Justin Allgaier walked into the Chicagoland Speedway Media Center with a smile spread across his face.
Why shouldn’t he be smiling? The Riverton, Illinois native is leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, and he is sixth in the Nationwide Series standings.
Also, Chicagoland Speedway could also be considered his home track.
"Ever since we started coming up here to the Chicagoland Speedway, it's been a great facility and a great place to come race at," Allgaier said.
Allgaier, who drives the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge, has accumulated three top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 2009.
As a result, he leads rookie Brendan Gaughn by just six points in the ROTY standings. Allgaier wants to win the ROTY award seeing as that was one of his preseason goals.
"My first goal was to win Rookie of the Year," Allgaier said.
Coming up through the ARCA Series, Allgaier seems to have adjusted well to the Nationwide cars, even though he says the cars are more similar to the Sprint Cup cars.
Just as the Sprint Cup drivers talk about lack of horsepower, Allgaier says the Nationwide cars have that same issue.
“I think the biggest thing with the cars is just the horsepower, the lack of horsepower. Coming from ARCA series, you’re allowed to run basically the same engine package that the Cup side runs.”
So, while handling might be different, the lack of speed sometimes affects these cars more. In terms of finding speed, Allgaier does see a weekly improvement.
“I think we are building on that. We’re making the cars better every week and making it a lot easier,” Allgaier added.
For Allgaier, he has other goals that he is working toward; he wants to win a race this year. He acknowledges, though, that he needs to continue to rack up top-10 finishes, but, at the same time, he needs to finish in the top-five and to put himself in a position to win races.
“We feel like if we keep running the way we are and keep building on our note package, we should be there before long,” Allgaier stated.
Recently, there have been rumors that Allgaier could possibly move up to the Sprint Cup Series in 2010.
Allgaier admitted the he would like to move up to the Cup Series, but understands there is a major difference between the Nationwide Series and the Cup Series.
“I don’t foresee it happening right away. My goal is that I’d love to run another season here and get some more experience, get some more laps on all these racetracks, but I’m not going to say it won’t happen,” Allgaier said.
Allgaier is young and marketable. He can reach out to the younger demographic that NASCAR is trying to reach.
He knows that if he wants to find true success in the Cup Series, he needs to demonstrate his ability to his owner Roger Penske and to his fellow competitors in both series.
One of his competitors sees his potential.
“He’s been doing a really good job. He’s been a good rookie that’s learned some of the ropes this year. He’s struggled in some races. He’s had some rookie mistakes in others like all of us have. He’s really learned, and he’s been a strong competitor,” said Kyle Busch.
Allgaier knows time is on his side at just 23 years old; he just needs to show improvement and not rush into the Cup Series.
With owner Penske behind him, Allgaier could be NASCAR's next star.