This week SPEED.com looks at some of the rising stars who made the most of their opportunities in 2010.
Justin Allgaier might be called the best in his class in 2010.
Allgaier, 24, finished fourth in the Nationwide Series point standings this season, but he was the series’ top “regular." The three drivers who finished in front of him – champion Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch – all are Sprint Cup regulars who also raced in the Nationwide Series.
Allgaier, whose unusual last name and diminutive stature have earned him the nickname “Little Gator,” has established himself as an up-and-comer in NASCAR circles despite some ups and downs.
He is scheduled to drive full-time in the Nationwide Series for Turner Motorsports in 2011 after spending two seasons with Penske Racing and its Nationwide program.
Allgaier had two poles, the Bristol win, eight top fives and 20 top 10s for Penske this season, but the sport’s changing sponsor landscape will see him moving on to Turner in 2011. He’s expected to have a shot at the Nationwide title under the new format NASCAR is scheduled to announce in the next few weeks.
Son of long-time ARCA racer Mike Allgaier, Justin started racing quarter-midgets at the age of five. At 13, he was racing Late Models successfully, and, at 14, he became the youngster driver ever to qualify for the Chili Bowl main event.
He ran the ARCA schedule full-time for the first time in 2006 and notched his first victory in that series, at his home-state Illinois State Fairgrounds.
The next season, Allgaier finished fourth in ARCA points, a progression that continued into 2008 as he won six ARCA events and the series title, ending a long-time championship run by veteran driver Frank Kimmel.
The 2008 season also produced Allgaier’s first connection with Penske Racing as he ran four Nationwide races with the team.
In 2009, he scored his first Nationwide pole at Memphis Motorsports Park and finished sixth in series points, then broke through into a Nationwide victory lane at Bristol in March this year.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.