Allgaier searching for higher road
August 07, 2013, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
No. 31 hopes to get back on track by returning to road-course action
Related: Allgaiers announce birth of daughter
Hit the road, Justin.
It might just be your best shot at getting back into the race.
Having earned an average finishing position of 16th over his past six races that has been just that -- average, Justin Allgaier has some ground to make up in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings and knows it.
Following an exceptional showing in June at Wisconsin's Road America in which he finished second to AJ Allmendinger, Allgaier stood in second place and just 28 points behind leader Regan Smith. His recent slide now has him 50 points behind new leader Austin Dillon -- which, all things considered, isn't as bad as it could have been -- but with the likes of Smith, Sam Hornish Jr., Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers and Kyle Larson separating him from the top. Lots of names, but still it's anyone's game.
"I think the last few weeks have kind of shown that there's no clear standout person," Allgaier said. "Brian Vickers had a rough start to the season, Elliott Sadler had a rough start to the season, but they’re right there in it now. I think we've learned that you can do more damage by giving points away than you’re going to do by gaining them. For us, we've got to get back on track and stop losing them."
Allgaier was looking forward to righting the ship in last weekend's U.S. Cellular 250. A 17th-place finish didn't help matters any, though, especially when each of the drivers above him in the standings finished higher, with four of them notching top-fives.
For Allgaier -- who will race this weekend following the birth of his daughter Thursday -- the time is now to make his move. If he's able to get back in the groove, starting with Saturday's Zippo 200 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET, ABC), it could result in a little bit more than just that. We might witness the blossoming of a road-course technician.
"I feel good about (this) week," he said. “Watkins Glen has not always been my best track, as far as road courses go -- the more technical road courses are probably where I feel like I'm a little bit better -- but the stuff that I learned before Watkins Glen or before Road America this year is stuff that I've worked on with my road-racing skills. I feel like going back to Watkins Glen; I feel like now I can go back there and be more competitive just from a knowledge standpoint more than anything."
While he says The Glen isn't his best track, a glance at his numbers shows his comfort level at the New York facility has steadily increased. His starting position has improved from 27th, to 20th, to 13th, to eighth in his four Nationwide appearances. Save for an engine failure 25 laps into his second showing that ended in a 34th-place result, he's even finished better each time out. Taking into consideration some of the names that finished above him last year -- race-winner Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard, heck, even road-course ringer Ron Fellows -- Allgaier’s ninth-place finish might as well have been a top-three.
Now, it'd be easy to dismiss his relatively small sample of just four races at Watkins Glen as fluky, but his Road America numbers trend eerily in the same direction. He's literally improved his starting and finishing position each time out to Elkhart Lake, Wis., culminating with June's runner-up spot.
"The biggest thing for us is Road America was awesome, it was a good event for us," said Allgaier. "We've had a few bumps in the road since then; unfortunately we've given away more points than we've actually earned the last few weeks. I still feel really good about our program, I feel good about the direction of our team, I feel like if we can get back into where we were at, pre-Road America, we have a good shot at gaining a lot of these points back.
"We've put a lot of effort into our road-course program over the past few years. Turner Scott Motorsports has been one of the best finishing cars on every road course we've gone to, so I do feel good about that part of it and I'm looking forward to (this) weekend."
With the next two series races coming on road courses -- the Nationwide cars hit Mid-Ohio on Aug. 17 -- this could be the perfect opportunity for Allgaier to not only regain some of his position in the standings, but to also carve out a niche and establish himself as a "road guy." At the very least, he plans on picking up his first win of 2013 somewhere down the road -- pun intended.
"I think the main focus is just to get back to Victory Lane," said Allgaier, whose last Nationwide win came in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve -- another road course. "I've been fortunate over the last three years to get to have a victory, and I feel like our team is as strong as it's ever been and we've got a great group of guys, and I have no doubt in my mind we can get there, it's just a matter of going out and doing it and having the right opportunities and that day being your day.
"We've seen this year that there's so many good teams, so many good drivers, so many good cars, that just being flawless and having the perfect day is going to be what it takes to get into Victory Lane. If we can do that, I feel like that would be successful. And once you win one, you're going to want to win 10 more."