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NASCAR Cup Charlotte

Filling in for Larson at Coke 600 "a lot of fun" for Allgaier

Justin Allgaier’s “fill-in” role at Hendrick Motorsports turned into an unexpected start and a surprisingly good finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway considering the unusual circumstances.

Allgaier, who competes full-time in the Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, was the designated fill-in driver for Kyle Larson in his well-planned attempt to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

Allgaier’s only role was to start Larson’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the 600 should Larson not arrive at Charlotte in time.

He never seriously considered he would get behind the wheel, but as it turned out, a Memorial Day weekend of racing dominated by bad weather left Allgaier the only driver the No. 5 saw on Sunday night.

Severe storms delayed the start of the Indy 500 by several hours and left Larson in Indianapolis. When it became clear he would miss the start of the 600, the No. 5 team went to work to try to make Allgaier as comfortable as possible until Larson made it to Charlotte.

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com H1100 Chevrolet Camaro,  Justin Allgaier

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com H1100 Chevrolet Camaro, Justin Allgaier

Photo by: John Harrelson / NKP / Motorsport Images

“Kyle Larson is the reason that we’re all here. The double is so important,” Allgaier said Sunday night. “Me driving this car, my only job was to keep the fenders on it, keep it as far forward as we can to make sure that we have a great opportunity for Kyle to get back in it.

“If it was five laps to go or rain delayed like it (did) or if it was on lap 5, my job was to make sure that I handed him over a clean race car and try to adjust the balance to where he’ll be good.”

Unfortunately, when Larson finally arrived in Charlotte, so did the bad weather that had hampered him at Indy.

After initially struggling to get the car to his liking and falling a lap down, Allgaier drove back on to the lead lap. When the race was halted after lap 249 of 400 for lightning in the third stage, Allgaier was running 13th at the time.

Since the race was red flagged, if Larson got into the car when it resumed, he would be able to maintain his position on the track, but Allgaier would still get credit for the finish.

But after two hours of track drying efforts, NASCAR and CMS finally decided it would be too late at night to complete the remaining 151 laps and the race was declared official.

That left Christopher Bell the winner of his first 600 and Allgaier the sole driver of the No. 5 on this night.

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com H1100 Chevrolet Camaro

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, HendrickCars.com H1100 Chevrolet Camaro

Photo by: Rusty Jarrett / NKP / Motorsport Images

“To be honest with you, starting the race, I was pretty disappointed in myself just getting acclimated. Kyle's seat is so different from what I run, and the steering,” Allgaier said.

“Cliff Daniels (Larson’s crew chief) did an amazing job to get me up to speed. We were able to look at the SMT (data) and get the car where I needed to be at, and then just balance. We worked on the balance throughout the course of the run there.

“To be able to unlap myself was probably the highlight of the night to be honest with you, to pass a Hendrick Motorsports teammate (William Byron), to pass Ty (Gibbs), which I have a lot of respect for on the race track, was really, really nice.”

While Allgaier said he was “bummed” that Larson’s attempt at “The Double” went awry, he believed Larson would have been in position to pick up a win in Charlotte had the race resumed.

“If they’ve got somebody like Kyle on the ready that can go do this, you’ve got to go try to win the race, and they have the opportunity to do that,” Allgaier about getting out of the car for Larson.

“A little bit of pit strategy, getting a little bit of clean air, I think Kyle had the opportunity to go win the race.

“I think that for me, (Sunday night) was just a lot of fun. I was able to look inside the fishbowl of an ultra-successful organization and driver and car team and make the most of it.”

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