Rising Star? Allgaier Making Statement In Nationwide Series

Mark RudiCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 11: Justin Allgaier, driver fo the #12 Verizon Wireless Dodge, during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Camping World 300 at Daytona International Speedway on February 11, 2009 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

He's Roger Penske's newest protégé, and he could be the next rising star of NASCAR.

Nationwide Series rookie Justin Allgaier has burst onto the racing scene this season. Every week, he's got the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge running up front, and competing with the best of the Sprint Cup Series.

The 22-year-old from Riverton, Illinois currently sits 10th in Nationwide Series points with two top five and five top 10 finishes, and leads the Rookie of the Year point standings.

Allgaier's best career finish is fifth, which he's done twice this season at Bristol and Darlington. Two tracks rookies don't tend to do well at.

Allgaier came out of the gate strong at the beginning of the season. After finishing 40th in the season opener at Daytona, he racked off five top 15 finishes in the next six races.

He also led five laps at Las Vegas where he finished eighth, earning his first career top 10.

Allgaier has been as high as fifth in the point standings this season, but ran into two bad weeks in a row, finishing 32nd and 38th at Talladega and Richmond, respectively. After Richmond, he dropped down to 12th in the championship standings, the lowest since after the second race of the season at Fontana, California.

But lately Allgaier has been coming back up in the point standings. He's back in the top 10 now after a 14th place finish at Lowe's Motor Speedway last Saturday.

Allgaier started in the ARCA Re/Max Series in 2004 and appeared on the Discovery Channel's "Driver X: The Race For The Ride" in 2005. A show where Jack Roush was looking for a fresh new driver and the winner would win a seat in a Roush car.

Allgaier didn't win the ride, but continued to drive in ARCA and won his first race at Springfield, Illinios, his hometown track, in 2006. He would pick up a victory at Salem, Indiana in 2007 before making a statement in 2008.

Allgaier won the 2008 ARCA Re/Max Series Championship, dethroning Frank Kimmel, who had won the title the previous eight seasons from 2000-2007. Allgaier beat Kimmel by 50 points and collected six victories, including the last three races in 2008.

He caught the eye of Penske, who gave him a shot in the Nationwide Series in late 2008 and signed him for a full-time ride in 2009.

Allgaier says his biggest problem is his aggressive driving, which cost him a lot early in his ARCA career, saying it was either checkers or wreckers for him.

"I'm much more like Kyle Busch; I kind of like to let it all hang out," Allgaier said to NASCAR.com. "My ultimate goal is to race like Mark Martin. He might not run up front the entire race, but he's always there at the end, and that's where I'm headed."

Allgaier has the talent and the equipment with Penske to become a star in NASCAR. Allgaier's early success could produce a victory for him this season, and he could be a contender for the Nationwide Series Championship in 2010.

There also is a rumor that Penske might field a fourth Sprint Cup team for Allgaier this season for him to run a limited schedule. If he can continue his early success, the future looks bright for Allgaier.