It was Frederick Douglass who coined a phrase many today can appreciate even after hundreds of years: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
Justin Allgaier, who enters Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 as part of the XFINITY Series Championship 4, knows a thing or two about struggle.
Following five years of action in NASCAR’s second-tier series from 2009 to 2013, capturing three wins and a career-high point finish of third, Little Gator turned big when he joined HScott Motorsports in 2014, entering his rookie season in Sprint Cup.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, as long as it took for a Cup opportunity to start, it finished, as Allgaier struggled in his time with the lower-budget team, leaving the Cup ranks after only two seasons in 2015 for JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series.
Marking 2016 as a comeback season, the Illinois native has earned 13 top-5 and 26 top-10 finishes, shattering his previous career marks before entering this weekend’s season finale.
With Cup experience behind him, Allgaier, 30, said he has only become a better racecar driver now having experienced those struggles.
“The Cup experience for me has been absolutely amazing,” said Allgaier, who recently subbed for Michael Annett at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Cup Series. “Obviously, it wasn’t the go that any of use would’ve liked to have had. There were some major struggles and roadblocks that anybody who was involved could see coming.
“For me, it was a really down part of my career. Though I had a really good time with it and I met a lot of great people, I struggled mentally and physically. I really struggled getting through that.”
Having to take a step back from the world’s largest stock car racing series, Allgaier, who has found a competitive home in JR Motorsports in 2016, now has a heightened level of gratitude for his opportunity.
“It made me a lot stronger of a person and made me a lot stronger racecar driver,” he said. “Right now, I’m in the best place that I’ve been in, as far as being happy and feeling competitive. I think all of that has played into putting me in this position.
“I don’t think in 2013, had we had the same format, that I could’ve raced my way into the Chase. I don’t think I would’ve raced my way in without the experiences and the trials I went through to this point.”
With a championship within his reach, Allgaier stands out among the final four drivers, as he is the lone winless man with a shot at the title.
Advancing through on consistency, Allgaier would call his return campaign a success even if he fails to win Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Obviously, a win would be a great thing,” he said. “I would love to see it. But if you take the four of us and add us all together, there’s really not that many wins among us. The format rewards wins, but the way the XFINITY Series has worked in the last few years, a championship is a championship.
“If we go that route without a win, I’ll still be extremely happy to take the trophy to the house.”
About the author
Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.
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