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Justin Allgaier’s fifth race of the season started under the clear and sunny skies of Southern California at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) on Saturday afternoon in the Royal Purple 300. After completing final practice on Friday afternoon fourth on the speed charts, Allgaier went 39th out of 42 cars qualifying on Saturday morning. Allgaier completed two qualifying laps at the 2-mile track to earn an 18th starting spot. After 150 laps of racing at ACS, Allgaier brought the No. 31 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro for Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) home to an 11th-place finish.
After starting in the 18th position, Allgaier quickly worked his way through traffic and was in the 11th position by lap 33. The hot and slick track proved to be a bit of a challenge for the No. 31 BRANDT Chevy Camaro. Allgaier fought a loose condition in his race car during the beginning laps and radioed to his crew that his car was “crazy loose.” It wasn’t long until the first caution flag flew at lap 35 and Allgaier brought the No. 31 BRANDT Chevy Camaro down pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires, Sunoco fuel and adjustments. After a great pit stop by the No. 31 BRANDT pit crew, Allgaier restarted in the 10th position.
After the second pit stop of the day on lap 80, which was under green flag conditions, Allgaier was in the 15th position. On lap 89, Allgaier reported the car was losing grip. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli and Allgaier discussed possible adjustments over the radio for the next pit stop. The third caution flag of the day flew at lap 95 and Allgaier brought the No. 31 BRANDT Chevy down pit road for a track bar adjustment and a spring rubber. After returning to the track, Allgaier reported the car was much better and was up to the 12th position by lap 103.
Under the fourth and final caution of the day at lap 111, Allgaier brought his Chevy Camaro down pit road and the crew filled the car with fuel and made another adjustment. The change proved to be just what the car needed, as Allgaier restarted in the 16th position and made his way up to the 11thposition to finish the race. Allgaier moved to the fourth position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings.
“Overall we had a decent day at Auto Club [Speedway],” said Allgaier. “We had a really loose car to start the race, so Scott Zipadelli and the guys made adjustments to improve that. Otherwise, we just tried keeping up with the changing track conditions and worked our way towards the front. We head to Texas [Motor Speedway] in a few days to do some testing which will really benefit our program.”
The NASCAR Nationwide Series is taking a two-week break, and the No. 31 BRANDT Chevrolet Camaro will return to the track at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, April 12 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
Denny Hamlin started the Auto Club 400 in the pole position. He ended up in the hospital.
In between there was a lot of good racing in Fontana on Sunday that culminated in Hamlin getting tangled with rival Joey Logano on the final lap and landing front-first against a wall.
Kyle Busch wound up winning the race, with Logano hanging on for third place and Hamlin claiming 22nd. Hamlin was able to exit the car on his own but then slumped to the ground beside it. He was eventually airlifted to the hospital.
Hamlin’s girlfriend, Jordan Fish, tweeted Sunday night: “He’s alert n awake, main concern is his back #PrayersforDH.”
Whether or not the crash had more to do with the bad blood between Hamlin and Logano or simply two drivers going for the win is up for debate. The commentators on Fox seem to take the latter view, while The Times’ Bill Dwyre leans toward the former in his column in Monday’s paper:
“There was more going on here than just two guys trying to win, and the fans knew it. Last week, at Bristol, Tenn., Hamlin had bumped Logano and forced him to spin. After the race, Logano confronted Hamlin while Hamlin sat in his car. Words were exchanged and nasty sentiments continued all week. …
“Hamlin qualified on the pole at Fontana; Logano was sixth. From the start, they were two magnets. It was in-your-face, side-by-side intimidation at 170 mph.
“Everybody saw it coming on the last lap, especially Busch, the lost-in-the-shuffle champion, who zipped around the feuding pair to victory just as Logano squeezed to the right on Hamlin. That sent both cars spinning and crashing and eventually sent Hamlin to a hospital, via helicopter.
“Serious stuff. Scary stuff. Also, business as usual in NASCAR.”