Justin Allgaier Captures Series Rookie-of-the-Year Honors HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Justin Allgaier, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge, fought a loose-handling race car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series finale Saturday afternoon...
Justin Allgaier Captures Series Rookie-of-the-Year Honors
HOMESTEAD, Fla. - Justin Allgaier, driver of the Penske Racing No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge, fought a loose-handling race car in the NASCAR Nationwide Series finale Saturday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but he persevered and finished 20th to lock up the series Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year honors. With the result, Allgaier became the first Penske Racing driver to win Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year. The 23-year-old Allgaier started Saturday's Ford 300 from the 20th spot, but he was bound and determined to get the Verizon Wireless Dodge up front. By lap 10, Allgaier had advanced to 14th place, using the high line on the 1.5-mile speedway. He radioed crew chief Chad Walter to explain that the car was handling loose through the corners and needed to be tightened up on the first round of pit stops. Walter and the team began to strategize on the changes the crew could make to the car.
When the caution flag was displayed to the field on lap 22 for an incident on the racing surface, the Verizon Wireless Dodge team prepared to see its car on pit lane. Allgaier brought the No. 12 car in on lap 24 for service. The team took on four Goodyear tires and fuel and made chassis and air pressure adjustments to its machine, hoping to stabilize the Verizon Wireless Dodge in the corners.
The race returned to green flag conditions on lap 27 and Allgaier had his machine positioned in 17th place. Several laps later, Allgaier relayed to the team that the changes made to the car helped its handling for the first handful of laps, but the extremely loose-handling condition then returned to the Dodge Charger on both ends of the track. Walter assured Allgaier that the team would make some additional adjustments to the car on the next round of pit stops and he should continue to do the best he could in the meantime
For the next green flag segment, Allgaier remained in the top-20, searching the 1.5-mile track for different lines to try and find some grip. He again radioed his Verizon Wireless team on lap 105 to report that the car was still really loose-handling from the middle through the exit of the corners.
The team made a green flag pit stop on lap 146. The Verizon Wireless crew bolted on four fresh tires and filled the car with racing fuel. The team also made both chassis and air pressure adjustments to its car in an effort to dial in the No. 12 for the final shootout to the finish.
Allgaier knew he needed to remain in the top-20 in order to clinch the coveted Rookie-of-the-Year honor. He survived two late-race caution periods and crossed the finish line in the 20th position.
In Penske Racing's first full-time entry in the Nationwide Series, the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge team finished sixth in the series championship standings. The team will return to action in February of 2009 in the season opener at the famed Daytona International Speedway.
"It feels good," said Allgaier of capturing the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year award. "We wanted that worse than anything when the year started and we knew that was going to be a tough, tall order. There were a lot of really great race car drivers that were going for it. Just to be a part of this Raybestos rookie group and to come out on top means a lot. I know we didn't finish where we wanted to in points, but to be sixth in points and to be Rookie of the Year really sums up how great these guys are. The Verizon Wireless guys do an awesome job week in and week out and if it hadn't been for my rookie mistakes, we'd have probably been a lot farther up (in the standings). Thanks to Raybestos and NASCAR for giving me the opportunity to do it because it was awesome and Penske Racing and everybody that's been involved.
"I don't think you could put it all in a book what we've been able to learn this year. We've got a lot of notes to go into next year with. We'll come back next year and get them. I'm just excited for the opportunity to be with these guys and go into next year and work with these guys again because they did a great job all year and I'm glad to have them as my team."