News & Media

Allgaier optimistic about building on success

February 08, 2011, Joe Menzer,

Lone victory came in 2010, but he's counting on more in move to Turner

Justin Allgaier wants to become more than the answer to a novelty trivia question in 2011.

To do that, he knows what it is going to take. The Nationwide Series driver is going to have to win multiple races -- a goal that he insists is completely within his reach.

"I feel like it's going to be a great season," Allgaier said.

In March of 2010, Allgaier earned his first career Nationwide victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was the fourth race of the season, but it marked the only time all year that a full-time Nationwide-only driver beat the Sprint Cup regulars who double-dipped and dominated NASCAR's junior series.

So in 35 starts, Allgaier was the only guy to beat the big boys. Twenty-eight of the season's other 34 wins were divided up among series champion Brad Keselowski (six), runner-up Carl Edwards (four), record-setter Kyle Busch (13), Kevin Harvick (three) and Joey Logano (two). Of them, all Cup regulars, only Keselowski and Edwards ran full-time Nationwide schedules as well.

The remaining six wins were split among part-timers who ran very limited Nationwide schedules and won one race apiece: Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Boris Said, Tony Stewart (who won his only Nationwide start of the season) and Marcos Ambrose. All but Said were Cup regulars, and Said is a road-course specialist who won at Montreal in one of only two Nationwide starts he made all year.

All of which led to changes being instituted by NASCAR this year. Now drivers must pick one series in which they'll run for a championship, meaning the Cup regulars cannot accumulate points toward the Nationwide title. Allgaier, who also captured two poles last year and finished fourth in points behind Keselowski, Edwards and Busch, said he believes that leaves the door of opportunity wide open heading into this season.

He does have some concerns that the changes might adversely affect the credibility of the Nationwide Series, however.

"I think it's opened up a big window of opportunity. But at the same time, I don't want it to discredit the series at all," Allgaier said recently. "Nationwide has done a great job with this series. They've put so much into it. The series itself is as strong as it's ever been, so I don't want to see it discredited. That's the one thing that I hope doesn't happen.

"At the same time, I think NASCAR listened to the fans and did something they've wanted for a long time. And you know what? No matter what happens [in the upcoming season opener] at Daytona, I think we'll all be all right. If they told us to paint our cars pink, we'd do that as long as it was what the fans wanted and NASCAR listened to it. As long as we keep doing that, we can't fail as a sport."

Allgaier is optimistic about winning more races this season, despite a switch from Penske Racing -- which also fielded Keselowski's championship car last season -- to little-known Turner Motorsports, for which he'll drive the No. 31 Chevrolet. Allgaier said he made the switch mainly because lack of sponsorship at Penske made it unlikely he was going to be able to drive a Nationwide car full time there this season, but also because he liked what he saw at Turner Motorsports.

Turner Motorsports fielded two entries in the Camping World Truck Series last season, but this year is expanding to three trucks in that series and three cars in the Nationwide Series. It is a highly ambitious move, but Allgaier he feels confident the switch he made will prove to be a fortuitous one -- especially with the team's engines coming from Hendrick Motorsports.

"There was no apprehension at all in making the jump [to a new team], to be honest with you," Allgaier said. "To come in and see what [team owner] Steve Turner has put into it, and the direction he wants to go in moving forward, I just feel like we're in great shape.

"I don't want to say there wasn't an opportunity to stay at Penske -- but there definitely wasn't an opportunity to stay there in a full-time capacity. And unfortunately, we've seen it in the past -- you miss one week and you're kind of out of the loop. So for me, this was the right choice, this was the best choice. I don't question it at all."

So he is with a new team, a new sponsor (Brandt, a company now global in reach that was founded in 1953 to help farmers adopt new technologies to aid their operations), and a new crew chief in NASCAR veteran Jimmy Elledge. None of it seems to faze him.

"I feel like all the pieces of the puzzle are slowly getting to where they need to be. I'm pumped, man. I haven't been this excited in a long time," he said.

"I feel like when we won the championship in '08 with my dad's ARCA team, we had this same feeling going in. So I think this season has a lot of the same makings of that season."

He said whether or not Cup regulars were going to be able to race for the championship had no bearing on his excitement level or his strategy heading into the season.

"I think my excitement level stayed about the same -- because my goal is to win races," Allgaier said. "Whether they're there or not, the point system isn't going to change that for me. I'm dead-set on winning races, and that's where I'm headed. ... The points are going to fall where they are. At the end of each race we're going to see where the points are, and then we're going to get ready to go to the race track again the next week and try to win the race again."