Penske Racing is an organization on the move. As they transitioned this season into their role as the sole Dodge team in NASCAR, Penske has found success and wins. Despite their move up in the world, they are in familiar territory for race teams these days – light on sponsorship and heavy on drivers.
Sirius Speedway reported last week that Verizon Wireless was out as sponsor on Penske’s NASCAR programs and would likely transition strictly to the IndyCar Series – obviously the company is running into exclusivity issues with Cup Series title sponsor Sprint. On top of Verizon, the company is searching for a replacement to Mobil 1, which is leaving Penske at the end of the year because of a conflict with new sponsor Shell. While this leaves Sam Hornish Jr. in a bad spot, it’s Justin Allgaier who’s the real loser.
Allgaier burst onto the scene in 2008 after winning the ARCA championship for his family owned team. If you’ll remember, that was the season Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Scott Speed each ended the others shot at the Championship in the final race.
Allgaier joined Penske in the Nationwide Series full time last season. And by all accounts it’s been a good deal for ‘The Captain’ and his team. Allgaier has shown consistently why he is one of NASCAR’s future stars.
In 2008 he had three top-five finishes, 12 top-10 finishes, averaged a 16.5 and ended the season sixth in points. This season he’s been improved, scoring his first win, and raking up six top-fives and 14 top-tens. He’s fourth in the points – the highest running Nationwide only driver, and one of only five in the top-10.
With eight races to go in the season, Allgaier probably won’t win the championship, but he is well positioned for more solid finishes – maybe even another win.
Despite all that, Allgaier’s future is uncertain. If Verizon does indeed move on, and Penske doesn’t find another sponsor to fill the void, he could be out of a ride. Or if FoxSports has the story, he could lose his ride to none other than Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr.
According to Sirius Speedway:
[Team VP of Marketing and Communications Jonathan] Gibson said the team is talking with other companies about potentially replacing Verizon next season, adding, “Our intent to continue with two Nationwide Series entries next season.” He declined to comment on reports that Algaier [sic] has been given permission to look elsewhere, but called him, “A great young driver who we would like to keep in our organization.”
That doesn’t sound to me like a team committed to keeping Allgaier in a ride. It’s frankly hard to comprehend a driver like Allgaier being in this position at all. He’s done absolutely everything he could do in the car – he’s run well, he’s won, and he hasn’t torn up much equipment. And he has great future potential.
We’ll see what happens over at Penske in the coming weeks and months, but I feel bad for this kid. He deserves to have a top-notch ride with a team that is fully committed to him (from the sound of it Penske is not). The good news is, if Penske does let him go, I have a feeling he’d land on his feet. Penske’s loss could be someone else’s gain.