Super Sub Justin Allgaier Does the Job in NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 for Hendrick, Kyle Larson

auto may 26 nascar cup series coca cola 600
Allgaier Does the Job for Hendrick, Kyle LarsonIcon Sportswire - Getty Images
  • Justin Allgaier had known since January that he was on standby should Kyle Larson not make it back from Indianapolis.

  • Allgaier also knew that he was going to step into a car at the Coca-Cola 600 that he’d never driven.

  • He intended to hand the keys to Larson when Larson arrived at Charlotte from the Indy 500, but the weather had other ideas.

Justin Allgaier didn’t know the morning of the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 if he would actually drive Kyle Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet that day at Charlotte Motor Speedway while the Hendrick Motorsports driver competed in the Indianapolis 500, but he was worried.


He had known since January that he was on standby should Larson not make it back from Indianapolis before the Coca-Cola 600 started, but if his substitution role became a reality, he was about to step into a car he’d never driven.

auto may 26 nascar cup series coca cola 600
Justin Allgaier turned a 40th-place starting position into a 13th-place showing before the rains came at the Coca-Cola 600.Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

“There’s only a few eyes watching what he (Larson) does,” Allgaier told his wife, jokingly, as he prepared to leave their home that Sunday morning. “If I go out there and do something stupid and wreck that thing, everybody is going to know it. I thought I was going to throw up at one point before I got in the car.”

Allgaier had worked closely with crew chief Cliff Daniels and the crew on preparing for stock car racing’s longest race.

“We were at the shop until 9 p.m. one night this week just going over seatbelts, and all of them were there,” Allgaier said.

The Illinois native noted he and Larson were about the same size but described himself as a little more “fluffy” than the 5-foot-6 Larson. His seat and steering wheel are also different.

Larson qualified his Chevrolet 10th on Saturday, but the car had to go to the rear of the 40-car field on Sunday evening since Allgaier started it, thus constituting a driver change. Allgaier focused on becoming comfortable in the car and taking care of it so when Larson arrived from the rain-delayed Indianapolis 500 he would still have a shot at a Coca-Cola 600 victory.

“I told Cliff (Daniels, crew chief) before the race, I said, ‘Listen, I don’t know what I’m getting into,’” Allgaier recounted. “The last thing I want to do is wreck this thing. I am not full of myself enough to know that I don’t need help, so any little piece of advice that you can give me along the way, make sure you tell me. The only way I’m going to get better is to have direction from you.

“The last thing I wanted for Kyle was to land in Charlotte and be like, oh, by the way, we wrecked that thing into the garage, and you have nothing to get into.”

After 100 laps in the 400-lap race, Allgaier was 25th. By the time the third caution period ended on lap 164, he had gained five more positions.

“My biggest weakness tonight was dirty air, knowing where to place the car, how to get myself in clean air,” Allgaier said. “As somebody coming from the Xfinity Series, it was pretty wild how much different it was in traffic.”

By lap 177, Allgaier had cracked the top 15, but a pit stop dropped him to 21st about 30 laps later. When Corey LaJoie spun on lap 229, Allgaier had already maneuvered himself into 14th. By this time, Larson was en route to Charlotte from Indianapolis. Larson, who finished 18th in the Indy 500, arrived at the 1.5-mile track just as NASCAR issued a caution flag for rain. Weather forced them to stop the race 151 laps shy of its conclusion. At that time, Allgaier was 13th.

When he exited the car, he walked over to all of the crew members, gave them each a handshake and a hug, and thanked them.

“One of them actually picked me up and gave me a big hug,” Allgaier said. “It was pretty special in that moment.”

The rain stopped about 10:30 p.m. and NASCAR began track drying operations, but after determining the humidity wouldn’t allow racing to resume until 1 a.m. the race was deemed official. The weather prevented Larson from completing the double.

For Allgaier, his performance has not yet resulted in a telephone call from a NASCAR Cup team owner about a full-time ride in 2025.

“At the end of the day, is that something that I still wish I could check off my bucket list? Yeah, it is,” Allgaier says. “But the old saying is if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I’m loving what I do right now. I’ve had shots to go for a championship in the Xfinity Series the last couple years. It would have to be the right opportunity for me to want to do it.

“There were a few guys that I watched tonight that it makes you realize how important a really good car is. You can have a great race car driver, but the car better be spot on, too. It’s got to be the right situation.”