HAMPTON, Ga. (September 4, 2010) – Justin Allgaier, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, struggled early with a multitude of handling issues in Saturday night’s Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but chassis adjustments made by the Chad Walter-led crew helped the third-year driver keep ahead of the changing track conditions to log a 13th-place finish.
Allgaier’s career-best Atlanta finish allows him to maintain the fourth position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings. With nine races remaining in the 2010 season, Allgaier trails point leader and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski by 742 markers, and third-place contender Kyle Busch by 191 points.
Allgaier recorded the 21st and 31st-fastest times, respectively, in Saturday’s twin practice sessions. Later that afternoon, the two-time Nationwide Series pole winner ran a lap of 31.400 seconds, at an average speed of 176.561 mph, to earn the 20th starting position for the Labor Day classic.
From the drop of the green flag, Allgaier struggled with a tight-handling condition. As the sun began to set over the 1.54-mile quad-oval and green-flag conditions prevailed over the opening quarter of the event, race leader Kyle Busch lapped the third-year driver at lap 40. Fortunately, debris on the racing surface forced NASCAR to display the caution flag one lap later with Allgaier in the “lucky dog” position. As the first car scored one lap down, Allgaier was placed back on the lead lap for the lap-47 restart.
Despite bottoming out on the track as a result of low air pressures, Allgaier quickly advanced from his 20th-place position to crack the top 10 at lap 70. As the field began to hit pit road for green flag pit stops, the No. 12 vaulted to the second position at lap 107, where he would stay until relinquishing the spot at lap 111 for a scheduled pit stop.
As the laps clicked off, Allgaier once again struggled with a tight-handling condition. Over the course of the closing laps, a two-car incident at lap 167 placed the field under the caution flag, giving Walter one last opportunity to adjust on Allgaier’s machine. Out of new tires, the veteran crew chief elected to gamble, taking on 10-lap old “scuffed” tires and an additional chassis adjustment to give his driver one final shot at a top-10 finish. Despite their best efforts, inconsistencies with the tires wreaked havoc with the handling of the Verizon Dodge, forcing Allgaier to settle for a 13th-place finish when the checkered flag waved.
"The Verizon Dodge guys did a great job all night,” said Allgaier. “We just didn’t quite have the car we needed. We found something in the middle of the race and it worked really well, but the next to last pit stop we thought we went a little too far with our adjustments. We took the adjustments out and the car wasn’t as good for the rest of the race.
“The biggest thing for me was how inconsistent the sets of tires were. I felt like from set to set, you never really knew what you were going to get going off into Turn 1. It’s frustrating, but at the same time, they’re trying to build tires that don’t come apart. That’s been a problem here in the past. They seemed to have fixed the problem and that’s a plus. We’ve just got to deal with it, get more data at the shop and find a solution to the things we had a problem with tonight. We had a bad night, but still finished 13th. We’ll take that, and we’ll go on to Richmond.”
Next weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Richmond International Raceway for the third of four races for the New Nationwide Series cars. Live coverage of the Richmond 250 will be carried on ESPN2 Friday evening, September 10 beginning at 7 p.m. EDT.