Turner Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier talks about the principle of racing hard, why he's sometimes nervous to meet people and wife Ashley's influence on his NASCAR career.
Our series of NASCAR driver interviews continues this week with Justin Allgaier, who is fifth in the Nationwide Series point standings with one win (Montreal) so far this season. Allgaier drives for Turner Motorsports.
SBN: What percent of your career races can you remember?
JA: I'm probably somewhere around 50 percent. I remember the high highs and the low lows, but there's a lot in between that I don't remember – unless somebody brings up something that triggers that memory.
SBN: What's the first win you ever got in any form of motorsports?
JA: The first win I got in any motorsport was in a Quarter Midget. It was my first year of racing, which was really cool. I would have been 5, but I don't remember exactly which track it was at.
It was kind of funny, because I split a race car – another kid and I drove the same car, except in two different classes. So I think the celebration of winning was cut really short so they could turn his car around and go back and race.
SBN: So he raced on the same day as you in the same car?
JA: Yeah, like two races apart. I'd come in, they'd make some changes and then he'd go back into the staging area.
SBN: Who is a clean driver you enjoy racing with in the Nationwide Series?
JA: (Thinks for awhile) There's a lot of clean ones who at the right moment can be dirty and at the right moment can be clean. So there's probably not one I would say is heads and shoulders above the rest of 'em. There's a lot of good ones in this sport.
SBN: How would you answer that question?
JA: I would say there are a few guys I race hard with on a weekly basis. I'm probably really bad about if somebody races me dirty, because I just don't give them the benefit of the doubt anymore. I probably wouldn't want to race against myself either, in some aspects.
But there are a few who have mentioned me who I probably race hard with and feel the same way about them, so...yeah. We'll leave it at that. (Smiles)
SBN: So what is your personal code of conduct on the track?
JA: I think my thing is like if somebody will get to you and try to pass you and then move you out of the way if they can't pass you, I'm perfectly good with that. But the guys who every time they get to you want to run you over as the first thing they do – whether they're faster than you or not – and try to get right on your door and spin you around or whatever, that just gets under my skin. It sends me kind of into orbit. They push a little bit and I push back even harder.
If you're going to race somebody and actually race them, at least give them the benefit of the doubt and try to pass them without running them over.
SBN: Do you keep a mental list of drivers who you owe for retaliation?
JA: Well, we all saw how that ended at Bristol after Austin and I got together. I would say for me, though, if I take the time to sit down and think about it – even if it's 10 laps – I think I give a little more rope to let myself get over it.
It's not like it doesn't bother me. The thing for me is everybody makes mistakes. The first one is obviously one thing, but if it keeps happening over and over again, that's when you've got to figure out if it's worth trying to do something about it.
SBN: It sounds like you don't let things linger for future revenge though.
JA: I have guys from the mid-90s who I still remember them wrecking me. But at the same time, I've never wrecked anybody on purpose on a racetrack – ever. Of all the years I've raced, I've never wrecked anybody on purpose. I've wrecked myself on purpose, but I've never wrecked anybody else.
SBN: What do you mean you wrecked yourself on purpose? Like to get a caution?
JA: I may or may have done that once or twice when I was growing up. (Grins)
SBN: If you could turn back time and be on the same team as someone who doesn't drive anymore, who would you want to team up with?
JA: I know this may be an odd answer, but Fireball Roberts. Growing up, I don't know why, but he was the guy who I would do reports on for school. He always intrigued me for some reason.
And then another one – and this guy didn't race – would be Smokey Yunick. I got to meet him a couple of times, and he was definitely (crusty) how he came off, but he was so smart it was almost scary. So those would be my choices.
SBN: What appealed to you so much about Fireball?
JA: I don't really know what the main reason was. I think the biggest reason was he ran a convertible. To me, that was the coolest thing ever. I've always said I think it would be cool if we could do one race with no roofs. But growing up, colors of a car was a big deal – his car was black and gold and red. You always pick a favorite when you come into a sport, and that was my one favorite guy right off the bat.
SBN: When is the last time you got nervous about anything?
JA: I probably get nervous more than people would think I would. I don't get nervous about the racing side of things, I get more nervous at like the meet-and-greets and meeting people and the stuff that really shouldn't make you nervous. That's the kind of stuff that always bothered me. So I'd say probably last week.
SBN: What makes you nervous about meeting people? They're probably nervous to meet you.
JA: I don't know what makes me so nervous. I guess I just don't want to come across as a fool sometimes, you know? I think the problem I have is as a race car driver, you kind of get put up on this pedestal as having this cool job and everything – and it really is – but I'm sure as you've found with most of us, we're all just normal people. So it's a little uncomfortable in the fact somebody looks up to you when you have other people you look up to. I don't know if that makes sense or not.
SBN: Yeah, I hear you. Speaking of meeting fans, sometimes they can ask awkward or uncomfortable questions. Do you have any stories along those lines?
JA: To go a little further into this, something I found when I was growing up was when it came to autograph sessions and putting people in a box, Kenny Schrader was the best person I've ever seen in my life at taking time with everybody. No matter what the odd question or odd situation was, he always had people leave and got the answer they were looking for – whether it was or it wasn't. I kind of look at that and I'm like, "You know, sometimes they're so excited to meet you that the question they ask or the thing they do is odd." Because to them, it's normal. It's what they want to know.
The only time I've been in a weird situation is when people come up and say, "Hey, do you remember me?" And you're like, "I know the face..." And they say, "Well, what's my name?" And I'm not good with names. I see a lot of people and I remember a lot of people and I remember a certain situation with them; I don't necessarily remember the name. That's my worst moment at an autograph session, if somebody is like, "What's my name?" And you're like, "Um...I don't know. I'm sorry." But it makes it cool when you do remember somebody and you see their face light up. That's worth it.
SBN: If you had to choose one of these jobs after you retire, would you rather be a NASCAR broadcaster or a high-ranking NASCAR official like Joe Balash?
JA: Well, I can answer this one very easily: I've been fortunate enough to do a little bit of commentating this year on the ARCA side, so no question, I'd pick broadcaster. I love it. As you know, I love to talk.
However, on the flip side of that, the reason I wouldn't want to be a high-ranking NASCAR official is they have an incredibly tough job. I can't imagine what they go through. Stuff changes so rapidly, and to be able to understand that, how to make it better, how to keep our sport going...our sport is going to be around a long time, but if something were to happen to change that, that person has successfully lost 100 years of time. So yeah, I wouldn't want to be in that position.
SBN: What's a question you get asked a lot that you're tired of answering?
JA: I think the most common question I get is, "What do you do when you have to go to the bathroom?" I don't necessarily get tired of answering it, but sometimes there's not a good answer.
We talked to a group of kids on Thursday, and that was one of the questions. They were high school and middle school kids, and especially if there are females present, there's really no good way to be politically correct about it.
SBN: So how did you answer it?
JA: I just told them, "If you have to go, you urinate in the car." I figured "urinate" was a probably the best word for that. But I did back it up by saying, "I was always told if your bladder was full, it would bust." And then they all were like, "Yeah, we'd do that, too."
SBN: All these questions are the same for each driver except for one, which is a question each driver gives me for the next person.
JA: Yeah, the one for me to answer is "What do you do to get away from bad times at the track?"
SBN: Wow, that's right. I guess you saw Johanna Long's question.
JA: I read the 12 Questions, come on!
SBN: Cool. So how would you answer that?
JA: Well, I'm very fortunate in the fact I met my wife (Ashley) at a young age, and she's probably the reason I'm still in this sport. She's helped me through a lot of things. That's my one go-to: We'll go off and go do something on our own, or we'll talk about it.
It's funny, because I can go home aggravated and I'll get fired up at the house just talking to my wife about (the race). And she's really good about saying, "OK, I know you're venting, but let's come back down."
And typically, what helps too is we go to church every week when we get home. And you listen to the message or you watch the screens if they have a video before, and it's weird because I can pretty much always find something in there that's like, "Life's not too bad." One day I felt I was really disappointed in the fact something didn't happen. Then I went the next day and they were talking about these kids in Africa that didn't have shoes. I was like, "You know what? My deal's not too bad."
So those are my two things that I use to back away from all of it.
SBN: And can you give me a question for the next person?
JA: My question is, "With all the people you come in contact with on a weekly basis, how do you justify who gets more time?" That's going to be a tough one to answer, but I think it's a good question.