Allgaier still looking for Cup ride

Jeff Birchfield • Dec 10, 2012 at 9:00 PM

BRISTOL -- Justin Allgaier doesn’t mind the label of most talented NASCAR driver without a Sprint Cup ride. In that one sentence, it describes both the highs and lows of his chosen profession.

“It’s a good thing to know people are talking about you,” Allgaier said Monday during an appearance at Bristol Motor Speedway. “But it is frustrating at times knowing you’ve not gotten that next opportunity. With the economy the way it is and it being so hard to get to that next level, if it does happen, it will make it that much sweeter. I know God has a plan, whatever it is, and we’re going to make the most of whatever opportunity we’re given.”

The 26-year from Illinois literally appeared on the fast track three seasons ago with major sponsorship from Verizon and driving for legendary car owner Roger Penske.

However, he ended without a ride due to a conflict with NASCAR being sponsored by rival cell phone company Sprint and Verizon forced from the sport.

Without sponsorship, Allgaier was left without a permanent ride until landing with the independent Turner Motorsports team.

He has made the most of the opportunity, winning races each of the past two years. The sixth-place finish in the Nationwide Series points for the No. 31 team this past season was the best of any team without Sprint Cup affiliation.

“We had a better season by stats than we did the year before,” Allgaier said. “But, we finished third last year and this year we finished sixth. That was frustrating, but it’s good to know we’re the top independent team. It’s hard to plug away when you have those Cup teams you race against. But when you do well and have wins, it’s that much sweeter.”

Despite his setback, Allgaier still maintains a good relationship with Penske as well his former teammate Brad Keselowski. He was thrilled to see them achieve their dreams of winning a Sprint Cup championship in recent weeks.

“That was really cool to see Brad and Roger win the championship,” Allgaier said. “That’s something which Roger has tried to do for so many years, and for him to accomplish so many things in other forms of motorsports and to finally get this one, it just shows the competitive nature of NASCAR and how tough it really is.

“I give them credit and I hope one day there is an opportunity to go back there. I still respect Roger, who he is, what he does and how he does it.”

Looking back, Allgaier has an even greater sense of pride when he reflects on his first Nationwide Series victory in March 2010. At the always tough Bristol Motor Speedway, Allgaier held off then teammate Keselowski over the final 27 laps to win the Scotts Turf Builder 300.

“To race against Brad the way we did that day, it’s a race I will never forget,” Allgaier said. “It seems like we win at the tracks they stay are the hardest to win at. To get your first win here, it’s really cool. You don’t expect that will ever happen.”

Even with less resources than some of the other top contenders, the future looks bright for Allgaier and the No. 31 Chevrolet team.

Teammate James Buescher is fresh off winning the Camping World Truck Series championship and the team will leave the Impala nameplate to race the sportier Camaro.

While all of that has Allgaier excited, he explained life is about more than racing.

He is heavily involved with the Christian organization Motor Racing Outreach and has gone on mission trips with fellow Nationwide Series drivers Trevor Bayne, Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

This past week, Allgaier, his wife Ashley and veteran driver Jeff Green were part of a group from the NASCAR community who shared the Christmas spirit at Mexican orphanages.

“It was my second time going with a group called Back-2-Back Ministries and I promise it won’t be my last,” he said. “It’s such a great cause. There are 162 million orphans worldwide. To be able to go down there and to be able to touch the lives of maybe 100 kids, it’s an eye-opening experience.

“We help with whatever needs they have, whether it’s doing construction projects, doing little odds and ends or cooking a warm meal. We went and cooked chicken one night and that was the only meat those children had for a week. It might have been the only meat they had for the next week.

“I look at that and I can’t believe how blessed I am to have the opportunities I have. It makes not having that Cup ride feel a lot better. I can tell you that.”

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