By Joe Dunn
With the announcement last week that Shell-Pennzoil is moving to Penske next year, more question than answers have surfaced. Among the them is how this will effect the future of Justin Allgaier with Penske and his chances of moving to a Cup road.
I caught up with Justin last Thursday On Pit Road at Talladega, during ARCA qualifying. He was anxious to talk about it, and to point out that he didn’t feel that it would impact him or the timing of his career. “I didn’t expect to ever see Kurt get out of the 2 car, so it’s gonna be a big change, but a good change.” said Allgaier “Brad getting behind the wheel of the 2 car is a big feather in his cap, and I think that’s pretty cool for him.” Allgaier reiterated the fact that Roger Penske had already said that he intends to keep Sam Hornish Jr in a Cup car. He also indicated that the 12 car would probably remain with the Organization. When I asked Allgaier about the future of the 12 car in Cup, he said “Obviously they like the 22 because it matches the 2 and the 12 very well.”, indicating that Hornish would move from the 77 to the 12.
About the possibility of him running a 7 cup race schedule in 2011, which would preserve his Rookie status for 2012, he responded, “ I think for sure we’ll have three cars full time. They (Penske Racing) have been adamant that they are very content with having three cars and right now would not be the time to have four. Do I see a seven race car, probably not, but there are always those question marks.”
Speaking about his future, Justin appeared to be quite comfortable with the idea of remaining in the NNS for at least one and possibly two more years. “I think the biggest thing for me is that Verizon has been a great partner with Penske Racing on our Nationwide program,” said Allgaier,” and we can’t do that on the Cup side.” He expressed that he really is comfortable with staying in the NNS car for another year or two and work toward a Cup ride as a progression with the organization. With a contract that extends beyond this year, he appears content with letting Penske Racing plot his career.
“Penske Racing is very good about signing long term partners… I want to be around Penske Racing for a long time.” Allgaier told me, “I would even be content with retiring at Penske.” He repeatedly said that he has his sights on a NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship, and if that meant staying in that Series for another two years, that would be good with him. I have seen a lot of young drivers in this sport move up quick, and sometimes that fast pace proved to be their downfall. Justin has one of the best attitudes that I have seen in a young driver who is showing a lot of promise in his sophomore year in the NNS. I have to look at him as the real future of Penske, so long as a Hendrick or Roush run at him does not occur. Allgaier is sincerely happy at Penske, but he is a genuine up and coming talent that surely has gotten the attention of other teams. However, based on our conversation, it would take a really big move to shake his confidence and loyalty in Penske Racing. I’d watch for this young man running up front in Cup in 2013.