By Lee Montgomery
Special to Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
Justin Allgaier already has a solid ride in place for next season, as he'll join Turner Motorsports for a full NASCAR Nationwide Series season.
But that doesn't mean he's ready to walk away from Penske Racing just yet, not when Penske gave him a chance in NASCAR and enabled him to win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award in 2009 and win at Bristol earlier this season.
This weekend's Ford 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the final race of the Nationwide season, will be "really bittersweet" for the young driver.
"For me, I'm very appreciative of the opportunity that I've had for the last two years, to have a great sponsor like Verizon and a great team behind me," Allgaier said. "That being said, there's a lot of opportunity moving forward with Turner Motorsports.
"But I've built such a great relationship with the guys (at Penske), and it's going to be hard to just walk away from that. I was in the shop this week and talked to a lot of different people, and it's kind of starting to hit everybody that this is the last one, this is it, this is the final go-round. It's going to be tough. I'm not looking forward to the race being over, but at the same time, I'm excited about the new challenges in front of me."
The weekend itself probably won't be that much different than the other races Allgaier has spent with the No. 12 team. He'll drive as fast as he can and work on getting the car better, both during practice and the race.
But after the race? Allgaier sighs when he thinks about it.
"I've always been kind of a person who's worn my emotions on my sleeve," Allgaier said. "I've tried not to be that way as much. But I know that come Homestead, it's going to be tough. I'm going to have a tough time with it-but probably not until afterward. We're going to give it 100 percent and push it really hard until the race is over, and when it's over, it's going to be interesting. I'm going to have a tough time with it."
Does he dare think about celebrating with the team in victory lane? Homestead hasn't been that kind to him, as his best finish there was a 20th last season. Still, he believes the team should be good at the 1.5-mile track.
"As long as we stay within ourselves and don't' have anything stupid happen to us, we've got the opportunity to go win the race," Allgaier said. "That being said, it's going to be tough. I'm not going to lie, I know it's going to be tough. But I think we've got the opportunity to go do that."
Nationwide Series fact box
What: Ford 300
Where: Homestead-Miami Speedway; Homestead, Fla.
When: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN2, 4 p.m. Eastern
Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128
Race distance: 200 laps/300 miles
Qualifying: Saturday, 11:35 a.m. Eastern
Track layout: 1.5-mile oval
2009 winner: Kyle Busch
2009 polesitter: Carl Edwards
Points leaders: 1. Brad Keselowski, 5,474; 2. Carl Edwards, 5,044; 3. Kyle Busch, 4,739; 4. Justin Allgaier, 4,544; 5. Paul Menard, 4,329; 6. Kevin Harvick, 4,214; 7. Joey Logano, 3,887; 8. Trevor Bayne, 3,886; 9. Steve Wallace, 3,822; 10. Jason Leffler, 3,807.