Crew chief Steve Addington was bent over, peering under the hood of the No. 51 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet, dissecting the remains of a car that came to life late only to get caught up in a race-ending incident at Talladega Superspeedway.
"We had a problem there the first three-quarters of the race," Addington said of the team and driver Justin Allgaier, "and finally got all that fixed. We had an issue with some ductwork there, got it pulled back tight and he was good to go. Really fast but disappointed in the finish."
Allgaier was running ninth with 18 laps remaining in Sunday's Aaron's 499, but the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate finished 27th after contact while coming to the white flag knocked the front end off his car.
"It all got blocked up front; he got a good run, tried to get to the bottom and somebody just got in the left-rear quarter panel," Addington said. "Not the way our day needed to end.
"We're headed in the right direction with this race team and I'm just real proud of all the guys that have been working their butts off."
Allgaier, 28th in points and searching for his first top-15 finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, said heating issues prevented him from staying in the draft for much of the race. Once fixed, he said, "I think within 15 laps ? we drove from 30-something all the way up. I don't think we technically ever led a lap, but we were in the lead on the middle of the back straightaway, three-wide with the front row.
"We definitely had a strong car. ? Unfortunately we got caught four-wide there and got shuffled back. Trying to make our way back through ? and got turned coming to the white. They say 'that's Talladega for you,' but it still doesn't make it feel any better."
Today will find Allgaier in Springfield, Illinois, home of primary sponsor Brandt. He is scheduled compete in a dirt modified race tonight at Jacksonville (Illinois) Speedway before heading to Kansas Speedway, site of this weekend's 5-hour Energy 400.
It will mark just the 15th career Sprint Cup start for Allgaier, and it comes on a track layout that hasn't been the team's strong suit.
"We felt like (the 1.5-mile program) was our biggest hurdle," he said. "We've unloaded at a lot of the short tracks and even though the finishes don't necessarily show it, we've run really, really good on the short tracks. Our mile-and-a-half stuff has just been not that great. We know that. That would be our main area of focus, I would say, going forward.
"It's been a couple of weeks or more since we've had a mile-and-a-half; this is our next shot to kind of hit the reset button and see where we stack up."
For Allgaier, going from a contender in the NASCAR Nationwide Series -- where he won three total races and finished sixth or higher in points for five consecutive years -- to struggling in Cup has been an unsettling transition.
"It's hard to go out and not run well," he said. "Definitely a huge change from one series to the other."
While Allgaier has tried to adapt to the numerous changes in the two series, Addington has gone from a top-flight, three-team organization contending for wins on a weekly basis to a single-car outfit scrambling to build a foundation.
Improvement means more than just the results on the track, he said.
"Just getting more parts and pieces and cars; we get support from Hendrick Motorsports -- they've been a big help to us," said Addington, who landed at HScott after being jettisoned by Stewart-Haas Racing at the close of 2013.
A winner of 20 Sprint Cup races as a crew chief (12 with Kyle Busch and four with Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart), Addington also serves as the competition director for the organization. Before making the move to Sprint Cup, he won 11 times in the Nationwide Series while atop the pit box, with drivers Jason Keller and Mike Bliss.
He has enjoyed success; he'd like to once again.
"The pit crew and all that, they've been doing a good job for us," Addington said of his team's current situation. "It's just getting all the pieces together.
"It's taken some time and I've had to calm myself down. I get my frustration from it not happening overnight. But I know we're only eight or nine weeks into this deal and it started from scratch. We threw everything away that was there and started over. Now we're getting cars, really good race cars, to bring to the track and the team's coming together and I'm really happy about that."
"There's no doubt we've improved," he said. "From the time we unloaded at Daytona (for the season-opening race) to where we are at right now is not even close to being the same."
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