The Frontstretch: Nuts for Nationwide: Minutes Running Out for Justin Allgaier by Bryan Davis Keith -- Thursday October 28, 2010

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Nuts for Nationwide: Minutes Running Out for Justin Allgaier

Bryan Davis Keith · Thursday October 28, 2010

 

It’s been a career year for Justin Allgaier. His first career top 10 on a road course came at Montreal. His first win came at Bristol in the spring. And he’s by far the leading Nationwide Series regular in the points. If a fan hadn’t been following the Nationwide Series since 2005, it would perhaps be surprising that despite a season with that resume, Allgaier isn’t even an afterthought in the 2010 series title chase.

But what should be surprising for any fan of the series, be they from 2005 or 2010, is that despite the credentials, the 2009 Rookie of the Year is searching for a new ride for the 2011 season.

How could this happen?

The 2008 ARCA champion has proven to be a perfect fit since joining the Penske Racing camp after securing his first national championship. An outfit that has long prided itself on professionalism, with its personnel always seen at the track on race weekends in dress slacks and collared shirts and a leader in Roger Penske affectionately known as “the Captain,” Allgaier was the youngster that brought the organization into full-time Nationwide competition, and with significant corporate backing in Verizon Wireless. Off the track, he’s been nothing short of spectacular, the consummate professional on TV and in dealing with sponsorship responsibilities.

And if there was ever any evidence that Allgaier has taken to Penske’s culture like a fish to water, it came out when asked how he was approaching what may well be his final few races in the No. 12 car.

When asked about how suddenly being in play for 2011 would affect his approach to racing, Allgaier noted that now, like always “it’s about running well and working on my personal skills, how to become a team player, to work with my crew guys better to make our program better.”

Notice something about that comment. It’s as much about developing the off-track skills as running fast on the race track. There’s a dedication to personal development, in addition to progressing as a driver, that is hardly ever referenced by younger talents.

While Brad Keselowski is running away with the 2010 Nationwide Series championship, the efforts of Justin Allgaier to get Penske Racing’s NNS program off the ground the past few seasons is largely to thank for his success.

And speaking of the Penske Nationwide program, it’s perhaps hard to remember that Penske Racing didn’t have a full-time presence in the series until last year. Now a two-car juggernaut that has given Joe Gibbs Racing a serious challenge for the top spot in the Nationwide Series pecking order, it’s been Allgaier’s work in the No. 12 car that has catapulted Penske to the top of NASCAR’s AAA…and to what will be its first NASCAR championship when Brad Keselowski crosses the finish line at Homestead next month.

“The No. 12 guys got the ball rolling” said Allgaier of just how Penske Racing has managed to build their program to championship caliber in a span of only two years. “I feel like the equipment from last year to this year has improved by leaps and bounds.”

“I tell you,” Allgaier continued, “one thing Roger Penske is good at is putting the right people in the right places. I think everybody [in the organization] has a lot of drive right now.”

And while that drive has both Allgaier’s No. 12 and his teammate’s No. 22 car in the top 5 in points, it’s not been without its frustrations. For as well as he’s run, teammate Brad Keselowski has run better.

“Brad’s obviously very talented,” said Penske’s senior Nationwide driver, “and putting those two [Kes and Paul Wolfe] together is a very good [combination].”

“If anything, I think our setups have played into their hands,” said Allgaier of the notes from his No. 12 team. “They haven’t necessarily been the same because our driving styles are different, but it’s been frustrating that on some days we can run what they run, and we just can’t seem to make it work. It’s been good to know though that we’ve played a part in them running as well as they are, to know that our whole program is where it needs to be.”

That larger perspective on how big of a role he’s played in what will go down in the record books as Brad Keselowski’s championship carries over further for Allgaier in looking at his sophomore season on the Nationwide tour. “We got great finishes at the beginning,” he recalls, “and we fell off some in the summer months. We just didn’t have the consistency that we needed to, and obviously Brad, Kyle, all these guys are having unbelievable seasons, setting records.”

“For me, I have to take all of that in stride, and know that we’ve accomplished a lot this year. Our qualifying is getting better, our races are getting more consistent. That’s the kind of stuff that we’re doing week in and week out, and I think we’re doing that. But at the same time, it’s frustrating that we’re racing well and still losing points hands over fists to the other guys. That gets frustrating.”

Choose to focus on all the frustration, or all the successes that he’s had in the Nationwide ranks the past few seasons, the reality is this; Allgaier needs a ride for 2011. And with good cars scarce and sponsors even more so, facing the challenge of finding a new home will likely prove to be far stouter a challenge than racing against Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski has been, both because of the lack of rides, and the standard Allgaier holds himself to as a competitor.

“I think for me, right now, a ride’s a ride,” he stated. “But at the end of the day, I want to be competitive, to know that we’re going to go out there and give 100% and know we’re going to have a shot at winning the race. I’m not a paycheck collector. I do love this sport and I’m all about it, but being able to race and do it the right way is what I’m worried about. No matter if it’s two guys working on a race car in a garage or 1,000 people working together in a million square foot building, as long as we’re competitive I’ll be happy.”

Until that new ride comes though, happiness may well have to wait.

When asked what his greatest takeaway from his time at Penske Racing would be if Homestead proved to be his last race in the No. 12, Allgaier noted “I’ll take away the fact that…what an opportunity to drive for a guy like Roger Penske. There’s hundreds of thousands of race car drivers in this country all with the same goal, to be able to land here. It means a lot. It’s a cool opportunity and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to race here.”

That said, when asked, the answer to this question came right out. Unfortunately, for all the performance on and off the racetrack, Allgaier has obviously contemplated that his time at Penske Racing may well be running out.

“I’ll always give Roger the respect and appreciation for giving me my first shot, Verizon and everyone else involved,” said Allgaier.

“[But] it’s going to be tough to move on.”

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
Mirror Driving: Winning Vs. Points, Needing a Boost, and The Lady’s Last Dance?
Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
Happiness Is…Arrogance, Less, Next, and the Outdoors
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RamblinWreck
10/29/2010 12:19 AM
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It’d be a shame to see no ride for Allgaier. Only a few months ago I commented that in a few years, Penske could have a four-car team of Busch, Keselowski, Allgaier, and Kligerman. It could be a strong team for a long time, since no other owners seem to be committing to young up-and-coming talent.

Hopefully Justin won’t go anywhere; the kid can wheel a race car with the best of them. His head is in the right place, too.

phil h
10/29/2010 12:58 AM
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if Allgaier isn’t driving the 12 car next year,who is?I’m behind on the happenings of the NAT Series.

Robin1
10/29/2010 06:28 AM
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I am heartbroken for Justin that he has not found a ride for next year (that we know of). He is one of the most talented and likeable drivers in the Nationwide series. It would be a huge loss to the NASCAR world if he is left out in the cold.
I am hoping that with the recent KHI & RCR merger in Nationwide, they might have somthing for Justin.

Gordon82Wins
10/29/2010 08:18 AM
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Allgaier’s difficulty getting a ride shows where it’s at these days. More evidence of a crumbling foundation for the future.

Craig
10/29/2010 10:09 AM
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I hope Joe Gibbs Racing steps up. JD Gibbs made statements recently that give me hope for Justin. He said they were seriously considering adding a 3rd JGR Nationwide car, and that it was likely full time Cup drivers would no longer be eligible for the Nationwide Championship. I hope these are true and JD wasn’t just blowing smoke. I would assume Justin would be JGR’s first choice for that 3rd car to run for the title.

Gary O
10/29/2010 10:42 AM
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Oh how we yearn for the “Old Days”. Maybe it is my age and my years of seniority in the NASCAR world, but tings have sure changed. In today’s world if a young driver does not have personal financial means it is so hard to get a foothold in this sport. By no means do I take anything away from those who do have the personal means and good for them. Then again I say just look at all of the other sports and where a high school kid or a college kids gets drafted and is paid multi-million $$$ contracts. NASCAR has a current crop of very quaified drivers that would represent the future and who may be dying on the vine. Just does not seem fair to our sport. Not to worry, someone will take the chance, thats what we do in NASCAR. Or maybe he just sells personal sponsorship shares…

glenn
10/29/2010 11:54 AM
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if there was justice, he would have a full time ride and Danica would stay in Indy…