Justin Allgaier was all smiles at the start of the Friday night Nationwide Series race under the lights at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Not only was this his first appearance ever in the series, but he had qualified the number No. 12 Penske Dodge in the fourteenth position to start the race.
During pre-race interviews, Allgaier admitted that he was “in awe” of racing side by side with some of the best racers in NASCAR. The field for the evening included fourteen Cup drivers, six of whom are currently in the Chase for the Championship.
But Allgaier is no racing novice. Hailing from Riverton, Illinois, this 22-year-old driver has already established impressive racing credentials.
Justin has been racing in the ARCA REMAX series since 2004. This year has been his most successful ever as he has won five races, including races at Salem Speedway, Cayuga Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway, New Jersey Motorsports Park, and most recently, Talladega Superspeedway.
Allgaier also currently sits third in points in the ARCA championship battle, 105 points behind leader Scott Speed. He is only 20 points shy of second place Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Justin can also take credit for a third place finish at the 2007 Chili Bowl. There he finished behind winner and Cup champion Tony Stewart and second place finisher J.J. Yeley.
So, Allgaier was primed and ready in his bright yellow Penske Dodge to take the green flag at Lowe's Motor Speedway for his first foray into racing at the next level. He was doing well, studying and learning, staying mid-pack in the twentieth or so position for much of the race.
Justin dodged one bullet during the first major wreck of the race. Chase Miller got loose and took out both Jason Keller and Bobby Hamilton, Jr.
Allgaier just managed to squeak by that wreck by following his spotter's instructions to "go left." He took that hard left, went low and was able to thread the needle through the accident unharmed.
Justin's second challenge came during the next wreck, which featured Mike Wallace clipping the left rear quarter panel of the Rusty Wallace team's No. 64 car driven by David Stremme. Again, Allgaier was able to masterfully steer his way through that melee.
But, Justin was not so lucky on the third major incident of the race. This one came on lap 125 and was instigated by Jeff Green, who was already limping along in the race, several laps down.
Green spun, collecting the other car in Rusty Wallace's shop, driven by Rusty's son Steven. Unfortunately, Justin could not avoid this one, hitting hard into the wall and sustaining heavy damage to his race car.
Although Allgaier was able to climb out of his battered yellow Dodge, his evening was over. He had survived thirteen cautions, two major rain delays, and two other close calls only to have his race end early, finishing 75 laps down in the 34th position.
During one of the rain delays, Justin acknowledged that he would not have any time to think about the outcome of the Nationwide race. He had a plane waiting to whisk him off to Toledo Speedway for the ARCA REMAX finale.
Allgaier, along with his other ARCA competitors, are set to practice first thing on Saturday morning in Ohio and then race for the championship on Sunday afternoon.
Hopefully, Justin will be able to shake off his Charlotte experience and move on to his ARCA seat, where the action will be equally as exciting, but hopefully with a better outcome for him and his family owned team.