Wiser Allgaier Speeding Back Toward Bright Future
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Forget shades. A year ago, Justin Allgaier’s future was so bright he had to wear a welder’s helmet.
In 2009, Driving a Penske Racing Nationwide Series car, he was piling up top-10 finishes but fast. He would end the season ranked sixth and points and was named rookie of the year.
2010 started off even better for they young driver from Illinois. After he won the spring race at Bristol, columnists and bloggers would proclaim him ready for the next step. They basically ordered Roger Penske to put Allgaier into one a Cup car.
Didn’t happen, of course. What did happen was that during the early autumn he got word from Penske that his sponsor, Verizon, would likely not return for 2011 and he was free to start looking for a job elsewhere.
A race winner, fourth in points – No. 1 in points among non-Cup cherry pickers in the Nationwide – and and given the old, “This hurts me as much as it hurts you” heave-ho line.
Except it didn’t. Never does.
“I’ll tell you,” Allgaier said this week during a teleconference of being give his pink slip by Penske Racing, “it’s something that I don’t want to have to do again for a long time.”
It appears Allgaier will not have to do it again for a long time.
Before the start of the current season, Allgaier, bad atmosphere for job hunting and all, hooked up
with Turner Motorsports: He was handed one of that team’s three Nationwide cars.
Turner was kind of new to the scene. Owner Steve Turner had bought the established Braun Racing operation late last year and people were wondering what was going to happen under new management.
Allgaier was one of those people.
“Leaving Penske Racing at the end of the season last year,” he said, “I was a bit nervous that I was going to be able to find something that was going to be as competitive. When Mr. Turner gave me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of his race cars, being an independent team is always an uphill battle trying to compete with the Cup teams.”
But Turner pumped a lot of resources into his operation. The team built new cars and best of all, had an engine deal with Hendrick Motorsports.
Heading to Nashville for this weekend’s race, Turner driver Jason Leffler leads the series in points and Allgaier is second – just two points back.
“I feel like for us as a team, as Turner Motorsports, we’ve done a good job during the off-season building really good race cars,” Allgaier said. “I think the racing has been really, really good, whether it be on the short tracks, the intermediates, the mile-and-a-half’s, all of it has been a lot of fun. I’m excited when we get into this main part of the season, coming to these race tracks that weren’t necessarily as fun in the old style car, I think they’re going to be a blast in this new style car.”
In addition to good cars, Allgaier is working with a good, veteran, proven crew chief – Jimmy Elledge – this season.
“Getting together with Jimmy is good,” Allgaier said. “We’re both calm personalities. We’re both racers. I think that’s the one key is Jimmy racing wing go-karts pretty much every week. He’s been around it his whole life. He races the street stocks. He’s been in a race car, he understands. He understands what I’m trying to tell him when I say it. That’s something that has been huge as far as our relationship goes.
“We always joke that it’s probably really boring to listen to our radio because neither one of us really get all that excited about anything. It’s been a great relationship. I’m glad he’s become part of our team and we can have him up on the box for sure.”
So the future is bright once again for Allgaier. And Allgaier, well, he’s a bit wiser in the ways of big time racing – if not completely happy about those ways.
“Anytime you have a ride and it’s going well, like it was at Penske, you almost get a little bit too comfortable,” he said. “I think that’s the one thing about the sport that we all have to remember is nothing’s for certain.
“One of the funny things is, I kept asking what can I do differently, is there anything I can do better. I kept getting the same answer: Everything is going well. You’re doing everything we’re asking you to do. Everything is good. Sometimes doing everything exactly right still doesn’t work.
“So it was tough to have the opportunity, to have that situation where I was out of a ride, not sure what I was going to do. But at the same time I’ve been around the garage for a little while now, I’ve met a lot of great people. I think the one thing that I just had to do was go around and lean on the people that I had met and the people that had helped me in the past and try to take those relationships that I had and try to build on them as best as I can. Ultimately that got me together with Mr. Turner and the guys at Turner Motorsports.”
– Jim Pedley can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment