MADISON, Ill. (October 23, 2010) – Justin Allgaier, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, started from the pole position and dominated much of Saturday afternoon’s 5-Hour Energy 250. The hometown driver appeared to have the final NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway in his grasp, but a late-race caution saw varying pit strategies jumble the field with just a handful of laps remaining, resulting in a third-place finish.
Allgaier’s eighth top-five finish of the year, and second-consecutive third-place finish, allows him to maintain the fourth position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings. With three races remaining in the 2010 season, Allgaier trails point leader and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski by 866 markers, and third-place contender Kyle Busch by 161 points.
The Verizon team’s weekend began on a high note, as Allgaier recorded the fastest and second-fastest times, respectively, in Friday’s dual Nationwide Series practice sessions. Saturday morning, the Riverton, Ill. native ran a lap of 33.301 seconds, at an average speed of 135.131 mph, to earn his second pole award of the 2010 season, and third of his young career.
Upon taking the green flag, Allgaier checked out from the field. The Verizon Dodge driver opened up a healthy lead over Mike Bliss who ran second, despite fighting a tight-handling condition in the center of the corners. The field remained under the green flag until lap 47, when debris on the racing surface forced NASCAR to display the caution flag. Allgaier brought his Dodge Charger to the attention of the Verizon crew to take on four tires and fuel.
Allgaier lined up second for the lap-51 restart, but it would take just four laps before he put his Verizon Dodge on point again. He would hold the position until a single-car incident at lap 74 saw the field take the opportunity to come to pit road once again for routine service. Problems unfolded during Allgaier’s stop, as the tire changer experienced a hang-up while replacing the right front tire. The extra seconds on pit road resulted in the loss of several positions, placing the No. 12 car 12th on the scoring pylon for the lap 79 restart.
The 24-year-old driver made daring passes to regain his lost positions, and was fortunate to avoid several incidents that unfolded around him, one resulting in an extended red-flag period for a multi-car incident just prior to the halfway point of the race. As the second half of the event began, green-flag conditions ruled. Allgaier climbed his way back to the second position at lap 118, where he would remain until giving up the spot to come to pit road at lap 156 to take on four tires and fuel. When the cycle of stops completed, Allgaier was shown second, running behind Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski. Five laps later, Allgaier reassumed the lead and again checked out from the field.
As the laps came to a close and Allgaier’s lead extended, it appeared that the third-year driver would be in position to claim the checkered flag in the final event at GIR. Unfortunately, with eight laps remaining, an incident involving the Nos. 7 and 66 cars brought out the caution flag, putting crew chiefs on the hot seat. As most of the front runners came to pit road, crew chief Chad Walter called for a four-tire stop. Varying strategies saw Allgaier lose several positions on pit road, with a handful of laps to try and regain them. When green-flag conditions resumed at lap 197, Allgaier made the most of his situation, taking the checkered flag third in what was an emotional race for the young driver.
"I guess the fastest car doesn't always win the race,” said Allgaier. “The Verizon Dodge Charger was awesome today and we had the car to beat. We just made a bad pit call late and it cost us. It stinks to come to your hometown, run so good and not get the win. A great run, but it should have been a better result. These guys put a great race car underneath me today. It's too bad."
Next weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers and crews enjoy their final off weekend of the 2010 season before heading to Texas Motor Speedway. ESPN2’s live television coverage of the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge begins Saturday, November 6 at 12 p.m. EDT. The event will also be broadcast live on PRN Radio and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.