Justin Allgaier had every reason to be feeling blue.
Sponsorship issues meant his breakout performance at Bristol Motor Speedway was followed by the break-up of his Penske Racing team.
Still, the 25-year old from Illinois with the positive outlook did what he does best, landing on his feet at Turner Motorsports and making the best out of the situation.
Allgaier comes into Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway, ninth in the latest Nationwide Series driver standings.
The winner of the 2010 spring race at Bristol, he further proved his mettle by taking his Turner Motorsports team to an upset win at Chicagoland last season.
“Any time, you can be with an independent team and run strong it’s one thing, but to win a race was awesome,” he said. “To win Chicago, knowing what I know now in a non-Cup backed team, that was huge.
“Turner Motorsports, they do a great job. We have our struggles like any other team does. But, to do what we’re doing without all the resources, that shows the integrity of the team. It felt really good to beat all the Cup teams.”
That’s not to discount his Bristol win in Penske’s No. 12 Dodge.
It was a great accomplishment in Allgaier’s eyes that he held off teammate Brad Keselowski, winner of the last Cup Series race at BMS, and he did it in front of the team owner.
“The fact that Roger (Penske) was there and I was racing with my teammate, Brad Keselowski, as hard as we were and as clean as we were, to pass him and get that win was special,” he said. “Of all the places to get my first win, I didn’t expect it to come at Bristol. That’s one of the coolest moments of my career.”
Months later, Allgaier got the news the dollars weren’t coming into the team to fund his ride. While disappointed, Allgaier handled the news better than expected.
More than a year later, the young driver looks back to his time with Penske as a great experience.
“It’s such an honor to drive for Roger,” he said. “You talk to anybody in the garage and there are very few who wouldn’t want to drive for him. Some would quit the best teams in the industry just to be a part of his legacy.”
He does, however, feel grateful to be in the No. 31 Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports, which buys motors from Hendrick Motorsports.
Without any other type of Cup affiliation, Allgaier often picks up information the old-fashioned way, by talking to other drivers.
“When God made me, he gave me the gift of gab,” he said. “I’m not afraid to talk to anybody. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of different people in the garage area. I just use the resources that I have. It’s amazing what some people will help you with and what others won’t. I learned who some of my true friends were in the garage area.”
It’s hard not to be a friend to Allgaier, who sees the world more as the glass half-full than the glass half-empty. While becoming a Sprint Cup Series winner remains the ultimate goal, he appreciates being able to race for a competitive team in the Nationwide Series.
“I want to make it to the Cup level, but I don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “I want to make it to the Cup Series, but if it all ended tomorrow, I would feel very blessed to have done what I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had.”
Jeff Birchfield is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org