Justin Allgaier Salvages Top-20 Finish at Auto Club Speedway
October 11, 2009FONTANA, Calif. (October 10, 2009) - Early-race contact forced driver Justin Allgaier and the Penske Racing Verizon Wireless Dodge back in the field during Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Auto Club Speedway, but Allgaier and the No. 12 team maintained their poise and salvaged a 16th-place finish.
Allgaier and the Verizon Wireless crew looked to capitalize on their best starting position since early August. After qualifying third earlier in the day, Allgaier took the green flag on Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway confident that the No. 12 would compete for its first win of the 2009 season. Allgaier immediately began battling with Cup Series Chase contender Brian Vickers and future Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski.
On lap 13, Keselowski's car got loose exiting turn three and forced the Verizon Wireless Dodge into the wall, which dropped Allgaier back to 13th place. Allgaier reported a tight-handling condition on the car following the contact. Crew Chief Chad Walter reassured his driver that the team would make adjustments to free up the car's handling on the team's first pit stop. As green flag racing continued, Allgaier's lap times became more consistent with the leaders and he returned to the top-10 in the running order.
The first caution period of the afternoon occurred on lap 37, giving the Verizon Wireless crew an opportunity to service their Dodge Charger. The team made minor track bar adjustments and repaired the right side damage suffered in the early-race incident.
Thanks to the changes made by the team, Allgaier was happy with the car's performance once the field returned to green flag racing. As the run wore on, however, the series rookie leader reported a loose-handling condition on the No. 12. Despite Allgaier's concerns, spotter Chris Osborne reassured his driver that he was pulling away from the cars behind him.
Debris on the racetrack caused a caution period on lap 71 and Allgaier brought his machine down pit road for service. The crew adjusted the track bar and altered the pressure in two fresh Goodyear tires. The fast pit stop gained the team 10 positions as Allgaier rejoined the race in 11th place. Once the green flag was presented to the field, however, Allgaier relayed to the team that he couldn't get the power he needed from the Verizon Wireless machine. The issue cost the rookie racer valuable speed on the straightaways and he fought to keep his car inside the top-20.
A caution period only a few laps later provided the opportunity to solve the issue. Walter called for a track bar adjustment and the crew put on four fresh tires before sending Allgaier back out onto the racing surface. While the field was still under caution, Walter called Allgaier back down pit road so car chief Tom Clavette could help the crew adjust the repairs that were made to the fenders after the early contact. Walter and Clavette hoped the small aerodynamic alterations would help Allgaier maintain speed down the straightaways.
Allgaier preserved a top-20 position following the adjustments, but continued to fight faster cars on the race track. The Verizon Wireless crew made further track bar and left-rear wedge adjustments during the next caution pit stop on lap 100, hoping that the changes would cure the very tight-handling car. Fast work by the crew allowed Allgaier to gain four spots, as he exited the pits in the 14th position.
Allgaier battled to keep the Verizon Wireless Dodge inside the top-15 until a large wreck behind him forced the No. 62 car of Brendan Gaughan into the side of the No. 12. Allgaier brought his ailing machine down pit road where his crew made repairs to the right side fenders. As Allgaier exited pit road, he reported a loss of pressure in his left side tires. He was forced to return to the pits for service as the team quickly replaced the left side tires and made further repairs to the damaged right rear of the race car.
When the field returned to green flag racing, Allgaier sat in the 28th position at the tail end of the lead lap. Allgaier navigated his Dodge through the field and several caution periods, settling into 17th place on lap 147. An incident involving Scott Speed caused the 10th and final caution period of the afternoon, setting up an exciting green-white-checkered flag finish. Allgaier endured contact from several cars in the final laps of the event, but he defended his position and brought the Verizon Wireless Dodge home in 16th place.
"Today was a rough day," commented Allgaier after he exited the No. 12 car. "It seems like everything under the sun has happened to us at Auto Club Speedway this year, but we've managed to walk away with a pair of top-20 finishes."
Allgaier, who remained fifth in the Nationwide Series standings and continued to lead the rookie rankings with the finish, said he and the Verizon Wireless team look forward to returning to Charlotte this week. "We finished 14th in May at Lowe's Motor Speedway. We're eager to go back home, sleep in our own beds, and try to get another good result in front of the home crowd."
Live coverage of the Dollar General 300 Nationwide Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway will begin on Friday, October 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
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