AVONDALE, Ariz. – The Xfinity Series championship race There was an overtime restart with all four championship contenders in the first two rows. This was a recipe for disaster, but Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Allgaier and Sam Mayer chose to compete respectfully.
This particularly caught the attention of a Hall of Fame driver turned team owner afterwards The Truck Series race on Friday that had 12 bookings and four overtime attempts.
“You go to go-kart racing and the kids’ parents are arguing because one kid drops another kid because they see it on TV,” Tony Stewart said Saturday night about the level of respect among younger drivers. “And tonight was a great example of not having to drive like that. You can ride clean, you can ride door-to-door, you can ride hard, but you can compete with respect.”
Allgaier, Nemechek, Custer and Mayer entered the weekend as the remaining Xfinity playoff drivers. One would win his first Xfinity title. The other three would go into the offseason disappointed after the finale in Phoenix.
The race ended with a restart in overtime. Custer and Nemechek sat in the front row. Allgaier and Mayer were on the second side. As soon as the green flag waved, the field spread out. The riders were four times wide in one place, three times wide in another. They avoided excessive contact with each other as they fought for leadership.
Custer won the race and the title. Allgaier came third. Mayer came fifth. Nemechek finished 28th after a flat tire sent him crashing into the outside wall on the way to the start-finish line.
“I think the four guys that were racing for the championship tonight have a lot of mutual respect,” Nemechek said after the race.
“Like we competed against each other all season – Sam came in towards the end – but I feel like between Justin, Cole and I we competed as hard as we could and as cleanly as we could all season for wins battle.”
Custer had similar sentiments about the battles with his competitors for the championship: “We raced hard, but we didn’t beat each other. I mean, that’s what people should really pay attention to. I mean, we were able to make moves and run our races and still not destroy each other. So hats off to everyone.”
The different racing styles on the two evenings led to very different post-race comments. Carson Hocevar was remorseful after he spun Corey Heim, who led 47 of 179 laps. Grant Enfinger and Heim said the championship was stolen from them.
The Xfinity comments after the race were the opposite. Mayer, Nemechek and Allgaier joked with members of the media and emphasized how much they enjoyed the battles on the track.
Mayer: “I’m looking forward to next year”
After failing to win a title in his first appearance in Championship 4, Sam Mayer is more motivated to go out and win it all next season.
“I mean, that was a lot of fun,” Mayer said in response to a question from NBC Sports. “That was probably the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time. Of course we came up a little short, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
Allgaier made a conscious decision at the start of the race based on the respect he showed Nemechek. Allgaier spun in the early laps rather than make contact with Nemechek, which could have ruined them both.
This decision meant that Allgaier had to make an additional pit stop in the early stages and work his way forward. He also had problems in the early laps of stage two after installing worn tires on his car.
Allgaier: “Hats off to the whole racing team”
Justin Allgaier is proud of his team’s performance and what they were able to accomplish after missing out on the Xfinity Series title.
Allgaier continued to make respectful decisions as he fought his way through the field. He had the opportunity to overtake Chandler Smith and Austin Hill as both drivers held him back for several laps. Allgaier simply continued working on different lanes until he could pass them cleanly.
A booking for Dawson Cram and Anthony Alfredo set up the end of extra time and the possibility of multiple bookings. Championship 4 drivers, Sheldon Creed, Riley Herbst and others remained clean.
“All four of us fought all night, but it was clean,” said Allgaier. “We pushed each other to limits that I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced, we were so clean, fighting side by side against each other and taking lines away. It was great fun. … It was fantastic.”