Justin Allgaier has had a solid season. In his second year in the Nationwide Series he has one win, two poles, 11 top-fives, 19 top-10s, 221 laps led (including 88 laps led this weekend) and a solid lock on fourth place in the points. He’s the leading Nationwide-only driver in the points and one of only four in the top-10. And yet he’s looking for a ride (I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago).
On the flip side is Brian Scott. He’s an OK driver and an affable guy. He lost his ride this season after the sale of Braun Racing to Steve Turner, owner of Turner Motorsports – it turns out Steve Turner only likes funded drivers when he’s doing the funding. Anyway, Scott, who has been driving for RAB Racing as of late, has had a mediocre season in which he’s posted one top-five and five top-10s. He sits 14th in the points.
Now both of these guys have talked to Joe Gibbs Racing about next year. One has money to fund a ride, the other doesn’t.
Last month JD Gibbs spoke glowingly about Scott and their potential relationship.
“I have a lot of respect for Brian…I met him several years ago and have followed him since he’s been in the sport. I think he’s gifted. We’re just going to go to work and see if something works out…We would love to have someone that could run for the full driver’s championship. Right now we can run (for) the owners championship but we can’t run the full drivers (title). I’d love to have someone that could run for the full driver’s championship and he’d be a good fit for that.”
On the other hand Allgaier spoke to ESPN’s David Newton a couple of weeks ago about where he stands.
Richard Petty Motorsports would be an ideal place for this budding star. Joe Gibbs Racing has been rumored to show interest. Allgaier admits he’s had casual talks with both of them, but not to the point he would say there is strong interest unless he has a sponsor promising to come with him.
Talking about how and why drivers have their rides these days has been a bit of a taboo subject. Consider this little back and forth between Kenny Wallace and Brian Scott on Twitter. Wallace, while talking about Trevor Bayne, said: “MY THOUGHTS..Trevor Bayne is a good driver, He will get a ride Imediately (sic) !..Brian Scotts dad is wealthy he will BUY a ride Imediately (sic)…”
Despite the bluntness of the statement, what Wallace said was true. Joe Scott’s the chairman of the JA & Kathryn Albertson Foundation, an Idaho real estate developer and the grandson of the founder of the grocery chain Albertson’s. The Scotts have money and are very able to help their son’s career.
Justin Allgaier too comes from a family who has been able financially to help his dream. Funding an ARCA team though is a little different than a Nationwide team. And the fact is, Allgaier got his job at Penske on his merits – not his family’s money.
Unfortunately, what we have today is a very expensive sport where winning and being competitive isn’t always the most important thing. There was a time not too long ago that rent-a-rides only existed at small organizations. Today, just about everybody has somebody paying for a ride.
I worry often that this practice is leaving us with a talent vacuum. The drivers are certainly out there, but if the only ones getting a chance are the ones with money, what does this mean for the future of competition?
It’s a tough situation we’re in, but one I hope doesn’t stand the test of time. It’s unfortunate a driver with all the talent in the world and strong record is no longer guaranteed a ride, but a driver with a thin record and all the money in the world is.