Ask anybody in racing and they will tell you that it's a sport of specialization. As a general rule, a guy is either an expert on dirt or pavement, a demon in a stock car, or at home in an open-wheel machine.
Sounds like it might take two or three drivers to fulfill all those requirements, but in Springfield, Illinois, native Justin Allgaier, you've got all of the above in one neat package. The resum includes quarter midgets, micro midgets, full midgets, and Silver Crown open-wheel machines, along with the powerful Dirt Late Model stock cars and ARCA cars. He's excelled at every level.
This kid doesn't just arrive at the car before hot-lapping. He's involved in much of the mechanical work on his race car, whether or not the wheels are open or have fenders over them.
The credentials are eye-rattling, and it appears this college freshman has all the skills to take his career to the next level. The 18-year-old youngster simply has a lot going for him.
He has a desire to learn everything he can about the technology and how to improve his driving. He's a listener and a watcher, and he doesn't appear to have a thing on his mind. Being loose and smooth, the kid is an interviewer's dream.
He always has a smile, and you have to like him and hope that he succeeds. Young racers today could learn a lot from Justin Allgaier.
A Racer's lifeTo say he's grown up in a racing environment would definitely be putting it mildly. His dad, Mike, is the head man at Hoosier Tires Midwest and oversees Justin's career-a career that had been almost 100 percent open-wheel prior to the '01 season.
Despite what many may assume, dear old Dad doesn't prepare special tires for his talented son. Justin laughed at the idea, though. "I am sure there are a lot of fans that think that's the case," he said.
With the success he's had in fenderless race cars, it's hard to figure out why he's moved in the direction of Dirt Late Models. Justin said that it stems from a situation that occurred several years ago when his dad worried about his progressing to a high-performance Sprint Car.
His open-wheel career began at age five with quarter midgets and lasted for six years. Then came the flighty 600cc winged Micro Sprints, followed by the motorcycle engine-powered Kenyon Midgets and even full midgets, which he still continues to run occasionally and effectively.
Throughout this combination career, the results have been startling with considerable success. For example, there were over 100 feature wins, including five National wins, in quarter midgets. Nonetheless, it appears that the major effort for the near future will be in stock cars.
It started with Dirt Late Models in 2000, running a half-dozen times. He ran locally in his Illinois home state with a best finish of Seventh in a UMP race at St. Charles Speedway.
There was a significant difference in moving to the full-body stock cars. "The biggest thing was the slow steering of the stockers," said Justin. "At first, it was like driving a truck, but after three or four races, I got used to it.
"The extra weight of the cars, though, didn't seem to bother me. One thing is for sure, not being able to see the front tires really took me a while to get used to."
Being only about five feet tall that first Dirt Late Model season, Justin had to have his seat jacked up considerably. "My strategy that first year was to get behind a fast car and try to follow his tracks and stay up with him," he recalled. "I got crossed up a couple times, and one time spun out and ended up facing the wrong way on the track. Very embarrassing."
This mature but very youthful driver also indicated that a driving style change was required with the Late Models. "Instead of running on the edge as I did with the open wheelers, I had to run slower with the stock cars, along with running a lot smoother," he said. "Had to calm myself down and figure that there were just some moves that I couldn't make with these bigger cars."
For the '01 season, his first Dirt Late Model effort, he ran an ambitious 51 races, but missed making the feature just a handful of times. He finished in the Top 10 two dozen times.
He competed mainly at Farmer City and I55, Macon, Kankakee, Highland, Peoria, and Belle Clair speedways. At Farmer City, he finished Fifth in points. A pair of wins came at Macon, a tiny 11/45-mile oval.
One of Justin's former competitors and advisors was Bob Pierce, a retired Hall of Fame Dirt Late Model driver and current car builder, who has nothing but good things to say about the youngster. "This kid is really talented, no doubt about that," Bob said. "I'm aware that he was a winner in open-wheel cars, but to make this big transition is truly amazing."
Because of his youth, it was necessary for Justin to be emancipated for his first year of Dirt Late Models. "It allowed me to race at some tracks, but there were others that still said no," Justin recalled.
He still recalls those days when he was anxiously waiting until the following season when he would turn 16 and be able to run the big races at Eldora Speedway and other tracks.
Justin has also benefited greatly from the help he has received from Denny Fuller and former driver Larry Moore.
Starting in 2002, he made his debut in the tough ARCA series and its Nextel Cup-type cars. Running the first year for Ken Schrader, his best effort in three outings was an 11th place at DuQuoin, Illinois. A year later, there were six ARCA efforts with a best of Third at Salem, Indiana, and two Top 10 finishes. Then, in five events last season, he showed a Second at Toledo, a Fourth at Duquoin, and an Eighth at Springfield. In addition, he qualified in the Top 10 every time out.
Meanwhile, he continued his Dirt Late Model activities and continued to impress in those cars. In his last race of the season, the star-studded Xtreme/UMP race at Knoxville (Iowa) Speedway, he finished a very impressive Seventh, the youngest driver to ever make the show.
Even the U.S. Air Force became aware of this talented and amiable young driver and has supported his career. Justin, of course, is an open-wheeler at heart, and that career has continued during his stock car forays.
Starting in 1999, there were 600cc Micro Sprints (five wins), and a pair of wins in Kenyon Midgets in 2000. His major interest ever since has been the speedy midgets.
"Hey, I know I've got a lot of guys to thank for supporting my career, and I really want to thank them, along with, of course, my dad, for making all this possible," this busy young driver explained.
"It's a great opportunity, and I plan to make the most of it."