As the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs have gotten underway, Justin Allgaier has been performing the best he has all year.
The reason for the best three-race stretch of his season?
“The playoffs started. For us, we locked ourselves in early at Phoenix and we pushed ourselves through the summer months,” Allgaier said after his runner-up finish Saturday in the Drive Sober 200 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
“We tried a lot a lot of stuff and we were off on strategy sometimes, just trying to be different than everybody else. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. But I feel like us as a company, we’ve had a lot of speed this season.”
Allgaier won the regular season finale two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway and has started the playoffs with a third and second-places finishes.
He enters the Round 1 cutoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway next weekend as the series points leader and is virtually assured of advancing to Round 2 regardless of his finish.
In his six previous fulltime seasons in the Xfinity Series, Allgaier, 31, has never finished lower than sixth in the series standings and twice finished a career-best third (2011 and 2016).
This has been a breakout season, including the first he’s registered more than one win and with five races left, he’s already set a career-best in laps led (495).
While his accomplishments this season are impressive, Allgaier knows his No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet team is capable of winning a championship.
“I don’t want to go to Homestead and not have a shot at the championship, that’s the difference-maker for me,” he said. “Homestead is one of my best race tracks, one of the ones I feel most comfortable at.
“If we’re in (the Championship 4), I think we have a shot at the championship. Truth be told, they say the definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparation and we’ve been prepared this season.
“We’re just finding the opportunities of late and it’s just working out for us.”
Allgaier, who advanced to the Championship 4 last season without winning a race, said a lot of teams “played defense” through the playoffs in 2016 but not so this year.
“This year you’re having to push harder to try to get those Stage points, trying to get those bonus points and putting yourself in better positions throughout the race to finish it off,” he said.