Justin Allgaier, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Dodge in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, appeared to be headed for a top-five finish in Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
After picking up his first career win at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 30, a pit road incident in the latter stages of the 200-mile event left the 23-year-old driver with his first finish outside of the top 10 in 2010.
The disappointing finish dropped Allgaier two positions, to fifth, in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings.
“It’s frustrating to plug away like we did tonight and then have a good result taken away from us. It’s tough to swallow,” said Allgaier when talking about the pit road incident that ended a good run on the night.
Six races into the 2010 season, Allgaier trails point leader and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski by 51 points.
The Riverton, Illinois native who started the race seventh, quickly advanced his Verizon Dodge to the fifth position, and ran as high as second by lap 21.
As the sun began to set over the desert oval, Allgaier developed a loose condition in the center of the turns.
Crew chief Chad Walter called for adjustments that kept the Verizon Dodge in tune with the changing track conditions, and flawless work by the Verizon pit crew helped Allgaier maintain a position inside the top 10 over the course of the event.
As the race neared its conclusion, debris on the track brought out the caution flag at lap 189. Hoping to give his driver an opportunity to gain positions over the final laps, Walter called Allgaier to pit road to take on four tires.
The Verizon crew performed a lightning-fast stop, but as Allgaier attempted to leave pit road, the No. 88 of Kelly Bires made heavy contact with the driver’s side door, resulting in both cars spinning and flat leftside tires on the Verizon Dodge.
“We were just minding our own business and I think somebody was trying to play a little strategy at the end of the race by taking two tires and swung his car out of the pits and destroyed our night,” said Allgaier while talking about the contact on pit road.
Allgaier was forced to return to pit road, which would drop him to a 14th-place position for the final restart at lap 192.
With little time to make up his lost ground, and a severely damaged race car, the 2009 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year was able to persevere to bring home a 13th-place finish.
“The Verizon Wireless Dodge was good tonight,” said Allgaier. “We worked on it all night. The crew did an awesome job in the pits. They picked us up spots on every stop.”
Allgaier also added that, “We got the car pretty decent and moved our way into the top five, but I got caught up in a tough deal there on the last caution.”