From CSJ Reports–
Heading into the Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix Speedway, all eyes were on XFINITY Series drivers Justin Allgaier and Blake Koch. Both were seeking to claim the fourth spot in the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Allgaier, driving for the well-funded JR Motorsports #7 Chevrolet, was the favorite to advance while Koch, driving for the underdog Kaulig Racing #11 Chevrolet, was looking to continue his surprising success story.
Early on, it was Koch with the advantage and Allgaier on the outside looking in. As the race progressed, it looked as if both drivers might actually make it into the final four, but a strong finish from #20 driver Erik Jones and some late shuffling of the lineup due to pit strategies pushed Koch just below the cut line.
The race, however, wasn’t without its drama. About midway through, Koch inadvertently cut in front of a charging Bubba Wallace Jr. The contact forced the #6 car into the wall and out of the race. Then, during the closing laps, Allgaier was reportedly low on gas and was forced to manage his fuel mileage while protecting his track position.
The intrigue carried over into the post-race inspections where #2 driver Elliott Sadler was penalized for having two loose lugnuts. Had that number been three, Sadler’s team would have been docked enough points to push Koch into the top four.
Before the race (and like every race), Allgaier and Koch attended Motor Racing Outreach’s chapel service. They even took time to pose for a picture with MRO chaplain Nick Terry. Turns out, the two are both ardent supporters of that ministry as well as close friends that often participate in Bible studies together with other drivers such as Trevor Bayne and Michael McDowell.
“Being able to surround yourself with good people is a good thing,” Allgaier once told CSJ managing editor Chad Bonham. “We all have our struggles. Some come in different forms than others, but those relationships definitely help.”
Allgaier joins Jones, Sadler and Daniel Suarez as the drivers vying for the championship. Although all 40 cars will populate the field, whoever finishes highest among those four will take home the coveted trophy.
(Photos: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images; Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images via NASCAR Media)