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Year in Review: Allgaier continues climb to top

December 26, 2011, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

Year in Review: Allgaier finishes career-high third thanks to victory, 17 top-10s

Justin Allgaier might not have made a great first impression, but by the end of the 2011 season, he definitely left a lasting one.

In his first season with Turner Motorsports, it only took eight races for Allgaier to grab the points lead, a position he held for three consecutive weeks. He coasted across the finish line at Chicagoland for an amazing victory, one of his 17 top-10 finishes.

2011 statistics

Wins1
Top-fives6
Top-10s17
Poles0
DNFs3
Laps Led36
Avg. Start11.0
Avg. Finish11.8

And with a late rush of six top-10s in his final 11 starts of the year, "Little Gator" climbed to third in the final point standings.

"It's been a great year with everyone," Allgaier said. "We went to Victory Lane and were in contention for the championship and wins."

Things to smile about

After coming over from Penske, Allgaier was still putting names with faces when he qualified fifth in the season-opener at Daytona, only to get caught up in an accident which left him in 27th place, four laps down. But it didn't take long for Allgaier to find his way with his new team, particularly with crew chief Jimmy Elledge's help.

Allgaier rebounded with an eighth-place at Phoenix, and finished second to teammate Mark Martin at Las Vegas. And he continued his steady march up the standings throughout the spring with a sixth at Texas, seventh at Talladega and an 11th at Nashville.

That gave him a share of the points lead, and Allgaier responded with finishes of third at Richmond and fourth at Darlington. However, after winding up 29th at Iowa, Allgaier was forced to play catch up for the rest of the year.

If there's a moment that might stand out for Allgaier in 2011, it's his remarkable win at Chicagoland, when he inherited the lead from Carl Edwards on the final lap, only to run out of gas himself on the way to the checkered flag.

"This is so big for us because Chicagoland is my home track," Allgaier said. "I knew we had a fast car and that fuel was going to play into things. I was just hoping we had enough."

Reasons to frown

After his fourth-place finish at Nashville in July, Allgaier was just 16 behind points leader Reed Sorenson. But he had oil pump issues at Indianapolis, resulting in a 27th-place finish. And the next week, a broken sway bar saddled Allgaier with a 29th-place finish.

Despite not finishing worse than 15th in any of the following 12 races, the 83-point deficit Allgaier faced from that point was too much to overcome.

Allgaier led two laps and finished sixth at Atlanta, but a late-race incident with Sorenson overshadowed his performance and led to harsh words afterwards.

Looking into the crystal ball

Everything was new for Allgaier after sponsorship woes caused him to be released from his ride following the 2010 season. That shouldn't be the case in 2012.

Earlier this month, Brandt announced plans to return as Allgaier's full-time sponsor for next season, a move that should provide more stability to the former Nationwide rookie of the year as he begins a second season under the Turner Motorsports banner.

"We are extremely pleased with the outcome of our first season in NASCAR and look forward to returning as a championship contending team with Turner Motorsports and Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series," Brandt president and CEO Rick Brandt said. "We look to expand on the successes we had with the program both on and off the track in 2011 and take the program to the next level in 2012."

After finishing sixth in the points as a rookie, Allgaier wound up fourth in 2010 and third this season. With that in mind, there's no doubt he'd like to continue that upward trend when racing resumes in February.