Salem: Justin Allgaier - Series spotlight

Aiming for ARCA's Allgaier at Salem SALEM IN (4-3-08) -- For the moment, Justin Allgaier is second in ARCA RE/MAX Series points headed to Salem Speedway for the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 presented by Federated Auto Parts Sunday ...

Aiming for ARCA's Allgaier at Salem

SALEM IN (4-3-08) -- For the moment, Justin Allgaier is second in ARCA RE/MAX Series points headed to Salem Speedway for the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 presented by Federated Auto Parts Sunday afternoon, April 13th.

The Springfield, Illinois driver trails point leader Michael Annett by 20 points; however, Annett is not expected to enter the Salem race. That said, Allgaier, by virtue of a 25-point pre-entry, will be the new point leader when the 21-year-old driver marches through the Salem turnstiles.

Leaving Salem as point leader will, of course, be the bigger trick.

"It's nice to be there (leading the points), but at the same time, we know there's only one race in the books," said Allgaier from his Riverton, Illinois-based race shop. "But we'd rather leave Salem as the point leader rather than the other way around.

"All it does is give everyone else something to aim for. You become everyone's target."

Allgaier, who finished second in the Daytona opener -- a career-best superspeedway finish -- is the most recent winner at Salem where he led 73 laps and held off the Salem track-master Frank Kimmel for the victory last September.

Allgaier's overall Salem stat package is impressive. In eight Salem attempts, he has four top-10 finishes including a pair of third place runs in 2006 and 2003. He also qualified second and fourth at Salem in 2006.

But unlike many of the top teams, Allgaier has elected to forego testing at Salem.

"It's just not economical for us to test at Salem at this time, because they're all private tests there and you have to pay to rent the track. We are planning on testing at Iowa and Kansas, which are open tests as opposed to the private tests."

Regardless, Allgaier did get some testing in at Salem in October of 2007 where he did a tire test at the request of Hoosier. The ARCA RE/MAX Series competitors will be competing on radial tires on all the short tracks in 2008 and beyond. Prior to 2008, the series had been competing on bias-ply tires on all the short tracks.

"We actually tested the new short track radial at Toledo (Speedway) the day after the Toledo race. Then we tested at Salem the following day. I have to admit, as well as the bias-ply tire held up, I was skeptical about the new radial. But Hoosier did a great job getting where they need to be.

"I know a lot of people are concerned, but I think you're going to see an even better race at Salem with the new radials. I mean, after looking at the tire, and knowing what the car did on the track, I think there's going to be a bigger range of cars that are competitive. I think the tire will warrant cars racing with each other more.

"But the tire does create some changes. It's definitely a different set-up. It's an uncharacteristic set-up. We're throwing things at the car we've never done before. It's odd, really, but Salem's still Salem; and you can't change that. It's still a big challenge."

And since 1947, Salem Speedway has been challenging drivers over and over and over again.

"I love the place. The fans seem to love it too. But from a driver's point of view, Salem's the most fun to watch everyone else from the driver's seat. It's just an awesome view from the car; I wouldn't want to give up my seat."

Allgaier will be shooting for back-to-back victories at Salem, which hasn't been done since 2003 when Shelby Howard swept the spring and fall races. There hasn't been a repeat winner since.

"If you look at the entry list and look at the cars that are going to show up, it'll be a major accomplishment just to finish on the lead lap. But I absolutely love Salem, and that helps. The place is so much fun. There are guys that love Salem and guys that hate Salem, and there's no in between. And I think Salem's either good or bad to you depending on how much you like it or don't like it. If you hate Salem, you can take yourself right out of the yourself right out of a good finish, or talk yourself into a wreck.

"I think it's definitely a place where experience can pay off. If you're a driver coming in who's never been there before, I think the place is flat tough to grasp."

Difficult to grasp could be an understatement. The track is unnervingly rough with each end behaving differently. In one and two, the best way through is right through the middle; but in three and four, if you want to be fast, you have to be inches away from the outer retaining wall.

"I struggle with one and two. It's hard to get the car to turn through there. Now I love three and four, right against the wall. In three and four you can drive it in hard and carry the momentum all the way around. You can't do that in one and two.

"The key is being smart all day long, and not losing concentration. You gotta be smart, cautious, yet you gotta go fast or you'll get run over.

"But when we won there last year, I felt like I could have gone another 200 laps; I wanted to."

Soon to be point leader Justin Allgaier also wants to be the point leader when he exits the Salem turnstiles, which is way easier wished than done.

-credit: arca

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About this article
Series ARCA
Drivers Shelby Howard , Justin Allgaier , Michael Annett