An interview with: Justin Allgaier
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR cam video teleconference in advance of this weekend's NASCAR events at Nashville Superspeedway. It's a doubleheader weekend there where the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series takes the track Friday and the NASCAR Nationwide Series follows on Saturday.
(This is) pretty much our first standalone race being first and second in points with Turner Motorsports...
Joining us for the first of two NASCAR cam opportunities today is Justin Allgaier. He is the driver of the No. 31 Wolf Pack Reynolds Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports. He heads to Nashville second in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings, trailing only teammate Jason Leffler by two points.
Justin, big showcase weekend for your team and the series in Nashville.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: It really is. To be into Nashville, pretty much our first standalone race being first and second in points with Turner Motorsports, having all three teams in the top five, it's going to be a lot of fun. There are going to be a lot of Cup drivers there. But Nashville has been a racetrack that, as a Nationwide driver, we feel we have the ball in our court because the Cup guys aren't getting the extra track time every Sunday like they are on a lot of these other racetracks. I think we're all looking forward to it. Obviously, we want to get the points lead when we leave for sure.
DENISE MALOOF: Let's go to media questions for Justin Allgaier.
Q. Justin, I wanted to ask you about the new car. How are things going with that a handful of races in? How is the relationship with your crew chief regarding that car?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: It's been great. The new car, the four races last year were really kind of a get your feet wet, see where things are at. I feel like all of us have worked really hard in the off-season. The first couple races this year it seems like everything has gone really well.
Obviously there's been a lot of things we've had to learn. The one really cool thing for me is when the COT Cup car was unveiled, it took them years to be able to fine tune all the little details, get the chassis where they wanted them. Now we've got the benefit of having a lot of that knowledge. As you mentioned, the crew chief, Jimmy Elledge, comes from the Cup side and has the experience on that style of car. It's good to be able to have that knowledge and that information.
I feel like for us as a team, as Turner Motorsports, we've done a good job during the off-season building really good racecars. I think the racing has been really, really good, whether it be on the short tracks, the intermediates, the mile-and-a-half's, all of it has been a lot of fun. I'm excited when we get into this main part of the season, coming to these racetracks that weren't necessarily as fun in the old style car, I think they're going to be a blast in this new style car.
Q. Turner Motorsports, a new team this year. They came out with a bang. Have to be excited how all that is coming together.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: I really am. Leaving Penske Racing at the end of the season last year, I was a bit nervous that I was going to be able to find something that was going to be as competitive. When Mr. Turner gave me the opportunity to get behind the wheel of his racecars, being an independent team is always an uphill battle trying to compete with the Cup teams.
To have the Hendrick power as we do, have as good racecars as we're building, I feel like I jumped in equally as good if not better equipment. That says a lot for an independent team to be as strong as they have been.
As a driver, it's comforting knowing we've come out of the box strong with a new team, new crew chief, new crew. Usually it takes at least five, ten races in before you catch your stride. We had a top two in Vegas, only to our teammate. To have the sixth place in Texas, seventh last weekend in Talladega, I feel like our strengths are slowly getting stronger.
Hopefully by the end of the season, we'll have a great opportunity to run well each and every week.
Q. You got a good rotating mix of drivers coming in and out of some of those cars for you, Cup drivers. Do you get to lean on those guys the weeks they're driving for your team?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Absolutely. It seems like everybody at Turner Motorsports that gets behind the wheel of a racecar has their own strengths, whether it's the guys running for the championship, me, Jason or Reed, or the Cup guys, Ryan, Mark or Kasey. James Buescher, Mikey Kile, all these guys, you're always learning something from each one of them. I think that's the beauty of having one car that kind of floats around a little bit.
I know that the guys that install the seats don't like it as much, but it's nice to have all of that knowledge and all of that experience under one roof. I think that's one good thing that Mr. Turner has done, is he's tried to put guys behind the wheel not only to help diversify the program and to help bring younger guys like myself up, but also to make his program stronger.
Adding the Cup guys in only helps all of us because the information that they bring from the Cup side, the experience that they bring, they're definitely helping make our equipment better. Jut like Mark getting the first win for Turner Motorsports at Vegas, that was huge not only for us as a company, but to be able to have that knowledge as to how to make his car faster ultimately was the reason why we were able to run second. I think that's going to be the case moving forward till the end of the season.
Q. Justin, the top seven drivers in the standings are separated by just 12 points. I wanted to get your take on why the standings are so close at this point and also wanted to find out how that affects your strategy moving forward.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I think one of the reasons why we see the points so close is that the new points system definitely has made things look a lot different than what the old style points system did. I guess 12 points would be probably close to 60, 55 or so in the old points system.
I got to looking at that a little bit. We were actually behind Ricky Stenhouse by about 22 points. I was thinking about that. It didn't seem like a whole lot until I started calculating the old points system. It was more than I thought it was.
I feel like the one really good thing is this new racecar has really kind of evened the playing field. I feel like all of us are running really, really close together each and every week. That's what makes it fun. We're having a blast. We're pushing each other. I think, too, when you take the Cup guys out of it, I think that's where you saw the big points variance. It seems like the Nationwide guys were always close to each other in the points and the Cup guys were a little bit ahead. I feel that's kind of changed now.
I feel the new points system is as big a reason as any for the points being as close as they are, and I love that. I think this is what the sport needed. It's what we needed as racers, to push ourselves.
I feel like you just have to manage your races better. That's the one key to this new points system, managing your races. As we saw at Talladega, I felt horrible for Ricky getting caught up in the wreck. He and I were working together at the time. You could see what it did to affect his points standings.
You have to keep your bad races to a minimum and try to get those extra bonus points anytime you can.
Q. When is it too early to really start thinking about points a lot? Is it too early now or do you do that from the first race, especially in light of the new points system?
That's the one key to this new points system, managing your races.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, Daytona was when we started looking at it. I don't think there's ever a time to be too early. Obviously you can't get so caught up in that fact that you end up hurting yourself. You've got to take it all and really try to use it to your advantage. I feel like as a race team we all look at the points, we understand where we're at, who we're racing against. I think that's important.
We all want to win races. I think going out each and every week, that's what we're going to do. At the same time we want to make sure that we put ourselves in good positions.
If we're racing a guy that maybe isn't necessarily running for points, you have to outweigh the risk versus reward, whether or not it's worth racing that guy and in turn possibly wrecking yourself or is it better off to maybe give up a spot to secure some more points.
It's really a risk-versus-reward process. I think that's what we're all really focusing on right now.
Q. I talked to a few drivers this year who have mentioned studying video to try to get better in the racecar. Do you have any idea how common this is and do you do it?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: I actually do it a lot. Video has been something for me that over the last couple of years I've been very fortunate to have not only onboard but tapes of the race. I think you can always learn from the guys that you're around.
It's funny, I thought that I was really working hard inside the racecar until I watched some of the other guys' onboards. Definitely right now you're having to push yourself, not only the car, but you're pushing yourself to your limits to be able to run these things fast.
I think it is important to watch video. I know it's probably split 50/50. Some guys are doing the iRacing.com simulation racing, some guys are watching video. I've tried to get a good mix, racing a little bit as I can. But definitely the video is where I feel like my biggest advantages come from.
Q. Where exactly does it help you? I've heard some guys say they overlay their qualifying lap against the top qualifier, they look at practice. How does it help you specifically?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: I think the one thing is a lot of use Dartfish program which is a really cool program that will overlay two cars. I think they've done it a couple times on the different broadcasts. We do that for practice, qualifying, pit stops during the course of a race. They'll actually film pit stops, you can see if you're getting beat leaving or coming into pit road.
That's the kind of thing when you're testing, you could overlay data and look at lap times. Now it's become so confined to the racetrack, you're trying to figure out where you can gain and where you're maybe pushing too hard. For me it's been important to see where we're at compared to the guys that are running well. I think that is important.
For me, one of the biggest things I do, I typically will drive into the corner too hard. The new style car doesn't like that as much sometimes. So you really got to watch where you're at compared to everybody else. I feel like that watching that video and seeing how they're doing things, maybe it's a line characteristic, acceleration, something, will definitely help you in the long run.
Q. Justin, you touched on this a little bit. What has been the biggest change for you on the track because of the points change, the championship points system?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: I think the biggest change on the track is, like I said, you typically will race the Nationwide guys more and not worry about the Cup guys as much. Obviously every position is worth a point. We're still getting points based on where we finish. At the same time, like I said, the risk versus reward is really important.
As far as does it change the way I race? No, not really. I'm out there to win races and I'm pushing myself whether it's pit strategy or on the track. I do think the one thing about this new points system is it definitely makes you more aware of making some kind of bigger calls on maybe pit strategy, what you're going to do, two tires, four tires.
I think typically right now, we're all playing it a little more safe. When we get down towards the end of the season, we'll probably push a little bit hard. I think a lot of the Nationwide-only teams that are running for the points are probably playing it maybe safer just because we don't really know how this is going to all play out.
It used to be by now one guy would have a 100, 150-point lead. Everybody would start settling in, getting into the rhythm. It's not that way right now. I think the points seem to be a lot closer. It's making us be a bit more conservative every week.
Q. Up-and-down process getting in rides. Describe what that is like finding a ride at your age, everything else at this point in your career.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: I'll tell you, it's something that I don't want to have to do again for a long time. Anytime you have a ride and it's going well, like it was at Penske, you almost get a little bit too comfortable. I think that's the one thing about the sport that we all have to remember is nothing's for certain.
One of the funny things is, I kept asking what can I do differently, is there anything I can do better. I kept getting the same answer: Everything is going well. You're doing everything we're asking you to do. Everything is good. Sometimes doing everything exactly right still doesn't work.
So it was tough to have the opportunity, to have that situation where I was out of a ride, not sure what I was going to do. But at the same time I've been around the garage for a little while now, I've met a lot of great people. I think the one thing that I just had to do was go around and lean on the people that I had met and the people that had helped me in the past and try to take those relationships that I had and try to build on them as best as I can. Ultimately that got me together with Mr. Turner and the guys at Turner Motorsports.
For me it was bittersweet because I loved the fact I was getting the opportunity to work with a new team, but at the same time I was disappointed. I felt like we were really getting into our stride at the end of last season, would have been extremely successful this year.
It's tough. But at the end of the day the only plan is there is no plan, you just have to go out there and race like there's no tomorrow.
Q. You had mentioned earlier talking about Jimmy. How much of an adjustment is it for you when you start working with a new crew chief?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I think anytime you're working with a new crew chief there's a lot of things, whether it's driver lingo, crew chief lingo, what is that person going to be like on the radio, what's their mindset, what's their attitude. There's so many things that play into it.
The other part for me that's always tough is when you start working with a new crew chief, if I say the car is loose, they've got to understand what 'loose' is. Some drivers will say they're loose and that might mean a quarter of a round on the track bar. Some might say they're loose, that means 10 rounds on the track bar, all the wedge you can put into it, all these adjustments.
Getting together with Jimmy is good. We're both calm personalities. We're both racers. I think that's the one key is Jimmy racing wing go-karts pretty much every week. He's been around it his whole life. He races the street stocks. He's been in a racecar, he understands. He understands what I'm trying to tell him when I say it. That's something that has been huge as far as our relationship goes.
I'm glad he's become part of our team and we can have him up on the box for sure.
We always joke that it's probably really boring to listen to our radio because neither one of us really get all that excited about anything. It's been a great relationship. I'm glad he's become part of our team and we can have him up on the box for sure.
Q. You mentioned understanding what the terminology means. How important is it for you guys to like each other or is it more so understanding each other is the key?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I would say that you definitely have to like each other. There's guys that get along and that don't. They understand it's a business relationship, they understand each other really well. That's successful.
But for Jimmy and I, we get along really well, but we also understand each other really well. I think one of the cool things is, the last couple years he was on the Cup side, he had a younger driver for quite a while, then he had a couple different drivers right at the end of his Cup crew chiefing last year. I think that's helped him because he had to learn a bunch of different lingoes, understand them, how to put them in a racecar. He's been able to take that knowledge, put it into myself.
I feel like my terminology sometimes isn't exactly where it needs to be at, but I feel like I give probably more information than I should even sometimes. But I give a lot of information back. It's just deciphering how I say it sometimes. I feel like Jimmy's done a good job of being able to understand that and use that into making the cars better.
It's definitely important for me that we get along well and we like each other. We get along well on the racetrack and on the radio.
Q. What might you have learned from watching other drivers' in-car video?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: I think anytime you're looking at the onboard video, you'll see little things, whether it's mannerisms of the feet, the shifting, the way they turn the wheel. For me, I actually probably ran too quick of a steering box for a little while and started watching video on how much guys were turning their hands. It taught me something about this new style car. I think a lot of these guys have had some time with the Cup car, are able to understand that, being able to learn that part of it.
Then, too, just seeing how hard they're driving. I think that's part of it. When I ran the ARCA Series, even when I ran the Truck Series back a couple years ago, it seemed like you would start out and you would go really, really hard on restarts, then you would maybe get into a rhythm and really find yourself just kind of riding for a little while, then going again at the end.
It seems like this new style car, the Cup car, the Nationwide car, you have to be 110% every lap. Every lap is like a qualifying lap. I think watching those videos has shown me how hard I can push it. That definitely helps when you're out there running.
Q. Justin, this weekend you'll be on concrete. What different driving style do you have to do on concrete as opposed to asphalt?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I think anytime you go to a concrete racetrack, it definitely changes the game. Concrete typically will have a lot more grip than the asphalt surfaces. One of the problems we find with the concrete is the edge. When you go over the edge, you push the car too hard, sometimes it's not as easy to feel that. On the asphalt tracks, if you get a little bit loose, a little bit tight, you have a good feel for it. There's a pretty wide gap between going over the edge and ending up crashing yourself.
On concrete it typically seems you can push it and you think everything's good until the braking point. Once you get to that point, you're almost a lot of times too far gone to be able to realize it. You end up getting yourself in trouble. You definitely need to make sure you have a good car underneath you and everything is stable.
Nashville, not only the surface, bit it's got mile-and-a-half straightaway and mile corners, the length and width of them. Being able to navigate your way around the racetrack is tricky and important. You got to take all that into consideration when you're getting ready to go there.
The other part of it is temperature. On an asphalt track a lot of times temperature, the track temperature is a big deal and changes the grip levels. Concrete doesn't seem to have as much of a swing from loose to tight as what asphalt does.
You definitely have to take all those things into consideration when you go to a track like Nashville.
DENISE MALOOF: Justin, thanks for some good stuff today. We appreciate your time. I know the media does. Have a great weekend at Nashville.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Glad to be on. Thanks for all the questions.
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you.