When it comes to personality, Justin Allgaier and Jason Burdett are polar opposites. But that’s what makes them a successful pairing at JR Motorsports.
Allgaier is more of an extrovert, someone who is willing to talk to anybody and everybody. Burdett likes to hang low and keep to himself, allowing the setups on his racecars do the talking.
When Allgaier joined JRM ahead of the 2016 Xfinity Series season, the duo had not a clue who each other were. Burdett was coming off a two-win season with Regan Smith as the driver in 2015, finishing fourth in the championship standings. Prior to that, he was a car chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon in the Cup Series for Hendrick Motorsports, though having crew chiefed Dale Jarrett for 14 races during the 2007 season.
“When I met Jason for the first time, we instantly had a great connection,” Allgaier recalled recently. “There‘s no doubt there have been times that we‘ve not been on the same page. It‘s hard to have that working relationship the way that we do and have the ebbs and flows.”
During the 2016 season, the duo‘s first year together, Allgaier had one of his most consistent years to date, earning a career-high 27 top-10 finishes. The only downside was that the No. 7 team failed to make it to Victory Lane.
Allgaier credits that to Burdett having to adjust from Smith, who had a different driving style from himself. JR Motorsports as a whole won five races that year, split between Elliott Sadler, Chase Elliott and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I think it‘s just circumstances,” Allgaier said of not getting to the Winner‘s Circle that year. “But we‘ve overcome that and had some really good years and really good finishes.
“There‘s still been times we‘ve been at each other‘s throats, but the lack of turnover in our group [is small].”
Initially, like any new driver/crew chief relationship, Burdett needed to learn Allgaier‘s lingo. After developing a rapport with his driver, he grasped what Allgaier was describing was good or really bad.
Away from the track, the pairing has many similar interests. Allgaier grew up racing on dirt while Burdett‘s son, 12, currently races micro sprints.
“I think that helps us a lot because we have other things to talk about,” Burdett stated. “If [competing] was the only thing you had to talk about, it would make things tough.”
Since 2016, the No. 7 team has won 16 races, picked up 92 top fives and 149 top-10 finishes. Of Allgaier and Burdett‘s six-and-a-half years together, just twice (2017 and 2020) have they had an average finish worse than 10.6.
There‘s no doubt it‘s been a successful pairing.
“It works because every time he goes on the racetrack, I don‘t doubt that he‘s giving 100%,” Burdett added. “Every lap he makes, I think he‘s making the best lap he can make.
“On the same side of that, he doesn‘t come [to JRM] every single day because I think he feels like as a team, we‘re doing everything we can do to give him the best car we can. I think that there‘s common respect that we have for each other, as far as feeling confident that the other one is doing everything they can.”
Since 2005, the Allgaier and Burdett combo have made the second-most starts of any driver/crew chief lineup in the Xfinity Series with 214. That trails just Ryan Sieg and Kevin Starland at 233. A distant third on the list is Jeremy Clements with Ricky Pearson as crew chief (143).
Having that long established relationship is personal to both drivers.
“I look at the amount of races we‘ve won together,” Allgaier noted. “We‘ve done a lot of firsts. Have there been times where you wonder, ‘Do you get complacent, do you get stale?‘ When we get to those moments it seems like every time you might think that, we have a race like we did at Nashville where you absolutely knock the socks off of everyone else and you go, ‘Why would you want to change that?‘ One day of success can fix 100 races of bad.
“Once you get to know somebody like that and overcome some big hurdles, it makes a big difference. You want to know that the person working on your car has got your back and vice versa.”
Burdett agrees wholeheartedly with his driver. He even said there‘s been multiple times where he‘s called Allgaier out for lying down, knowing that it will be a motivator, adding, “Oof, he‘s not super thrilled about that.”
“I would rather know every year that it‘s going to be him driving and know that we have what we need going to every racetrack,” he said. “We‘re going for multiple times over seven years, so we can fine tune and work on things. That doesn‘t necessarily happen when you have a new guy every single year in the seat; it‘s hard to get that repetition and know what somebody is looking for.
“We can count on one another to go out and do our job and not worry about it.”
As Allgaier has said numerous times in the past, he‘s not going to move up to the Cup Series just to say he‘s running at the top level of NASCAR again. Burdett feels the same way, especially knowing the No. 7 team can compete for a handful of wins each year.
With a third-place run over the weekend at the Indianapolis Road Course, Allgaier lost just one point to AJ Allmendinger, who currently leads the the regular season championship battle. The No. 7 team sits just 17 markers back with six races remaining in the regular season. Over the last 11 races — dating back to Dover — Allgaier has chopped off 104 points to the No. 16 team‘s point advantage.
In that time, Allgaier has earned a trio of victories (Darlington, Nashville and Dover) and has taken advantage of the lights-out speed JRM has shown, winning two additional races in that span with Noah Gragson and Josh Berry.
Now, the shot at potentially winning a second regular season championship has become real.
“[Three] months ago, the regular season championship wasn‘t even a blimp on the radar,” Allgaier said. “Now, you have to go, ‘Maybe we do a good job and we can get there.‘ There are some races coming up that some of the other guys we‘re chasing have the ability to go out and have a fantastic day.
“But the year we won the regular season championship, it was, arguably, the worst playoffs we‘ve ever had. If we don‘t get there, I‘m not going to use up all of my luck to get the regular season championship. I want the one at the end of the year after Phoenix.”
Allgaier alluded to the recent uptick in speed to going back to the basics, taking what the No. 7 team has done well with in the past and applied it. He believes consistency is the name of the game.