Justin Allgaier’s substitute drive in place of seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson ended well before the final distance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a major pit-road incident in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.
Allgaier, making his first Cup Series start in nearly four years, had started at the rear of the field and worked his way up to 29th place when the competition caution flew on Lap 12. But his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet was among those snared in a multicar tangle near the back of the line entering pit road.
After repairs, Allgaier attempted to return to the event, but the No. 48 was off the pace and showering sparks.
“Sorry, guys,” Allgaier said on his way to the garage, ending his day early. “Not the way I wanted to have today go for you guys. I’m really sorry.”
No. 48 crew chief Cliff Daniels attempted to console the 34-year-old Xfinity Series regular: “Just a tough day, man. You didn’t do anything wrong. Just a victim of circumstances. We’ll go fight again next week. Thanks for helping us out today.”
The cars of Martin Truex Jr., Brennan Poole, Corey LaJoie and Ryan Preece were also sidelined in the collision, a chain reaction that clogged pit road. The incident forced the race to be red-flagged, and an ambulance tended to an injured Team Penske crew member. During the stoppage, Allgaier asked the No. 48 crew for an update on his condition, fearing he had struck Zach Price, a tire changer for Penske’s No. 12.
Once the red flag was lifted, the No. 48 crew tried to salvage some positions but the damage was too great.
“Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled up there, one car after another were getting run into. It’s just a shame,” said Allgaier, who was scored 37th in the 40-car field. “I hate it for these guys on this Ally No. 48. They’ve done such a great job. They’ve prepared so well for the circumstances. Obviously, our hearts and thoughts are for Jimmie and his family right now. That’s the most important piece of all this is getting him back to the race track soon. And I wanted to do well for them today and it’s disappointing to be standing here talking to you unfortunately. But we’ll go on. I don’t know what next week looks like yet. We’ll go run the Xfinity Series race and go have a good shot at it. It’s a disappointing way to end the Brickyard 400.”
Allgaier, who drives for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, had been on standby as an alternate driver for Hendrick Motorsports ever since NASCAR returned to competition after the coronavirus outbreak. His services were called upon for Sunday’s Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at the 2.5-mile track after Johnson revealed a positive COVID-19 test on Friday.
Allgaier had made 75 Cup Series appearances before Sunday’s start, but none since another substitute drive in August 2016. He was a full-time driver in the Cup Series from 2014-15.
“I told Mr. Hendrick and I told Jimmie as well how honored I was that they would ask me to be in this role,” Allgaier said after a check-up at the infield care center. “It means a lot. It means a lot as a driver and just everybody involved, and my family. I’d like to get the opportunity again.”