WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Audio and story by Race Chaser Online Associate Editor Kyle Magda — Matt Sullivan/Getty Images North America photo —
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Justin Allgaier has always taking a liking to road-course racing.
Before joining the Cup Series full-time, Allgaier scored one of his three career NASCAR XFINITY Series wins in August 2012 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal and just came up short of another when the fuel tank ran dry while leading at Road America in June 2011.
On Saturday afternoon, the 29-year-old driver posted the best starting position of his short NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career by qualifying 12th for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen. Since NASCAR first introduced the group qualifying format last season, Allgaier had never seen the final round of qualifying until slotting in 11th in round one Saturday.
“Our BRANDT Chevrolet is really good,” Allgaier said. “We felt like the first lap was going to be a good one and then unfortunately had to run a second run in the first round and bumped our way back into the top-12, which was great.”
Allgaier’s previous best qualifying result was a 14th last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but bettered that showing by turning the lap of 69.519 seconds Saturday to bump his way back in a transfer spot to make his first final round of qualifying. Round two didn’t go as planned, as the Indiana driver qualified 12th in the session, but still registered his best starting spot since his Cup debut in September 2013 at Chicagoland Speedway.
“We just kind of overadjusted a little bit there for the second round, but still put up a really solid qualifying effort,” Allgaier added. “We feel like our car is really good in race trim and I think starting up front and getting a good pit stall selection definitely will help with just being with good cars, being in good traffic and being able to call the race kind of the way we want to.”
Allgaier first competed at the 2.45-mile road course in the Finger Lakes Region of New York in the XFINITY Series in 2009 for Penske Racing with a 17th-place finish. It seemed he had no good luck in the first few years competing there in that series, but recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes in 2012 and 2013 by finishing ninth and seventh in those events, respectively.
“I love coming here,” Allgaier said of Watkins Glen. “I tell everybody all the time I love road racing and Watkins Glen is one of my favorites, so definitely love coming up here and when you run good at a place, it helps make you want to come back, so definitely excited about tomorrow’s race.”
Coming into this weekend, Allgaier currently sits 29th in points and has a best finish of eighth in April at Bristol for his career-best showing. Before joining the NASCAR ranks, he ran the ARCA Racing Series with his family team before being discovered by Roger Penske after winning the 2008 ARCA series championship to best the likes of Scott Speed and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
His first NASCAR start came in NXS competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental Dodge for the Captain and ran four full seasons in NASCAR’s second-tier series before joining the premier series on a regular basis.
Allgaier rolls off from the 12th spot for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. Coverage begins live at 1 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC Sports Network.
Listen in as Race Chaser Online caught up with Allgaier following Coors Light Pole Qualifying at WGI: