JR Motorsports Veterans Are Poised To Win The NASCAR XFINITY Series Championship At Homestead-Miami Speedwayby Benjamin Sanders November 17, 2017
The JR Motorsports juggernaut is poised for the NASCAR XFINITY Series title, but after getting bottled up last season on a restart behind Cole Whitt on old tires, Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier know they can’t afford to omit any situation on the track.
The team dynamic is cordial, but both drivers who aspire to be back in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series full-time again, know a championship can vault them back into highest echelon of stock car racing.
Much like his teammate last season, Allgaier is racing in the finale without his crew chief Jason Burdett. Veteran Billy Wilburn is atop the pit box this weekend. Adversity also has followed the team around the past couple of weeks after the pit crews were stranded away from Phoenix.
“Yeah, we’ve had a lot of conversation, not necessarily just Elliott and I, but just our group in general,” Allgaier said. “Obviously, they felt like last year there were things that they did well and there were things that they did poorly. We somewhat have the benefit, I guess, of knowing how they did things last year.”
The native of Riverton, Illinois is coming off a career year with two wins and 17 top-10 finishes, 10 of those resulting in a top-five and leading 495 laps.
“I think, from my standpoint, this has been the best season of my career, regardless of laps led or races won,” Allgaier said.
Meanwhile, teammate Sadler has learnt from past mistakes and is ready to finally claim that elusive championship; however, the wily veteran knows that he can’t count anything out.
“The biggest thing I learned from last year is a lot can happen in this race.,” Sadler said. “Not only to happen in us in XFINITY race when we had a chance to win on the last restart, but you also saw the Cup races too. There’s so many things that can happen in a championship race, so mentally you’ve got to stay in the game. You’ve got to stay with it. If you’re on the lead lap, anything can happen to put yourself in a situation, especially with late race restarts and things like that.”
Sadler hasn’t won a race all season, but he may have to this weekend.
“We’ve put all our eggs in this basket, and we’re going to see where it takes us,” Sadler said.
The situation that plagued the JR Motorsports teammates last season is a real possibility as drivers are still figuring where and if they will be competing next year, and know Homestead is the final shot of the season to prove their worth.
“I mean, if you go off the fact that the right way to do it is win, you’re racing the field,” Allgaier said. “But I think that you have to be aware of your competitors that you’re racing against the championship for. You have to understand what people have at stake. There’s a lot of guys that are trying to find rides next year. There’s a lot of guys that feel like they’ve had a more successful season than what they’ve shown and they’re wanting to win a race. There’s a lot on the line for everybody. This is the unique situation we’re in with this sport of NASCAR is that, when you go to the Super Bowl or you go to the World Series, it’s two teams.”
Owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking forward to watching his drivers compete for the championship on Saturday afternoon. JR Motorsports is seeking its second NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, his first coming in 2014 during Chase Elliott’s rookie season.
“I will get a headset and come out to pit road and sit on the pit wall and watch the XFINITY race unfold,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “It’s really a proud moment for all of us, my sister and everybody at JR Motorsports to have the opportunity to be here at the final race racing for a championship whether it’s one car or three or four. There is a lot of pride in that. We came close last year and even when the checkered flag fell the pride in my heart was the same as it was on the first lap. I just thought it was so special to be there.”
Earnhardt Jr. also reminisced about the formative days of his race team with former driver and current crew chief for Justin Haley in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Mark McFarland.
“I remember when we came here and ran our first XFINITY race for JR Motorsports with Mark McFarland and we were kind of a patchwork of a ragtag crew and we ran 20th all night and we thought it was so awesome just to be there,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “We were so proud to be in the race and just be competing ‘there goes our car’ it was awesome. So, I don’t take that for granted and I know how hard it is to be good and be competitive so there is a lot of pride that we are even in the position to win a championship”
The two-time XFINITY Series champion is confident but weary of title combatant Daniel Hemric.
“(Daniel) Hemric is a worthy opponent,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I know RCR will put everything they have to give him the best opportunity. So, looking forward to it.”
Photo Credit: Benjamin Sanders/TheFourthTurn.com