on Lap 60, Allgaier, who came into the event three points below the top-four cutline to make this year’s Championship 4 round, captured his 13th Xfinity stage victory of the 2023 season. Custer followed suit in second along with Nemechek, Hill and Sammy Smith while Alfredo, Herbst, Myatt Snider, Chandler Smith and Josh Bilicki were scored in the top 10. By then, Playoff contender Sheldon Creed ended up 11th while Mayer was mired back within the top 30.
Under the stage break, some led by Allgaier, including those who remained on the track during the previous caution period, pitted while the rest led by Sammy Smith remained on the track.
The second stage period started on Lap 68 as teammates Sammy Smith and Myatt Snider occupied the front row. At the start, Smith and Snider dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Smith managed to fend off Snider through the backstretch to retain the top spot. Behind, Chandler Smith moved up to third ahead of Herbst and Berry while Creed was in sixth ahead of Hemric, Brandon Jones, Kaz Grala and Ryan Sieg. The caution, however, would return on Lap 72 after Custer, who was mired within the middle of the pack after pitting during the stage break, made contact with Layne Riggs entering Turns 1 and 2 as Riggs spun while Mayer slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting Riggs.
When the race restarted on Lap 79, Sammy Smith fended off Chandler Smith entering Turn 1 to retain the lead while continuing to run on the inside lane. Shortly after, Snider gave Chandler Smith a light bump to move him out of the groove and overtake him for the runner-up spot while both Berry and Herbst tried to move Chandler Smith out of the groove to overtake him for third and fourth. In the midst of the bumping and on-track contact for positions, Creed pursued closely in sixth while Sammy Smith maintained the lead over teammate Snider.
On Lap 87, the caution flew after Ryan Sieg, who was battling Herbst for sixth place, got loose underneath Herbst, made contact against Herbst’s Ford and spun towards the middle of the track in Turn 2, with the field managing to fan out and dodge Sieg’s No. 39 Ford as the Georgian continued without sustaining any significant damage to his entry. During the caution period, select names that included Mayer, Kligerman and Alfredo pitted while the rest led by Sammy Smith remained on the track.
The ensuing restart on Lap 94 featured Sammy Smith rocketing away from the inside lane to retain the lead while Berry retained second place ahead of Snider, Chandler Smith, Creed and Herbst. Not long after, a three-wide battle ensued between Chandler Smith, Snider and Creed while Brandon Jones carved his way up to sixth followed by Hemric, Herbst, Grala and Retzlaff. Amid the contact and physical battles ensuing behind, Sammy Smith extended his advantage by nearly a second over Berry as the event surpassed the Lap 100 mark.
At the Lap 110 mark, Sammy Smith was leading by more than a second over Berry and more than two seconds over third-place Snider while Creed, Chandler Smith, Grala, Brandon Jones, Retzlaff, Custer and Jeremy Clements were running in the top 10. Behind, Playoff contenders Allgaier, Nemechek, Mayer and Hill were scored in 14th through 17th, respectively.
When the second stage period concluded on Lap 120, Sammy Smith, who navigated his way through lapped traffic and came into the event 49 points below the Championship 4 cutline, captured his second Xfinity stage victory of the 2023 season. Berry trailed in the runner-up spot followed by Snider, Creed and Grala while Retzlaff, Chandler Smith, Custer, Brandon Jones and Herbst were scored in the top 10. By then, Playoff contenders Allgaier, Mayer, Nemechek and Hill were scored in 11th, 14th, 15th and 17th, respectively, as Nemechek managed to clinch his spot into this year’s Championship 4 round.
During the stage break, nearly the entire field led by Sammy Smith pitted for service while Layne Riggs and Ryan Sieg remained on the track. Following the pit stops, Mayer exited pit road first after only electing fuel to his entry while Sammy Smith followed suit with four fresh tires along with Berry, Snider, Creed, Custer and Herbst.
With 121 laps remaining, the final stage period started as Riggs and Ryan Sieg occupied the front row. At the start, Riggs gained a strong start on the inside lane to muscle away from the field with the lead while Mayer quickly made his way into the runner-up spot along with a hard-charging Sammy Smith while Ryan Sieg fell back to fourth in front of Snider. Behind, Creed battled with Custer and Allgaier for seventh as Sammy Smith overtook Mayer for the runner-up spot before igniting his charge on Riggs for the lead.
Then with 116 laps remaining, Sammy Smith reassumed the lead after overtaking Riggs for the top spot. Snider and Berry would follow suit not long after as Riggs managed to remain in fourth in front of Mayer.
Down to the final 100 laps of the event, Sammy Smith was leading by more than three seconds over Berry and by four seconds over teammate Snider while Custer muscled his No. 00 Haas Ford Mustang into fourth place ahead of Riggs. Mayer, Creed, Herbst, Grala and Allgaier were in the top 10 while Retzlaff, Nemechek, Brandon Jones, Chandler Smith and Hill were back in the top 15.
Four laps later, the caution flew after Riggs, who was running fifth, got hit by Mayer as Riggs spun for a second time in Turn 2. During the caution period, select names that included Playoff contenders Allgaier and Hill pitted while the rest led by Sammy Smith remained on the track.
With the race restarting with 90 laps remaining, Sammy Smith fended off teammate Snider and Berry to retain the lead as the field behind fanned out and jostled for late positions. As Sammy Smith retained the lead and started to pull away from his competition, the caution returned a few laps later after Akinori Ogata spun in Turn 2. During the caution period, select names that included Snider, Creed and Chandler Smith pitted while the rest led by Sammy Smith remained on the track. Amid the pit stops, Chandler Smith was penalized for having too many men over the pit wall.
During the following restart with 81 laps remaining, Sammy Smith muscled away from Berry to retain the lead through the first two turns as Berry managed to remain in front of Custer and maintain the runner-up spot. With Herbst and Mayer battling for fourth place in front of Nemechek, Grala and Jones, Sammy Smith checked out with an advantage of more than a second with 75 laps remaining. Shortly after, the caution flew due to Kligerman losing a right-front tire and falling off the pace through the frontstretch. During the caution period, a majority of the field led by Sammy Smith pitted while the rest led by Nemechek remained on the track.
With the race restarting with 68 laps remaining, Nemechek retained the lead ahead of the field while Hill made his way into the runner-up spot. As Allgaier was trying to carve his way into the top five, the bumping within the pack continued to ignite amongst the Playoff contenders and front-runners through every turn and straightaway. Then three laps later, more on-track trouble ignited after Snider fell off the pace and stacked up the field exiting the backstretch, which resulted with Connor Mosack, who was hit by teammate Grala and was scraping the inside wall, spinning and hitting Grala as Clements and Jeb Burton were also involved by hitting Mosack. In the midst of the carnage, Playoff contender Custer sustained minimal front-nose damage to his No. 00 Haas Ford, but he continued to remain on the track in 12th place. Not long after, Playoff contender Chandler Smith retired due to a mechanical issue to his No. 16 Quick Tie Products Chevrolet Camaro, which took him out of the equation of making this year’s Championship 4 round.
In the ensuing restart with 54 laps remaining, Nemechek and Hill dueled for the lead for a full lap, with Hill leading the next lap, and they continued to duel for the lead during the next lap as he led the respective lap before he muscled his No. 21 Global Industrial Chevrolet Camaro ahead of Nemechek’s No. 20 Mobil 1 Toyota Supra and clear with the lead from the outside lane. The caution, however, quickly returned during the following lap after Akinori Ogata spun for a second time of the day, this time in Turn 4.
During the following restart with 44 laps remaining, Nemechek challenged Hill for the lead from the outside lane and he managed to pull ahead through the frontstretch to lead the following lap just before the caution flew against after JJ Yeley and Ryan Ellis wrecked in the frontstretch.
With the race restarting with 36 laps remaining, Nemechek and Hill dueled for the lead through the first two turns until Nemechek used the outside lane to retain the lead from Hill. With Nemechek leading Hill, Allgaier was trying to fend off Creed and Sammy Smith for third place, with Creed and Smith placed in “must-win” scenarios to advance into the Championship 4 round, before the latter two managed to overtake the veteran Allgaier for third and fourth. As the race progressed, the caution would return with 31 laps remaining after Kaz Grala spun in Turn 2.
With the race restarting with 25 laps remaining, Nemechek retained the lead as he restarted from the inside lane while Hill managed to fend off teammate Creed to retain the runner-up spot. This allowed Sammy Smith to challenge Creed for third place followed by Allgaier and Custer as Smith made his way into third place.
With less than 20 laps remaining, Nemechek was leading by eight-tenths of a second over Hill while third-place Sammy Smith trailed by more than a second. Behind, Creed, Allgaier and Custer engaged in a fierce battle for fourth place and for the final spots to the Championship 4 round while Herbst, Jeb Burton, Snider and Riggs were scored in the top 10. Meanwhile, Mayer was mired in 16th as the battle between Creed, Custer and Allgaier ensued while Nemechek extended his advantage to more than a second over Hill with 15 laps remaining.
Following another caution period after Alfredo spun in Turn 4 with 14 laps remaining, the race restarted under green with eight laps remaining. At the start, Sammy Smith tried to make a move beneath teammate Nemechek entering Turn 1, but Nemechek blocked his teammate and retained the lead over Hill through the first two turns. Behind, Sammy Smith lost third place to Creed after he hopped the curb entering Turn 1, which allowed Allgaier to challenge him to fourth place. Back at the front, however, Hill gave Nemechek a push to the bumper entering Turn 3, which moved Nemechek up the track as Hill and Creed moved into first and second through the frontstretch. Then as Nemechek, Allgaier, Sammy Smith, Herbst and Custer battled for third behind the two Richard Childress Racing competitors during the following lap, the caution returned for six laps remaining as a multi-car wreck ignited entering the backstretch when Jeb Burton and Snider made contact and resulted with Snider hitting Riggs, spinning back across the track and collecting Grala, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Mayer, Clements, Josh Williams, CJ McLaughlin, Rajah Caruth, Chad Finchum, Jones and Bilicki. The carnage was enough for the event to be placed in a red flag period for 28 minutes.
Once the red flag was lifted and the field returned under a cautious pace, the event was sent into overtime as the on-track safety workers continued to clean the racing surface amid the carnage and leaked fluid. Amid an extensive caution period, the race restarted in overtime as teammates Hill and Creed occupied the front row in front of Nemechek, Allgaier, Sammy Smith and Custer. At the start, Nemechek got into the rear of Hill, which caused Nemechek to go way below the inside lane as Hill tried to fend off teammate Creed for the lead entering Turn 1. Hill and Creed then made contact entering the backstretch, which allowed Hill to muscle ahead of his teammate as Allgaier trailed in third place. By then, Nemechek moved up to fourth while Sammy Smith and Custer battled for fifth.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Hill, who was bumped by teammate Creed entering Turns 3 and 4, remained as the leader ahead of Creed and Allgaier, who scrubbed the frontstretch’s outside wall after making contact with Nemechek. Then in Turn 1, Creed ran into the rear of teammate Hill, which caused Hill to go wide as Creed made his move beneath Hill for the lead. After dueling with Hill through the backstretch, where Hill rammed into the side of Creed, Creed muscled his No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro ahead from Hill and assumed the lead before he went up the track in Turn 3, locked up the front tires and was hit in the rear by Hill. Amid the chaos, Allgaier made his move beneath both as Hill was then turned by Nemechek and triggered a multi-car wreck. With the wreck ensuing behind, Allgaier and Creed rubbed fenders approaching the finish line, with Allgaier edging Creed by 0.032 seconds to grab the victory and race his way into the Championship 4 round.
With the victory, Allgaier achieved his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the 2023 season, his first at Martinsville, his first since winning the Playoff opener at Bristol Motor Speedway in September and the 23rd of his career. The 2023 season marks Allgaier’s sixth season reaching the Championship 4 round as he will officially contend for his first elusive Xfinity Series championship in his 13th full-time campaign in the series, eighth while driving for JR Motorsports.
“[Spotter] Eddie D’Hondt, [crew chief] Jim Pohlman, both of those guys kept telling me it’s not over,” Allgaier said on USA Network. “Thank God is so good. You fans that came here today. Coming to the start/finish line, I don’t think I saw a single person sitting down. I just was hanging on and trying to go as fast as I can. I hope everybody that crashed on the frontstraightaway is alright. Man, this Hellmann’s car has been lights out all year. It’s been as fast as Xfinity 10G, for sure. I cannot say enough about the Hendrick Engine shop, everybody at Chevrolet, all of our partners. We got a shot at going for the championship in Phoenix. This is an emotional one. I’ve wanted to win at Martinsville for a long time and man, I’ve been on the other end of that too many times. To be able to come out of here tonight with the win and to have a shot at the championship next week, Jim Pohlman, what an incredible crew chief. He’s done an amazing job. Pit crew was lights out. Heck, I don’t even know who to thank right now. This is incredible.”
Amid the overtime shootout and the final lap accident, Cole Custer, who ended up 19th backwards and with a wrecked race car, managed to claim the fourth and final spot into the Championship 4 berth by seven points as he will join Allgaier, John Hunter Nemechek and Sam Mayer as the four competitors who will contend for this year’s Xfinity Series championship.
“It’s just Martinsville, everybody’s desperate,” Custer, who made the Championship 4 for the third time in his career, said in the infield care center. “It’s just one of those deals. I just can’t all my guys enough. They worked so hard and just gotten better and better and better throughout the year. I’m so glad this is over. It’s just amazing to be in the Final Four and have a shot at [the championship]. I think we’ll have something for [the competition] at Phoenix.”
Meanwhile, Austin Hill, this year’s regular-season champion who was unable to limp his wrecked race car across the finish line, ended up 21st with a DNF and was the first competitor scored out of the Playoffs. Teammate Sheldon Creed and Sammy Smith along with Chandler Smith were also eliminated from the Playoffs after all three came into Martinsville placed in “must-win” situations to transfer. The incident did very little to ease Hill’s frustration over missing an opportunity of contending for the title and towards his Richard Childress Racing teammate over the late contact.
“It wasn’t cool of me to do what I did into [Turn] 1 like driving [Creed] up the racetrack, but I still kind of stayed off of him,” Hill said. “[Creed] just did not give me a chance getting into [Turn] 3 and he didn’t give me a chance getting into [Turn] 1 [on the final lap]. Just shoved me up the racetrack. I know he’s in a “must-win” situation, but still, man, uncalled for that to happen and then, neither of the [Richard Childress Racing] guys make it to the Final Four. It’s just frustrating. Pretty excited for [Creed] to go to his next adventure over at [Joe Gibbs Racing]. I don’t have to put up with him no more…Just ridiculous.”
“I don’t know if it’s fair,” Creed said. “I don’t like racing that way and that seems to be the way that this race always plays out. I thought we had it there coming to the checkered. Not proud of racing like that. A shot at the Championship Four. I didn’t blast [Hill]. He’s still with me. I drug [raced] right here to keep him next to me and then, we raced pretty hard [in Turn 3] and I don’t know who gets into him. I feel like I played pretty fair for the situation and he’s gonna be mad, but it’s for a Championship 4 spot and I wanna fight for my guys all the way to the end.”
On the track, Sammy Smith ended up third followed by Herbst and Josh Berry while Hemric, Parker Retzlaff, Alfredo, Jeb Burton and Kligerman finished in the top 10.
There were 13 lead changes for eight different leaders. The race featured 15 cautions for 101 laps. In addition, 20 of 38 starters finished on the lead lap.
1. Justin Allgaier, 21 laps led, Stage 1 winner
2. Sheldon Creed, one lap led
3. Sammy Smith, 147 laps led, Stage 2 winner
4. Riley Herbst
5. Josh Berry
6. Daniel Hemric
7. Parker Retzlaff
8. Anthony Alfredo
9. Jeb Burton
10. Parker Kligerman
11. Layne Riggs, nine laps led
12. Rajah Caruth
13. CJ McLaughlin
14. Josh Williams
15. Myatt Snider, one lap led
16. Brandon Jones
17. Jeremy Clements
18. John Hunter Nemechek, 54 laps led
19. Cole Custer, one lap led
20. Brett Moffitt
21. Austin Hill – OUT, Accident, 22 laps led
22. Blaine Perkins – OUT, Accident
23. Josh Bilicki – OUT, Accident
24. Ryan Ellis – OUT, Transmission
25. Sam Mayer – OUT, Accident
26. Jeffrey Earnhardt – OUT, Accident
27. Chad Finchum – OUT, Accident
28. Kaz Grala – OUT, Accident
29. Joe Graf Jr., 16 laps down
30. Chris Hacker – OUT, Radiator
31. Connor Mosack – OUT, Radiator
32. Brennan Poole – OUT, Engine
33. Akinori Ogata – OUT, Oil line
34. JJ Yeley – OUT, Accident
35. Ryan Sieg – OUT, Steering
36. Chandler Smith – OUT, Accident
37. Devin Jones – OUT, Engine
38. Kyle Sieg – OUT, Accident
*Bold indicates Playoff competitors
1. Sam Mayer – Advanced
2. Justin Allgaier – Advanced
3. John Hunter Nemechek – Advanced
4. Cole Custer – Advanced
5. Austin Hill – Eliminated
6. Sammy Smith – Eliminated
7. Sheldon Creed – Eliminated
8. Chandler Smith – Eliminated
The 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season is set to conclude next Saturday, November 4, at Phoenix Raceway, where a champion will be crowned. The finale’s broadcast is slated to occur at 7 p.m. ET on USA Network.