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Justin Allgaier: Texas Motor Speedway is Awesome

By Matt Weaver (FORT WORTH, Tex.) — NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Justin Allgaier compared Texas Motor Speedway to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday morning during a pace car ride around the Great American Speedway.

Texas has not been repaved since 2006 and the racing surface has started to provide the tire wear and widened grooves of its sister track in Hampton, Ga, which is noted for its good racing as a result of an increasingly corrosive track surface.

“The only difference is that Atlanta has more banking to hold it,” Allgaier said. “Here we don’t quite have the banking so it makes it a little more difficult because of that. It still has good banking but you’ll notice how flat the straightaways are.Atlanta still has good banking in the straights so that makes a little bit of a difference.”

Allgaier also agreed that the racing surface has started to widen out over the past several seasons, making it one of his favorite stops on the tour.

“Oh this place is awesome,” he said. “You can really run four-wide if you wanted to.”

The complete conversation with Allgaier and video of his pace car ride can be viewed below.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Allgaier Hopes to Change Destiny with Daytona Win

By Matt Weaver — Justin Allgaier knew that graduating to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014 would be a difficult proposition but a victory on Saturday night in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona has the potential to negate all of the hard times and securely place his Brandt Chevrolet into the Chase for the Championship.

Allgaier enters the weekend 29th in the standings for the upstart HScott Motorsports team that purchased the assets of Phoenix Racing during the off-season. While the 28-year-old expected some growing pains, he told Popular Speed over the weekend that not a lot about his debut season has made sense.

He has struggled on some of the tracks where he thought he would have success, like the road course at Sonoma, while posting top-20s at two of the toughest venues in NASCAR — Michigan and Bristol.

“We’ve underachieved at some of the places where we expected to do well,” Allgaier said. “The Sprint Cup Series is challenging but it’s been cool to see this team grow and how far we’ve come in a short amount of time.

“It’s pretty exciting and it starts with (team owner) Harry Scott and (crew chief) Steve Addington. It’s going to take time but we’re building something here.”

Allgaier believes that having a successful veteran like Addington on top of the pit box cannot be understated. Addington also serves as the HScott competition director and Allgaier says he has shortened the team’s learning curve significantly.

“I’ve been that it takes up to three years to have everything come together in Cup,” Allgaier said. “As a driver, you don’t even know what you don’t know until you it happens. Steve has been around for a long time and he’s prepared us for many of the things we’ve faced. Just look at the teams he has worked for and all the races he has won. It’s a heck of a list. He’s just so good at managing all the little things that pop up.”

Going the Distance: Justin Allgaier Q&A

Despite all the struggles this season and an average finish of 26th, Allgaier still has one significant opportunity to make the Chase for the Championship should he win the restrictor plate race at Daytona on Saturday night.

Allgaier believes he and his team were simply “caught off guard” for the Daytona 500 in February after starting 40th and surviving to 27th. He cited his success at Talladega in May as a reason to remain optimistic that he will get to the front again on Saturday.

After starting 38th, Allgaier raced his way to second in Alabama before bumper damage relegated him to another 27th-place plate result. Allgaier has now resolved to finish the deed in Daytona.

“We drove from the back of the field to lead,” Allgaier said of his Talladega effort. “That was good for us. But as long as something stupid doesn’t happen, we should be able to do some of the same things at Daytona.”

Should Allgaier successfully pull off the upset and make the Chase for the Championship, the spoils of victory has the potential to change the entire course of destiny for HScott Motorsports. It would automatically earn them over 15 positions in the championship standings and provide them a larger media and marketing platform to aid their attempts to grow the team into a perennial winner.

“I don’t think we’re the only ones who think that,” Allgaier said. “Everyone does. It’s amazing what this new championship format has the potential to do. We could go from finishing to 29th to no worse than 16th and that’s a big difference.

But Allgaier argues that a team can in advance in the Chase in the same way that they made it, especially with another wild card restrictor plate race at Talladega in October.

“What if we make the Chase and someone had a really bad stretch of races that allowed us to advance again? It’s just interesting to think about. I feel like we’ve made great strides this season but making the Chase would help us so much more.

If these things could happen to a small team like ours — that’s pretty amazing.”

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NASCAR Cup Series

Going the Distance … with Justin Allgaier

Each week, Popular Speed will ask a different NASCAR personality 10 questions about their career, lifestyle or off-beat personality traits. Next up: NASCAR veteran, ARCA champion and Sprint Cup rookie of the year candidate, Justin Allgaier.

Popular Speed: Do you still feel the novelty and aura of getting to the race track each week or has it become a job?

Justin Allgaier: I still love what I do and while it can feel like a job, I can’t picture myself ever wanting to do something different.

PS: What first attracted you to motorsports?

JA: I was involved in racing when I was little through my dad (Mike) who worked in the ARCA Series. I wanted to be at the track and my mom, who was trying to keep me out of racing, took me to a quarter midget race when I was five to see a friend of mine race. It hooked me and I saw those kids race and I wanted to be like them too.

PS: I thought your mom was trying to keep you away from racing? (Laughs)

JA: I think she concluded that it was inevitable. Her worst fear came true. (laughs) But seriously, I don’t think anyone regrets. We had a blast with it and I still am.

PS: Who was your childhood hero?

JA: Mine was different just because I came up in the ARCA ranks and watched Ken Schrader race. He was my guy because I saw him race on Sunday in the Cup Series but he would dabble in ARCA and race anything you offered to him. He would come over to our house when I was younger when ARCA was in town and he gave me that personal link to root for him on Sundays.

PS: Do you have a bucket list track that you haven’t been able to race on yet?

JA: I look at race tracks that are on schedules that I don’t run anymore. I look at some of those Kansas quarter midget tracks. But the more I think about it, I would love to race at Laguna Seca – that corkscrew. I played that circuit on video games and it seems like such a fun course.

PS: Who would you like to pluck from a different discipline and race side-by-side against in NASCAR?

JA: You would start with a guy like Kimi Raikkonen, right? He didn’t give it the full attention that you need to but you saw the potential and he exceeded expectation. But when I look at all different sports, I think I’d rather race the guys we race now. I don’t want to race against anyone but those guys because they are the best in the world at what they do.

PS: What is your favorite all-time paint scheme?

JA: Sammy Swindell — the TMC sprint car. It was a simple paint scheme but it always stood out to me.Sammy

PS: What is your favorite on-track battle that you’ve been a part of?

JA: It wasn’t a long battle but I think of the one me and Carl (Edwards) had at Chicagoland in 2011. We had both ran out of gas but were still digging to get back to the line. We ran out coming through Turn 2 and were side-by-side, not knowing if we would make it.

PS: What is your favorite race city to visit?

JA: It’s funny because if you had asked me last week, I would have had a different answer. I really enjoyed my time in Sonoma. It is just a cool laid back atmosphere — just awesome. But I always enjoyed going to Nashville. The one thing that’s disappointing about what we do is that we go to all these amazing cities but we never have time to enjoy them because we’re there to work.

PS:  What is one make-or-break moment that has defined your career?

JA: I would say for me, the ARCA championship in 2008. It didn’t affect my next contract — I had already sent it back to Penske but being in a position to be called a champion is something that really matters to me. It’s still something I put a lot of pride towards.

Read the rest of the Going the Distance NASCAR Q&A Series HERE.