Justin Allgaier Rallies for Top-10 Finish at Michigan
August 15, 2009
Allgaier didn't know what to expect when Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Carfax 250 began at Michigan International Speedway. After earning a 28th-place starting position in the morning qualifying session, Allgaier and the Verizon Wireless Dodge team discussed a game plan for the 125-lap event. After a lengthy debrief, they were determined and ready to work their way to the front of the field.
On the warmup laps prior to the start of the race, Allgaier fielded questions from Dale Jarrett as the in-race reporter for the ESPN2 television broadcast. As soon as the green flew, however, Allgaier was focused on improving his position - gaining five spots on the opening lap. On lap three, the first caution flag was displayed after Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne saw their cars make contact. Allgaier navigated the No. 12 Dodge through the wreckage.
The field returned to green flag racing on lap 10, and Allgaier immediately went to work. Gaining several more positions, Allgaier showed great discipline by remaining patient. The rookie driver also demonstrated his maturity by asking his spotter to keep him from repeating bad habits. Chris Osborne, spotter for the Verizon Wireless Dodge team, acknowledged with a simple "10-4."
By lap 15, Allgaier had clawed his way to the 15th position. He fought an increasingly tight-handling condition on his Dodge Charger as the long green flag run continued, but maintained his improved position. By lap 40, many crews were preparing to service their cars in the first round of green flag pit stops. The Verizon Wireless crew prepared to adjust the car's tire pressures and track bar position to help Allgaier with the ill-handling machine. As crew chief Chad Walter instructed his driver to pit, fluid on the race track forced NASCAR officials to call for a yellow flag. Walter immediately adjusted his strategy and called for Allgaier to stay out on track and save fuel. Two laps later, Walter summoned Allgaier down pit road for fuel, tires and adjustments. Thanks to Walter's strategy and the crew's fast work, Allgaier entered the pits in the sixth position, and exited in fifth place.
Allgaier trailed only Brian Vickers, Kyle Busch, David Ragan and Brad Keselowski as the green flag fell on lap 50. Allgaier reported that his Charger was handling somewhat loose under throttle, but was confident that the condition would improve as the run continued. As his battle with the Cup Series regulars wore on, Walter reminded his driver to "be patient." For more than 40 laps, Allgaier battled door-to-door with Cup Series stalwarts like Reed Sorensen and Greg Biffle.
Thanks to an opportunistic caution period on lap 46, the Verizon Wireless Dodge team was able to continue racing while many leaders pulled in for their second stops. Allgaier continued until lap 95, and entered pit road posted in the first position. The crew installed four fresh Goodyear tires and filled their Dodge with fuel, but made no adjustments. This stop would allow Allgaier continue until the end of the race. Allgaier re-entered the race track in the 12th position. On lap 104, Allgaier's Rookie-of-the-Year competitor Brendan Gaughan spun and brought out the yellow flag. Lap 105 saw many leaders enter pit road for fresh tires and a splash of fuel. Allgaier and the Verizon Wireless Dodge team were the benefactors and moved into the race lead.
As NASCAR safety crews cleaned up debris on the backstretch, Allgaier once again fielded questions from the ESPN2 crew. "You're the leader, how's that sound?" asked Jarrett of the rookie driver. "It feels really good. We just need to take care of our car for these last 15 laps or so and bring it home."
When the track was once again ready for racing, Allgaier led the field to the green flag with 12 laps remaining. With Vickers filling his rear-view mirror, Allgaier pressed the accelerator on his Dodge Charger to the floor - briefly spinning his rear tires. Vickers made light contact with Allgaier's car, requiring a quick correction. Once Allgaier had the Verizon Wireless Dodge under control, he found himself trailing Busch, Keselowski and Vickers. Rookie Justin Lofton then spun on lap 114, bringing out the fourth and final caution flag of the day.
The field took the green flag for the final time on lap 118. Allgaier restarted in fourth, and quickly gained a spot to third. While fighting competitors with fresher tires, however, Allgaier turned his attention to defending his position over the final two laps. Allgaier was able to secure a seventh-place finish - his 10th top-10 of the year.
Allgaier, who remained fifth in the overall Nationwide Series standings, once again earned the top-finishing rookie honors and extended his lead in the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year race. "Today was a great result for the team," said Allgaier. "We started the day somewhat discouraged that we were unable to qualify where we wanted, but what a great turnaround! [Crew chief] Chad [Walter] made great calls, [spotter] Chris [Osborne] kept me out of trouble all day and the crew performed as well as they have all year during our pit stops. I would've loved to get our first win here, but we gained some really valuable points towards the Rookie-of-the-Year title."
Allgaier and the No. 12 Verizon Wireless team now head to Bristol Motor Speedway for next week's NASCAR Nationwide Series event. The Food City 250 will be seen live on Friday, August 21 on ESPN2 with coverage beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. The event will also be heard live on PRN Radio as well as Sirius Satellite Radio, channel 128.