Allgaier Survives Incidents at Memphis for Top-20 Result
October 25, 2009MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 24, 2009) - After starting from the pole position Saturday at Memphis Motorsports Park, Penske Racing's Justin Allgaier survived an incident-filled 254 laps in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge to finish in the 19th position. The result marked Allgaier's 24th top-20 finish of his rookie campaign in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Allgaier captured his first career Nationwide Series pole in qualifying earlier in the day on Saturday and he entered the race confident that he could produce his first victory. Allgaier led the first 34 laps before an incident involving Brad Keselowski dropped Allgaier back in the field. The Verizon Wireless crew used the resulting caution flag period to equip their Dodge Charger with four scuffed Goodyear tires and fill the car with fuel. No serious damage was done to the car in the incident with Keselowski and the No. 12 was quickly released back onto the race course.
Allgaier began to battle back from the 26th position, and found himself in 17th place when the fourth yellow flag of the race was presented to the field on lap 61. As the race leaders came down pit road for their first stops of the afternoon, Allgaier moved into the fifth position. As the field returned to green flag racing, competitors with newer tires began to gain ground on Allgaier.
On lap 85 as Allgaier fought for the ninth position, he found himself outside of the ideal racing groove. Allgaier lost several positions as he tried to find the optimum line for the Verizon Wireless Dodge. . On lap 88, crew chief Chad Walter called Allgaier down pit road for his second stop. The Verizon Wireless crew made a small air pressure change and adjusted the wedge to enable Allgaier to better turn his machine in the middle of the corners. After the race restart on lap 93, Allgaier took advantage of the longest green flag run of the race to that point. He moved from 28th place to 11th before the seventh caution period occurred on lap 124.
Walter once again called his driver down pit road for service. "We're going to have to come in here. We have to get in line with [the leaders' pit sequence]," said Walter. The crew gave Allgaier four fresh tires and fuel. "The car's good right now," reported Allgaier. Still under caution, Walter warned Allgaier to conserve the fresh tires. "We have this set and one more fresh set, so we have to be smart."
The field once again resumed green flag racing on lap 129, with Allgaier running in the 11th position. Allgaier defended his spot by keeping his speed consistent on the entry to the corners and hitting his marks on the race track. A red flag period followed when a car made heavy contact with the wall, spreading debris and liquid over the race track. Once the safety crews finished cleaning the wreckage, the cars began to roll and the field took the green flag only a few laps later. On lap 174, Allgaier and the Verizon Wireless machine made light contact with the No. 33 car of Kelly Bires, but the No. 12 suffered only minor damage. However, once green flag racing resumed, Allgaier reported difficulty in turning the race car.
Allgaier survived minor contact with multiple cars and close racing over the next 50 laps. On lap 220, Allgaier reported a very tight-handling condition on the car and decreased stopping power as the temperatures rose in his brakes. Despite the difficult conditions, Allgaier remained in the top-20. On lap 227, Allgaier came down pit road for his fourth pit stop of the afternoon. Walter instructed the crew to implement slight air pressure and track bar adjustments to try and cure the tight-handling condition. The crew also installed four fresh tires and filled the machine with fuel while inspecting for damage to the fenders from the earlier contact.
"It's going to get ugly," Walter instructed Allgaier. "Justin, you have to be aggressive, but protect yourself." Walter was right. As the leaders raced under the waving green flag, Carl Edwards spun after contact with Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Allgaier narrowly avoided a heavy impact with the spinning car, but the Verizon Wireless Dodge suffered damage on its right side as a result of the incident.
Allgaier urged his crew chief to keep the car on the race track through the ensuing caution period. Walter agreed as he told the rookie driver, "We need to survive here, there are only 15 laps left in this thing." When the field resumed green flag racing, however, the team observed that the damaged fender could potentially cause an early retirement from the race for the No. 12 team. Running in 10th place, Allgaier defended his position from attacking competitors while he remained mindful of his ailing race car. Only a few laps later, Allgaier felt the air pressure begin to fall in his left front tire. Fortunately, the 13th caution period of the race occurred on the same lap, which allowed the Verizon Wireless crew the opportunity to repair the damaged fender and replace the left side tires.
Following the significant repairs to the car, Allgaier rejoined the field in the 20th position. The green flag waved once again on lap 245. Only three laps later, Steve Wallace spun, sending the field into the 14th and final caution period of the day. Allgaier was positioned in 19th place as the field prepared for a green-white-checkered flag finish. The green flag flew on lap 252 and Allgaier battled for two laps to claim the 19th finishing position.
"Today was a roller-coaster day," said Allgaier, who remained fifth in the series standings and continued to lead the tight race for top season rookie honors. "I'm excited we got our first pole position this morning, especially for the whole Verizon Wireless team. They've worked really hard all year and they deserve a lot of credit for never giving up. We had a really tough afternoon and we definitely didn't get the result we wanted. We have to keep our focus, though, because this Rookie-of-the-Year battle is going to come down to the wire. We're going to enjoy this week off and head to Texas ready for battle."
Allgaier and the No. 12 Verizon Wireless team visit the lone star state for the next Nationwide Series event. The O'Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway will be seen live on Saturday, November 7 on ESPN2 with coverage beginning at 12 p.m. ET. The race will also be heard live on PRN Radio as well as Sirius Satellite Radio, channel 128.
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