Allgaier beats teammate at Darlington; Earnhardt paces field

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. took his late father’s newly restored Chevy Nova out for a spin on Darlington Raceway’s throwback weekend to pace the field before the Xfinity Series race Saturday.

Then his JR Motorsports drivers did their part to honor the NASCAR legacy of their owner’s family.

Justin Allgaier held off teammate Josh Berry in overtime to win the Xfinity event at Darlington on Saturday, two of four JR Motorsports racers to finish in the top seven.

“Obviously, Dale’s history in this sport, Dale Jr.’s history in this sport, runs extremely deep,” Allgaier said. To win this race in that atmosphere, he said, “I don’t know if you can describe those emotions.”

Allgaier didn’t move in front until the final 10 laps, when he passed Berry for the lead. Then the race’s eighth and final caution five laps later set up the two-lap overtime shootout that Allgaier claimed for his first win at the track nicknamed “Too Tough To Tame.”

“This place is truly special,” said Allgaier, 34.

His victory capped a day filled with nods to the Earnhardts’ racing past.

Allgaier’s Chevrolet featured a paint scheme driven by the late Dale Earnhardt in the 2000 Daytona 500.

Before the race, Allgaier’s team’s owner, Dale Jr., drove his late father’s restored 1984 Chevy Nova to pace the field before the start.

And then came the parade of JR Motorsports drivers on top.

“It was a awesome day” for the team, said Noah Gragson, who finished fourth.

Allgaier said the restored Nova was at the team’s race shop for a while and he was excited to see his boss take it out for a spin.

Not that victory came easily. He pushed past Berry on a restart with 10 laps left and looked like he had opened a big enough lead to close things out. But the eighth and final caution set up the overtime.

Allgaier chose the outside line for the last restart and, while Berry edged in front briefly, he powered past him to take the checkered flag.

“We’re not surprised we’re in the top five really,” Berry said. “We’re just trying to iron out our mistakes.”

It was Allgaier’s second win in the past four races and his 16th career Xfinity victory.

Defending Darlington Xfinity race winner Brandon Jones finished third, just ahead of Gragson.

Gragson led 40 out of 148 laps, the most of any competitor. He also won a $100,000 bonus in a Dash For Cash promotion.

The bonus money “is great,” Gragson said. “But we wanted to be racing for the win.”

Daniel Hemric finished fifth annd Jeremy Clements sixth, followed by Michael Annett, Brett Moffitt, Ryan Sieg and Alex Labbe to round out the top 10.

Earnhardt Jr., who retired from full-time racing, last competed at Darlington in 2019 with a fifth-place finish in an Xfinity race. He plans on getting behind the wheel at Richmond for the Xfinity race on Sept. 11, honoring victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

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