Cup: Justin Allgaier now official at Phoenix Racing

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It’s not a big surprise, but Phoenix Racing has confirmed this morning that they’ve crossed the T’s, dotted the I’s, and made things official with Sprint Cup rookie Justin Allgaier.

Allgaier, one of eight drivers that will contend for this year’s Rookie of the Year title in the Cup Series, will drive the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. Agriculture retail/manufacturing company Brandt will back Allgaier and the No. 51 for 21 races, continuing their partnership with the Illinois native into a fourth season.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I intend to make the most of it,” Allgaier said in a team statement. “I am very grateful to [team owner] Harry Scott and Brandt for having faith in me to compete against the best drivers in the world.”

Allgaier finished a solid fifth in last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series standings driving the No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet, posting one pole, six Top-5s, and 16 Top-10s. He also made his first four Sprint Cup starts with Phoenix during the 2013 Chase, turning in a top finish of 24th at Talladega.

Now he becomes a key part of Phoenix Racing’s drive to not only improve its performance but achieve some stability as well after using 12 different drivers last season – a group that included several other 2014 Rookie of the Year contenders such as Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), and Ryan Truex (BK Racing).

“Justin has worked extremely hard to get to this level and he is ready to take the next step,” Scott said. “Working with competition director and crew chief Steve Addington, I think the No. 51 can turn some heads this year.”

Also looking forward to moving up to Cup is Brandt, who will combine on the No. 51 with multiple other agriculture-centric sponsors such as the National FFA to create what it calls “the only true Ag-focused car” in NASCAR’s top category.

“We are proud to help field the ‘Ag’ car,” said Brandt company president and CEO Rick Brandt. “This is an effort to raise awareness and build a positive reputation for agriculture of all kinds. We believe passionately that agriculture is the essential industry and we’re doing our part to get that message out.”

The team release also lists former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte to run “several” races in Phoenix’s No. 52 Chevrolet this year, including next month’s season-opening Daytona 500.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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