AVONDALE, Ariz. (November 14, 2009) – Penske Racing driver Justin Allgaier battled a tight-handling race car but completed all 200 laps and earned a 16th–place finish in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. The finish marked the 25th top-20 result for the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge team during the 2009 campaign.
At the start of the 200-lap Able Body Labor 200, Allgaier knew he would have to be patient throughout the race in order to get his car to the front of the field. The one-mile Phoenix International Raceway is conducive for side-by-side racing, but Allgaier knew that one mistake by any of the competitors could end his chances for a solid result.
After earning an 11th-place starting spot earlier in the day, Allgaier radioed to his team shortly after taking the green flag to explain that the No. 12 car was handling extremely tight in the center of the corners and he was struggling to get back on the gas coming out of the turns. Because of the ill-handling car, Allgaier started to fall back in the 43-car field.
By lap 50, the Verizon Wireless Dodge was running in the 16th spot. Allgaier again radioed crew chief Chad Walter to report that the car had a hard time turning in the corners. Allgaier also said the No. 12 was beginning to run loose coming out of the turns. Walter assured the rookie driver that the team would make changes to the car on the first round of pit stops.
When the caution flag was displayed to the field on lap 77 for an incident on the track, the Verizon Wireless team prepared to see the car on the pit lane. Allgaier rolled down pit road on lap 82 for service. The team changed four tires and filled the car with racing fuel. The crew also made a slew of adjustments to the car as they tried to dial it in for the next stint.
As the green flag flew to resume racing on lap 83, Allgaier found himself running in the 13th position. He moved inside the top-10 before the Verizon Wireless Dodge made contact with the No. 38 machine driven by Jason Leffler coming out of turn 4. As a result of the contact, the left rear tire on the No. 12 began to deflate. Fortunately, the yellow flag was displayed to the field, allowing Allgaier to visit pit road under the caution period. The team made a left side tire change and sent the Riverton, Ill. native back onto the racing surface.
Allgaier took the green flag race restart from the 23rd position, but he was determined to make his way back up front. He fought hard to remain on the lead lap. Allgaier called into his team on lap 151 to explain that the car was still way too tight in the corners, which affected his ability to run down the straightaways. Walter asked his driver search the track for a line which could help him roll through the center of the turns. Allgaier did all he could as he ran both the top and bottom of the speedway in search of speed.
The rookie standout fought to the finish line and came home in the 16th spot. Thought he fell to sixth in the series standings, Allgaier remains in a heated battle for the fifth position as he trails Mike Bliss by just 14 points for the coveted spot with one race remaining on the 2009 schedule. Allgaier also sits atop the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year standings heading into the final race of the season.
“The Verizon Wireless guys did a great job all day long in and out of the pits,” said Allgaier after the 200-lap race. “We worked really hard to try to make this car better. We just struggled. I don’t know what the deal was, but we just struggled all day long and never really could get the car to handle well. It’s unfortunate. We lost fifth in points but I think we padded our Raybestos Rookie-of -the-Year (lead) so that’s a definite plus. We’re going to give it 110 percent (next week). We did that today and hopefully the points that we did lose today…we can overcome those next weekend at Homestead and get fifth (place) back.”