Has Nationwide Series driver Justin Allgaier jumped over the biggest hurdle on the way to NASCAR stardom?
By winning two weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway, Allgaier confirmed what many believe is a young driver loaded with talent. All Allgaier needed to do to take the next step was win, they said.
"The step (at Bristol) is what he needs—the confidence," Penske Racing team owner Roger Penske said. "You're always close, but if you haven't won that race, you need that. … I think he's got a great future with us."
Allgaier joined Penske before what was supposed to be a part-time season in 2009, but that turned into a full-time 35-race effort when sponsor Verizon Wireless joined the No. 12 Dodge. Allgaier won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award last year but didn't find victory lane.
Now, though, he has.
"The sky's the limit for this kid, and we just unleashed a monster," crew chief Chad Walter said after Allgaier's victory. "He's got a little confidence now. That's a great thing. Look out."
Allgaier remains cautious, though, as he probably should be. The 23-year-old from Riverton, Ill., doesn't want one victory to go to his head.
"That's an awesome, awesome win for us," Allgaier said. "Chad told me before the race, 'Look, it's going to take us finishing third or fourth probably a lot to put a whole race together and get one.' Fortunately, we did—we put the whole race together, and it didn't take a couple times to get one. We got it.
"I know that that's not something we're going to do every week. We'd like to, but that's just how this sport is. You're not going to win every week. Now we've got to figure out how to manage what we've done and how to put races together and be there in victory lane more times this year."
Allgaier got a bit of a jolt of reality as he tested a Sprint Cup car at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week, losing control and scraping the wall.
Still, Allgaier isn't likely to let that shake his confidence. He's third in the Nationwide Series standings heading into this Saturday's Nashville 300 at Nashville Superspeedway, trailing only Carl Edwards and teammate Brad Keselowski.
Maybe he really is a monster about to be unleashed.
"I like that comment," Allgaier said with a smile. I hope that it's true—a monster in a good way, I think he meant, not in a bad way. They always say the first one is the hardest one to win, and after that they get easier. Hopefully that's the case."
What: Nashville 300
Where: Nashville Superspeedway; Gladeville, Tenn.
When: 4 p.m. Eastern Saturday
TV: 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Radio: MRN/SIRIUS Satellite Ch. 128
Track layout: 1.33-mile oval
Race distance: 225 laps/299.93 miles
Qualifying: 12:05 p.m. Eastern Saturday
2009 winner: Joey Logano
2009 polesitter: Carl Edwards
Points leaders: 1. Carl Edwards, 670; 2. Brad Keselowski, 644; 3. Justin Allgaier, 639; 4. Kyle Busch, 594; 5. Kevin Harvick, 569; 6. Greg Biffle, 563; 7. Paul Menard, 528; 8. Steve Wallace, 472; 9. Mike Wallace, 458; Brian Vickers, 457.