By: Ashley McCubbin
Youth may be on the rise, but experience still matters – as was on the display at the track too tough to tame on Saturday afternoon.
The Steakhouse Elite 200 at Darlington Raceway began with Harrison Burton, Daniel Hemric, Noah Gragson, and Austin Cindric each showing speed, and possible favorites for the victory. But ultimately, Justin Allgaier was able to come out on top. Utilizing experience, he continued to make gains on his Chevrolet throughout the duration of the event, emerging at the front of the field when it mattered in the final 40 laps.
While discussions have surrounded Cindric being the favorite this season – rightfully so as the defending champion, Allgaier now matches him in the wins category. The elder statesmen of the series is once again proving why he is always part of the title discussion, and if the cards are played right, may be able to change the final outcome.
After all, it’s not just Allgaier hitting on all eight cylinders, but JR Motorsports as a whole with Gragson at the forefront on a weekly basis and Josh Berry finding victory lane at Martinsville Speedway. Read Cole Cusumano’s column for more.
Berry had a chance to make it two checkered flags on the season, but perhaps drove it in too hard to roll the bottom alongside Allgaier and get the run off on the final restart. Contrast was watching Allgaier able to accomplish the feat just the restart prior – which goes back to experience.
The final restart, though, perhaps was not warranted. Bayley Currey got into the wall, but managed to keep it rolling without debris scattered onto the surface out of the way of competitors. In the past, the series has let incidents of this go, only flying the yellow flag if there was someone in harm’s way or debris to be worried about.
An excuse to create drama? Debatable, but the reality is even with that removed, Darlington showcased all the reasons why the oldest track on the tour still wins the hearts of fans.
There was side-by-side battles throughout the field over the event, which kept your eyes wondering who was making a charge forward. This was due to an aged surface, combined with tires which wore out over the course of a run. As we learned, even just four laps can make a difference in watching Burton and Gragson charge from outside the top-15 to place one-two in the second stage.
You also have the magic of having to balance being fast and on the edge of control, but racing the track to ensure you have equipment at the end. The courage utilized to send it full throttle in the corner, and ride the top right by the wall while fighting loose keeps your eyes peeled in hopes they don’t knock the wall down with a stripe.
This is why Darlington Raceway will forever be etched on the schedule, and why we can expect more great races to come.