Justin Allgaier just shy of victory in JRM teammate showdown with Josh Berry at Charlotte

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Justin Allgaier just shy of victory in JRM teammate showdown with Josh Berry at Charlotte
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CONCORD, N.C. — Justin Allgaier’s shrug and smile did a lot of the heavy lifting in telling his feeling after a slugfest of a race with fellow JR Motorsports ace Josh Berry. The two teammates were 1A and 1B for much of Saturday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and their intrateam battle turned physical at times in the Alsco Uniforms 300.

Allgaier took the short end of their final-stage clash, getting his No. 7 Chevrolet loose in Turn 1 with 15 laps remaining and allowing Berry’s No. 8 Chevy to scrape by. By that time, the lead pair had a 15-plus second gap on the third-place runner. Berry waltzed to an 18-second margin of victory over runner-up Ty Gibbs. Allgaier stopped for tires after his wall contact but still held for seventh place as the first driver one lap down.

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Their battle was validation of the current speed level of JR Motorsports, but also a referendum on the gloves-off nature of racing within the organization and where the line in the sand is marked. With their performance near-equal and optimal, Berry and Allgaier have had a habit of being in close quarters in recent weeks. Saturday was the latest chapter.

“Every week, it just seems like we’re battling amongst ourselves,” Allgaier said from pit road post-race. “It may not even be for the win, but whether it be for fifth or second or 10th — whatever it is — we race each other really hard and we race each other a lot. So it can be difficult at times. I mean, obviously knowing where that line is, it’s always the difficult part, but on the other side of it, I think you race each other aggressively but trying not to wreck each other and battle it out for the win.

“Like I said, the worst thing we could do is come here with four extremely fast Camaros and not one of us win it, right? So we did the best job we could today, and we came up a little bit short but obviously as a company, we still got the victory.”

Allgaier led 63 laps, second only to Berry’s race-high 89. Only three other drivers led laps Saturday, and JRM’s Noah Gragson and Sam Mayer were among them.

Allgaier apologized to his crew with 10 laps remaining after his fate was cast: “That’s a heck of a way to lose one right there, boys. I’m sorry.” But No. 7 crew chief Jason Burdett said there was consolation to be found in how well the team ran.

“As an organization, I don’t know, I mean, we can’t ask for much more out of either of those guys,” Burdett told NASCAR.com. “With 20 to go, we’re 15 seconds ahead of third and they’re both racing as hard as they can go. Now, unfortunately, we got the fence, which ultimately ruined a second-place finish but it’s fun.

“I think they asked me during the race about battling with the 8 and teammates all the time. It makes it harder because you know it goes both ways. You want them to give you a little; they want you to give you a little, because your teammates — this, that, whatever — but at the end of the day, man, all four of us have been really good for the last couple of months, and that’s a lot of fun. And it keeps pushing everybody to be better every week.”

Few have been recently better than JRM, which has won four of the last five Xfinity Series races. Berry (Charlotte, Dover Motor Speedway) has accounted for a pair of those, and Allgaier added a tally to that stretch at Darlington Raceway.

The tour returns next Saturday at the Portland, Oregon, road course, and the odds Berry and Allgaier are racing in close confines are better than average. In any event, Berry said an underlying sense of respect permeated their near-weekly heat-of-the-moment battles.

“I mean, it’s tough, right? Like, the reality of it is, our cars are phenomenal right now,” he said. “And there’s five of us in the top seven, eight, whatever it is. We’re gonna have to race each other and more times than not, Justin and I seem to find each other racing for these wins. It was intense, but I respect Justin. He’s a very underrated race-car driver. He’s very good, and right now, the reality of it is that we’re pushing each other to get better every week. And that was a tough battle for sure. But it came down to it that, who was going to slip and luckily I didn’t.”