AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Justin Allgaier raced to his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season Saturday at ISM Raceway to advance to the championship finale.
Allgaier will race Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and reigning champion Tyler Reddick for the title next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Only Reddick has a championship.
"We said we needed to come in and win to get to Homestead, and we did that," Allgaier said.
Allgaier cried as he crossed the finish line, the emotions of a frustrating season. He'd gone 39 races without a win, nearly all year just a season removed from a five-win campaign. He was on the cutline to race for the title next week at Homestead, but with only Bell already locked in, Allgaier was one of five drivers vying for three spots.
Custer locked up the second berth on points after the second stage, and the race was on. But Bell had controlled the race through the first two stages and a win-to-get-in scenario seemed improbable.
Until Bell was flagged for speeding on pit road and dropped from the lead to 13th. He had worked his way through traffic to eighth when he spun with a flat tire. Bell, the championship favorite, finished 16th.
Custer was second, Reddick third while John Hunter Nemechek and Zane Smith rounded out the top five.
The win was the eighth career victory for Allgaier at JR Motorsports, most by a driver in team history.
"To have the year we've had, it's not been a bad year, but to not be able to get to victory lane," Allgaier said. "To do what we did, we didn't have the best car, Christopher did, but then we capitalized and now we have a lot of momentum going into Homestead."
More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports