Allgaier earns career-best finish at Daytona

February 13, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 13, 2010) – Justin Allgaier, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, overcame an early incident to finish a career-best fourth in Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

With the first race of the 2010 season in the record books, the 23-year-old driver is fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings, 35 markers behind point leader Tony Stewart.

Allgaier’s Chad Walter-led crew decided to play it safe in Wednesday’s opening practice session, limiting the amount of laps spent on track drafting. Knowing the “big one,” the multi-car accident that typically happens at Daytona that can eliminate much of the field from competition, can strike at any time – even in practice – Allgaier’s run was limited to just 18 laps, where he recorded the 24th-fastest time.

Feeling confident about their chances for Saturday’s season-opener, Allgaier and Walter agreed to park their Verizon Dodge after running just 10 laps in Thursday’s final practice session.

Weather wreaked havoc with Friday’s schedule, forcing NASCAR to cancel qualifying that afternoon. The starting lineup was set according to the NASCAR rule book placing Allgaier 12th on the starting grid.

Despite two early incidents that saw the caution flag displayed for a total of eight laps, the Riverton, Ill. native quickly advanced his position, running inside the top 10 for many of the opening laps. As the laps clicked off, Allgaier reported that he was struggling with a loose condition as he began to shuffle position in the draft. Despite his handling woes, Allgaier was able to run inside the top 20 until making contact with the outside retaining wall at lap 43. Allgaier brought his Dodge to the attention of the Verizon crew the next lap for four tires and fuel, along with repairs to the right side of his damaged machine.

Allgaier exercised patience over the middle stages of the event, opting to ride at the back of the field to avoid being collected in an incident. The strategy paid off, as the 2009 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year was able to avoid several multi-car incidents that unfolded in front of him. Under the ensuing caution periods, Allgaier brought his Verizon Dodge to pit road on several occasions, with the No. 12 crew making additional repairs to give him a shot at contending for the win in the closing stages of the race.

The strategy paid dividends for the third-year driver, as he advanced his way to the second position at lap 101. Allgaier, following the instruction of spotter Chris Osborne, stayed in the tire tracks of the race leader, Tony Stewart.  As the field took the white flag, several drivers began jockeying for position. As Allgaier suffered the effects of a left rear tire losing air, Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick were able to work their way around him, resulting in a fourth-place finish.

Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski finished 14th after being involved in a late-race incident.

“It was an amazing day,” said Allgaier. “The guys on this Verizon Dodge team were just unbelievable. They got me up to the front early in the race, but then I got into the wall which did some damage to the right-front fender.  I thought that our day was over to be honest with you. We came into the pits multiple times to try and fix the car.  To come out of here with a fourth-place finish and head to California with a bunch of momentum is great.”

Next weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads west to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., for the Stater Brothers 300. Live coverage of the event begins Saturday, Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The event will also be broadcast live on the MRN Radio as well as Sirius/XM Satellite Radio.