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In the Draft: Day at the lake leads to best finish of season

July 24, 2012, Justin Allgaier, Special to NASCAR.COM,

Finishes third in front of hometown crowd at Chicago to qualify for Dash 4 Cash

How is everyone doing? I sure hope y'all are enjoying the summer as much as I am. We've had a really exciting week here on the BRANDT team -- a busy one too. When we returned home from New Hampshire last weekend, we took the whole team out on Lake Norman on Sunday for a bit of relaxation, tubing and wake-boarding. All the guys brought their families and we had four boats all tied up together. The one pontoon boat we rented had two levels and a slide off the back. The kids really, really enjoyed that. Actually, some of the adults really enjoyed it too. I think you could also tell how much we all enjoyed it by the sunburn comparisons going on the next day in the shop. [My wife] Ashley and I enjoy that time so much. These guys work so hard every single week and it's just great to be able to spend some time having fun and enjoying each other's company.

"I could tell from his voice that Jimmy had a plan and he executed it so well in the closing laps."


Then once Monday rolled around, it was time to get focused on the big week leading up to the race at Chicagoland Speedway. After watching Sierra Brandt notch her first top-five of the season in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Ashley and I headed out to Springfield, Ill., with the Brandts. Wednesday was spent mostly with preparations at BRANDT headquarters, which included the arrival of the No. 31 hauler, the Nationwide show car and a few other displays. When the work day was over, we did a group dinner at a great local spot in Springfield called Gallagher's.

Thursday morning's alarm came WAY too early, as Ashley and I headed to do some local radio to promote BRANDT Day. It was fun to go and be on a few of the shows that we grew up listening to. A big thanks to the folks at 104.5 FM and AM 1450 as fun was had by all. We quickly decided that breakfast was in order before getting the day under way. The morning had started with some much needed rain, but by the time midday rolled around, the sun was out in full effect. Unfortunately, we think the warm temperatures kept some folks home, but when I got down to start signing, the line was full of excited fans. I got to see a lot of familiar faces throughout the afternoon, as well as meet some new folks which is something I love. Just want to again thank everyone who did come out and say hi -- it was so great to see you! The crowd died down around 7 p.m. and after a quick dinner, it was time to call it a night.

Ashley, my PR rep and I made the road trip up to Chicagoland Speedway on Friday morning. We did have to stop a few times for some caffeine, and I can't confirm or deny that there was some '90s Hits karaoke going on which may or may not end up on one of my blogs in the next few weeks. Stay tuned ...

When Saturday finally rolled around, I was very ready and anxious to get out on the track. It took us into the second practice, but [crew chief] Jimmy [Elledge] and the guys finally hit on something toward the end that seemed to work well. I had another opportunity to go up into the booth with Phil Parsons and Rick Allen to commentate the ARCA race on Saturday afternoon which was a blast. I enjoy doing that so much and it just gives me the chance to see that side of a broadcast. Thanks again to the guys at SPEED for that opportunity! Ashley and I headed up to the suite to catch some of the Truck race and what a race it was. When it looked as if things were pretty much down and out for the Turner Motorsports stable, my teammate James Buescher put on quite a show. That team just absolutely never gave up all night and was duly rewarded for their efforts. It was awesome to go congratulate them in Victory Lane.

Dash 4 Cash

Dash 4 Cash rewards the highest-finishing eligible driver at each of four designated races with $100,000, creating a "race within a race" that could reward the overall winner with $1 million.

Well, Sunday brought our turn. My schedule was packed tight between hospitality visits, qualifying and then finally the race. Qualifying didn't go quite as we had hoped it would, but we still believed we had a good car for the race. Just before driver introductions, Jimmy and I went out to visit with the more than 400 BRANDT guests that had come to cheer us on. What a cool deal it was so see all those tents full of red and white gear. It was even better to see them all up in the stands as I drove into Turn 1. There was no mistaking where those guys were.

As the race progressed, we had a fairly decent car and could run in the top 10 -- we just weren't happy with that. I could tell from his voice that Jimmy had a plan and he executed it so well in the closing laps. While it would have been fun to try and race Elliott [Sadler] and see how far we could stretch fuel, I love green-white-checkered finishes because I know the finish is in my hands and I can make something happen. Obviously, we always want to win, especially at Chicagoland, but a lot of good things came out of that finish. It was exciting for the fans, the team scored our highest finish of the season in front of the hometown crowd, and we qualified for the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash race at Indy.

Well, I hope everyone has an awesome week and maybe we'll be able to see some of you next weekend as we make our first trip to the "Big Track" in Indy. I'm very excited about the chance we have at the Brickyard, and Jimmy has a pretty good record there, too. Looking forward to our shot at $100,000 also! Thanks for checking in with me this week. Take care.

In the Draft with Justin Allgaier is a twice-monthly blog and the opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. Follow him and the No. 31 BRANDT Racing team on Twitter: @J_Allgaier, @BrandtRacing or @No31TurnerNNS.