Allgaier content with his stint in Larson’s No. 5 at Charlotte

Justin Allgaier was so confident he wouldn’t start the Coca-Cola 600 for Hendrick Motorsports that he told his family not to come to the racetrack as he left the house. By 3 p.m. ET, Allgaier was still convinced there was “no way” he was getting in the car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Mother Nature had other plans.

Kyle Larson stayed in Indianapolis to run the rain-delayed Indianapolis 500. He finished 18th, the race concluding at approximately 7:45 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, Allgaier started the Coca-Cola 600 after 6 p.m. ET and ran 249 laps in the No. 5 Chevrolet before the race was red-flagged for rain and lightning. NASCAR declared the race official nearly two hours later, and Allgaier was credited with finishing 13th.


“To be honest, at the start of the race, I was pretty disappointed in myself just getting acclimated,” Allgaier said. “Kyle’s seat is so different from what I run… Cliff Daniels (crew chief) did an amazing job to get me up to speed, and we were able to look at the SMT and get the car where I needed to be and then just balance. We worked on the balance throughout the course of a run.

“To unlap myself was probably the highlight of the night. To pass a Hendrick Motorsports teammate, to pass Ty [Gibbs], both of which I have a lot of respect for on the racetrack, was really, really nice and it just kind of helped elevate the way the race went.”

Allgaier had to drop to the rear of the field for the start of the race since Larson practiced and qualified the car Saturday. He fell a lap down early in the first stage but battled hard amongst the leaders, including teammate William Byron, Gibbs and others, to stay close to the free pass position or unlap himself.

By lap 87, Allgaier had driven around the leader to be on the lead lap when the caution flew. He ended the first stage in 26th position.

Allgaier was 24th at the end of the second stage. As the race went under the yellow flag on lap 229 and cycled through pit stops, Allgaier was inside the top 15.

“You get opportunities very rarely in life to drive something that good and it truly was that,” Allgaier said. “It was really, really, special and something that I’ll take for a number of years as I walk away…it was a good opportunity.’

Larson arrived in the No. 5 pit stall around 9:30 p.m. ET and began getting ready to climb into the car. The caution was already out for the weather, and the team would have had the opportunity to change the driver at that time, but the race never restarted.

The biggest thing Allgaier wanted to do was give Larson a clean car since he knew it could win the race. Allgaier was greeted by applause from race fans standing behind the team’s pit stall when he climbed out of the car under the red flag.

“I did not [hear that],” Allgaier said. “I walked over to all of the crew members and gave all of them a handshake and a hug and told them all thank you. They have made this so easy. I was more focused on that and giving them the credit they deserved. One of them actually picked me up and gave me a big hug, and that was pretty special in that moment.

“I’ve had the No. 5 guys as my pit crew in years past on the No. 7 team on the Xfinity [Series] side, have a great relationship with them, but the time and effort [here]… We were at the shop until 9 p.m. one night this week just going over seatbelts, and all of them were there. To be able to come through today and be able to do all the right things, I felt like that was cool. I don’t know that the fans care; it really didn’t matter. I just wanted to do my job and have fun with it.”

The red flag created a unique situation where Allgaier could debrief Daniels and Larson about his time in the car. It ended up being for nothing when the race did not go the distance.

“I just wanted to give him some cliff notes of what I thought and what I felt, and that made it good for me,” Allgaier said. “I feel like Kyle as a racer…it was cool to watch him intently listen and see what I had to say, and then he could use when he goes out and makes laps. That was cool.

“I was ready for the driver swap — he said he wasn’t because I practiced this morning and he didn’t. I think we would have been pretty good, but I was ready. I don’t think he was.”

Story originally appeared on Racer