HomeSportsTeam No. 5 Justin Allgaier hangs on as rain thwarts Kyle Larson's...

Team No. 5 Justin Allgaier hangs on as rain thwarts Kyle Larson’s double

CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Larson arrived at Charlotte Motor Speedway just in time due to lightning and rain, ending his chances of competing in the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

That left former starts in two years.

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As Larson’s plans came together through both Hendrick and IndyCar’s Arrow McLaren programs, Allgaier was on board in a reserve role, including receiving a HendrickCars.com fire suit over the winter.

But when conditions became clear Sunday afternoon that Allgaier would have to at least start the No. 5 Chevrolet after a four-hour rain delay in Indianapolis, Allgaier had to shake off the pressure to keep the car in one piece if and when Larson arrived. on the track.

“If he would have come on lap 25 or 50, when I still didn’t feel comfortable, that would have been hard for me to swallow,” Allgaier said. “As much as it stinks that he couldn’t do more laps in the race, I just thought it was good for me because I finally got to a place where I felt comfortable. And I can get out of this race car and be completely satisfied with how the day went.”

Larson was unavailable for comment Sunday after the race, but released a lengthy statement on his social media platforms Monday morning that read in part: “What I thought could be one of the best days of my life quickly turned into one of the most disappointing days. I’ve experienced it once. … So much time, money and effort went into this experience and it pains me to see it all end like this. I feel like I’ve let so many people down. We knew all along that the weather could throw a spanner in the works, but seeing it become reality is a terrible feeling.

“Until Sunday it was truly one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I can’t describe how grateful I am for everyone’s support in making my dream come true. I hope this isn’t the last chance I have to attempt the Double, but if it is, it was unforgettable.”

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While Larson battled the weather all day in Indianapolis, crew chief Cliff Daniels ran the show in Charlotte.

Daniels has had to adjust to working with three separate drivers over the past two weeks, including Kevin Harvick for practice and qualifying at North Wilkesboro Speedway’s NASCAR All-Star Race, Allgaier in Charlotte and Larson at both. But his steady leadership prevailed, especially in the early stages of Sunday’s race, when he verbally coached Allgaier around the track using SMT data. This included correctly positioning the car in certain lanes, recommending brake pressure and overtaking maneuvers.

Justin Allgaier drives the No. 5 Chevrolet in the Coca-Cola 600.

Justin Allgaier drives the No. 5 Chevrolet in the Coca-Cola 600.

“He’s very tense and he says the right things and he does the right things,” Allgaier said. “He is very positive on the radio. But I told Cliff before the race, ‘Listen, I don’t know what I’m getting into. The last thing I want to do is destroy this thing, right? I haven’t fooled myself enough to know that I don’t need help. So any little advice you can give me along the way, make sure you tell me because the only way I can get better is by taking guidance from you and from what everyone else is doing.” ”

Daniels agreed, and the improvement from Allgaier’s opening laps to the premature checkered flag was striking as Allgaier worked from the end of the first lap to a 13th-place finish.

“Justin had a lot of guts to come in and do the work that he did and be as focused and do everything he could to get up to speed as well as he did,” Daniels told NASCAR.com. “It’s no secret that he is Chevrolet’s test driver. And it’s one thing to get to know these cars that he has in a test environment. But in a racing environment they are so different. The package is different. It was really impressive that he came in and caught up to the speed that he was doing, and we’re very grateful for the work that he did. And let’s be honest: once he felt comfortable, he stepped up. He did very well, so I am very proud of him.”

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Fresh from Indiana, Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, praised the 37-year-old Illinois native, underscoring the difficulty of jumping into a car with limited experience.

“Justin has done a fantastic job for us,” Andrews told NASCAR.com. “My intention is to go in in these conditions, without having practiced or qualified the car and go in and do what he did, we couldn’t be more pleased with him. He obviously does a lot of work for us in terms of testing and driving the Chevrolet cars with wheel force transducers, so we know him well and I’ve been using him in these situations for many years. But this one was probably the…I can’t reiterate enough what a great job he did for us bringing that car home in 13th place.”

Kyle Larson and wife Katelyn emerge from the helicopter near CharlotteKyle Larson and wife Katelyn emerge from the helicopter near Charlotte

Kyle Larson and wife Katelyn emerge from the helicopter near Charlotte

The logistics of Larson’s plans were complicated by weather conditions during each of Sunday’s two events. While Hendrick Motorsports had over a year’s worth of plans in place, Mother Nature ultimately had the final say.

“Obviously the weather messed us up, not just there, but here too, and that’s a shame,” Andrews said. “This is not the way we wanted this whole situation to go. It kind of felt like we were well prepared to handle all the travel logistics and do what we needed to do to run both races, but that just wasn’t meant to be. We cannot change or work on the weather. But all in all proud to go there. Proud of the effort these guys have put in.”

Larson finished 18th in his first Indianapolis 500 attempt, a run that was delayed by a speeding penalty in the final stages of the 200-lap affair. But in the end, the longtime sprint car driver opted to start the 500 miles despite the delayed start.

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“We kind of knew what we were going to be dealing with in terms of running Kyle in the 500 and starting it late,” Andrews said. “We were just hoping we could come back here and run him here for a few hundred laps in the car and see what he could do. So that’s a shame.

“I feel bad for him. He’s pretty down right now, but he’s got to keep his head high. He did a great job today, and the weather is what it is. So we just take what he gave us, learn from it and talk about whether we want to do it next year or not.”

As leader of the No. 5 team, Daniels was tasked with making sure the car and driver – whether Larson or Allgaier – excelled. When asked whether or not he would describe Sunday as stressful, Daniels perhaps took the first moment of the day to reflect on how he actually felt about the day, all at the appropriate time of 11:59 p.m. E.T.

“I don’t know,” he said, the only interruption in a twelve-second pause. “I don’t get paid to express a lot of emotions – I feel like stress is an emotional term. Like, we had a job to do, and that was our focus. There were a lot of boxes to check, a lot of details to meet, coordination with our team and logistics and NASCAR, and there’s a lot of moving parts. So, at no point have I had even a minute to sit down and think, what am I feeling right now? I don’t get paid to have feelings here at the track. You know what I mean? You have to hit the points you have to hit.

While conditions kept Larson from getting into his Cup car, Allgaier scored all the points he needed at the end of his rain-shortened return to the Cup Series.

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