One of the dominating storylines of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Tour this season has been the dominance surrounded between three drivers: Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, and Tyler Reddick.
They are tabbed as the Big three – winning 13 of the 18 races this season going into Saturday’s race at Iowa Speedway.
It took tire strategy and a massive stroke of luck for Chase Briscoe to upset Bell at the 7/8th’s mile track, after he led nearly every lap before the final five laps of the day.
Although, it also showed Justin Allgaier and JR Motorsports’ No. 7 team that they bridged the gap between a pair of the trio.
Allgaier says his team has ‘bridged the gap’ with Two Third’s of the Big Three
Allgaier acknowledged how well Bell’s car was after the race. It was in a league of its own compared to the other 37 competitors on the track.
“On the flip side of it,” Allgaier said. “We’ve definitely bridged the gap to the other two and I feel like we can, at the least, maintain.”
Allgaier ended the race with a sixth-place finish, his 11th top 10 of the season.
A lot played a part in the result.
“We felt like we had a really solid day,” Allgaier said. “We weren’t going to be the car that was going to go out and win the race, but we were going to be able to maintain there.”
If it wasn’t for a caution coming out with 45 laps to go, giving four drivers that gambled to have a chance to come down pit road for new tires, Allgaier probably would have had a podium car.
Three of the four – Briscoe, Noah Gragson, and John Hunter Nemechek finished the race in front of him.
“Today we just got out-strategied and we needed a little bit of speed,” Allgaier said. “There was kind of two things that went along with it. I didn’t do a very good job on the restarts, even when we had new tires, so that hurt.”
Overall, though, Allgaier maintained position with the big guns, something that was big for the team on Saturday.
“I felt like [Reddick] and [Custer] ran really close together for a lot of that race when we had track position,” Allgaier said. “[Reddick] and I battled the majority of the day, [too].”
Maintaining pace with the top competition will bode well for the No. 7 team come playoffs.
After all, with the current playoff points format, it will be incredibly difficult at the very least to make it to the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway if a driver isn’t maintaining his results with the top three.
The trio is already dominating ahead of the rest of the field to the point where they will get such a head start on the rest of the field that Homestead almost seems imminent.
In fact, after Saturday at Iowa, Bell is nearly a full race on the field, collecting another pair of playoff points in the race and bringing his total to 39. The maximum amount of points a driver can earn in a race is 45.
Allgaier, like the rest of the field, has his work cut out for him, but his team seems to be coming together at the right time.
|NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Grid|
|Wildcard Standings (no wins)||Points||Cutoff|