By all means, 35-year-old Justin Allgaier of Riverton, Ill. remains one of the most competitive NASCAR Xfinity Series racers around. Presently, Allgaier, in the midst of his sixth season with JR Motorsports, shows no signs of slowing down.
Of course, Allgaier and his No. 7 Brandt/Unilever Chevrolet Camaro have been consistent championship contenders since 2016. Chiefly, Allgaier and crew chief Jason Burdett pursue their first Xfinity championship. While the title seems somewhat elusive, Allgaier and his team are making a statement with wins at Atlanta and Darlington.
Markedly, Justin Allgaier can take pride in being a successful racer for JR Motorsports. In fact, Allgaier has won 13 of his 16 Xfinity races with this organization.
Moreover, this family man seems very determined for this year’s championship. Undoubtedly, Allgaier finds motivation from his wife Ashley, daughter Harper and the “Tiniest Gator” due later this year. Certainly, this Twitch gamer and streamer seems as relatable as anyone who loves auto racing.
I caught up with Justin Allgaier to get his thoughts on racing for JR Motorsports, coalescing with teammates and gaming. Before Allgaier conquered Darlington, he took some time being on the podium. Now, let’s all get “In the Hot Seat with Justin Allgaier” right here on The Podium Finish!
Rob Tiongson : It’s your sixth season racing for JR Motorsports. What’s it been like to drive for Kelley and Dale Earnhardt Jr since 2016 and be able to truly showcase your talents with them?
Justin Allgaier : Well, I think that what you just said at the end, that is probably the most important piece of truly showcasing talents. Not that I’m saying I’m the best racecar driver in the world. Because I’m obviously not. But, going to a place where they really thrive on giving you good opportunities, great product on the racetrack and good people…now, I think that goes probably as far as anything.
I’m a big people person. And I think that this sport truly is because it’s the people are who makes the driver successful. And, so for me, to go to JR Motorsports, to have the people around me, to have the team around me, it’s been so much fun.
I’ve had great opportunities. I had good opportunities. And I’ve had not so good opportunities in this sport. I’ve kind of been all over the all over the map. And I feel like the thing that I love about JR Motorsports is the fact that it’s a lot like driving for my mom and dad when I was coming up to the lower ranks and into the ARCA series. It’s a very family atmosphere. And it’s a very unique atmosphere in this big, high end business of NASCAR. But, it’s also run really well.
We’ve got good people, like I said. So it’s been so much fun and absolutely a blast. And, you know, it doesn’t seem like six years to be honest with you. But, I’ve definitely had a lot of success and a lot of fun throughout the time period that I’ve been there.
Tiongson : It surprised me too when I was looking up your career stats to refresh myself. It feels like yesterday when you signed with the team. And you’ve shown you’re a consistent front runner with them in the Xfinity Series.
The pandemic has challenged all of us. And I still think it does challenge us in one way or another today. But how would you say that you and your family kept positive and strong during the onset of the pandemic?
Allgaier : Yeah, I mean, I think it definitely hurt a lot of things, right? Not just what we do on the racetrack, right? But there was a lot of things that it affected. And our family’s been very lucky.
Last year, we literally landed in Atlanta when things got shut down. We quarantined as soon as I got home from Atlanta. And we stayed that way. Even now, we’ve really been trying to be as careful as we possibly can, trying to do the things that are obviously the safest.
And, you know, I think that’s been important. Like I said, we’ve been very lucky that we haven’t gotten sick. But my daughter has battled a recurring form of croup. And she’s battled that basically since birth. So for us, we know that’s a big part of what we don’t want her to have to deal with during this pandemic.
I think that that’s been really, really stressful. I can’t imagine what these other families are going through that have had to deal with that. For us, it’s been really stressful. So we’ve definitely tried to do what we can to keep her safe and keep ourselves safe.
That’s just been a big part of it. We’ll keep doing that until this is obviously over. But I’m not sure that anybody’s gonna go back to normal, even when we look at what we would consider as the new normal.
I think that there’s going to be a lot of change for how we move forward for a lot of people. I think it’s very interesting. So, it’s kind of the new normal right now with what we have to deal with. And we just go on to the racetrack and try to do the best we can.
Tiongson : How strange has it been just to show up at the track and basically say, “Alright, your first laps, is when you go out and race?”
Allgaier : Well, you know, kind of going back to what I said earlier about our race team, when it comes to people, showing up to the racetrack with no fans had been so difficult.
You know, I don’t really believe that our fans know how much we feed off of their energy and off of what’s going on and what they do for us. It’s really kind of crazy, to be honest. It was just a different atmosphere that we showed up to last year. And so that was obviously different.
But the other part of it with no practice, I think….I’m actually not all that disappointed with no practice. It definitely made for a very unique, very different racing. So, I’m not super disappointed with it.
You have to be on your A game. And when you when you unload and you are starting to race, you better get your A game or life gets tough in a hurry, right?
So, that’s been probably the most unique part of all of this. We are being asked to be at 100% all of the time. I think it’s been a big challenge. The team’s done a good job. I’m very proud of our team of where we’ve unloaded week in and week out. And, you know, we just got to keep with it.
I don’t know how long this is going to last. I don’t know how long we’re going to go where we don’t have practice, and we don’t have qualifying or any of those things. But, I definitely think that our team’s done a good job in the interim. And, hopefully we can keep doing that as we move forward.
Tiongson : I’d say that’s the mark of a true champion. Being able to not just accept the reality, but to be able to confront it and not to let it stop you. And I think that’s one of the hallmarks of what makes you and your team such a strong, perennial force each season.
Allgaier : I think racing is a battle of changes, right? Even you look at each race in general, you’re not only banking on what your car does. But you’re banking on what everybody else’s car is going to do. You’re banking on when there’s going to be a caution. And you’re banking on all these details that really are out of your control.
I think, from my standpoint, you have to take that in stride and say, “Hey, you know, in an ever evolving world, I just have to be ready for whatever that evolution is, right? If it’s good, bad or indifferent, you got to be ready to roll with it.” Luckily, here of late especially, we’ve been able to do that.
Tiongson : It kind of feels like, in a way NASCAR, again, mirrors real life. And it’s kind of strange how that works out where life throws curveballs. You could either tuck your head between your legs. Or you can kind of take it and be like, “Alright, let’s do this.”
Last year, during the pause between Phoenix and Darlington, you and your peers competed in several eNASCAR races. How was that experience like for you? And how does it compare to on track racing?
Allgaier : Well, you know, I had a blast, number one first and foremost. I’ve been an iRacing advocate for a number of years now. And I have enjoyed iRacing for what it is, what it teaches us…the whole platform, it’s just a great platform. Number one, obviously, I’ve been an advocate for that.
Number two, it allowed a very unique atmosphere. The first two weeks, I ran the Sunday races where we had to try to qualify our way in and then actually race with the Cup guys. They had a lot of interest in other drivers doing it. And they ended up filling the field on the Sunday races with Cup guys. They had to end up going to a Friday night or Saturday night race.
For me, I went from racing just the Xfinity Series regulars, to not only racing Xfinity Series regulars, but racing Truck drivers, Cup series drivers, ARCA series drivers, NASCAR Euro drivers, NASCAR Mexico drivers…all these men and women that joined in on our series that I don’t race with on a regular basis.
And I think that made it fun from a standpoint of being able to show up and go race these guys and gals. I really felt like we had a lot of fun with it and enjoyed racing around everybody and getting to know everybody. No matter what you do, you’re still getting to know people. You’re talking through the service. You’re talking through Discord, whatever it ended up being. But then, on top of that, kind of adding even more, I was lucky enough to really connect with a lot of the professional eNASCAR racers and get their help and their input and their tips.
Michael Conti, number one, is the first and foremost. He was a huge help for me especially early on and with his help. And then through his introduction, other drivers in that series were able to help me through this kind of change in life. And I think that that was that was fun for me. It really broadened my horizons.
It makes you think outside the box. I think that that’s really the most important piece of all. You get stuck in a box a lot of times with what we do week in and week out. And sometimes, it’s nice to be able to, to go outside of your comfort zone and really think outside the box and put yourself in a new position.
Tiongson : I’ve watched a lot of these eNASCAR Coca Cola iRacing Series events. Michael Conti is an exciting racer to watch. Just to watch them race, when the hiatus was going on, it was like watching you guys out in the racetrack. And just seeing how devoted and serious they are with their gamesmanship and competitive they are too. I think seeing you guys do it. Watching the actual sim professional compete in eNASCAR iRacing Series gave me a new appreciation for sim racing. So that’s really cool to see those two worlds colliding and got to work together.
Allgaier : It was really neat for me. And it gives me a new respect for them with what they do the time and effort they put into their programs. Our races were fixed setups. And I’ll be honest with you, I’m glad they were fixed setups.
When you see the dedication and the amount of hours that those racers put in on their programs to be successful and competitive week in and week out, it’s absolutely incredible to me. I don’t think they get the credit they deserve for what they’re doing.
There’s obviously a lot of differences from what we do on a regular basis going to the racetrack to what that was for us. But, I did think that it was a lot of fun. And the other part of that is it gave our fans a great segue to coming back from this pandemic, give them something to watch and enjoy.
Our fans, you could just tell, they were behind us. And they were pushing us and they were a part of me. I was lucky enough to join Twitch during this pandemic and be a part of that culture, if you will. I learned a lot and really fell in love with the streaming platform. The group of fans that we have that that kind of follow along that way was really special for me. So you know, there was a lot of things that I that I took out of there and really said, “Hey, man, this is way better than I ever expected.”
Last but not least, the job that iRacing did as a service to, number one, create a platform for us to do this, but also put us in position where, if you watched the broadcasts, the broadcasts were excellent, right? Between the visuals, the camera angles, the commentators, I felt like everybody did a great job of of turning this into a really successful program. And I think that kept NASCAR relevant through the time that we had all. It’s going to be what drives us to be in the future.
Tiongson : I would say that’s a great testament to Evan Posocco and his crew with iRacing. And just all of them. It’s such a well done platform. I think that’s one of the neat things that we’ve seen during the pandemic. Everyone worked together. And we got to introduce this platform, which I think more people are going to be interested in it.
You talked about Michael Conti as he was almost was your on track teammate. What are the qualities that you look for in some of the best teammates you’ve had in your NASCAR career? Whether with your current team with JR Motorsports, Team Penske, any of them from your career?
Allgaier : I’ve been fortunate enough to have some good examples, and some not so good examples, right? I think that it’s very unique when you have teammates because, number one, you want to beat your teammates. There’s no question. When you know that your teammates are driving similar equipment to yours, you want to beat them.
But I think, number two, it goes deeper than that. For me, whether you get along with a driver or not, that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. As a team, you have people that, number one, work on a car, right?
You have mechanics that work on my No. 7 team. And that is their livelihood. That’s what they that’s what they do for a living. And I’m not going to say that success on the racetrack determines whether they have a job or not. Because that’s really not a fair answer. But in a roundabout ways, it is the right answer, right? If you’re not good at your job, you’re going to lose your job, right?
So, I think that you have to put those mechanics in a good position when you’re on the racetrack. And then you look and you say, “Okay, well, the guys that work in the shop, so the fab shop, guys, the guys that do the electrical, and the guys that do teardown, whatever position that is, you have to give them an opportunity to be successful, right?”
The more successful you’re on the racetrack, the easier it is for the race teams to attract sponsorship. In turn, it allows you to hire good people and keep them employed and keep them going up each and every week. So now you have to look and say, “OK, I’m racing for all of their livelihoods, right? I’m racing to put food on their table.”
When you have teammates, and you’re racing against each other, if you’re running up front and winning races, or if you’re running in the back, and you’re just trying to make it from race to race, you’re probably going to race around each other, right? There’s no way of getting around that.
You’re going to go to the racetrack. And you’re going to battle each other usually. So you have to be respectful. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t be competitive with them, but you have to be respectful. You got to race cleanly because you don’t want to see anybody have to do more work than they should. Or cost the team more money than they should.
So I think that there’s a lot of characteristics that kind of feed into what I would consider a good teammate. For me, I’m a people person. That’s what’s always driven me. It’s the people in the sport.
And, whatever team is in our fleet, I feel like if they know that if they ever need anything from me, help with what I’m doing on the racetrack, help with outside of the racetrack, whether that be working on a race car, whatever it is, they know that I’m always there and ready and willing to help them.
And I think that that to me is something that I always look for in a teammate. It’s somebody that’s willing to help. Even when their back is up against the wall, to lend out a helping hand and try to help bring you up and move yourself forward if you’re on another car, that’s what I would say, in my mind, is what I look for in a good teammate.
Tiongson : Earlier, you mentioned how you’re a part of the Twitch community. Would you say that doing Twitch streams is a calming outlet for you?
Allgaier : I think, for me, I was a Twitch fan before I became a Twitch streamer. I’ve enjoyed watching other gamers play. That community is great. There’s a lot of people and conversation. It’s a tightknit group of people. I think the thing that’s interesting about gaming is that there’s no criteria for being a gamer.
You can be a great gamer at an older or younger age. You can be good at it or bad at it like me. I’m terrible with most games. But I still have with them. And I like being a part of that community.
Special thanks to Justin Allgaier for taking the time for this latest “In the Hot Seat” interview series on The Podium Finish. Also, thanks to Megan Johnson for making this interview possible. You can keep track of Justin Allgaier on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, his official website and here on TPF! Lastly, Happy Mother’s Day to my mom Elizabeth, my sister Tess, Justin’s mom Dorothy, Justin’s wife Ashley and all of the motherly figures in our lives!