TULSA, Okla. – After nearly a week of waiting, Justin Allgaier will finally hit the dirt at Tulsa Expo Raceway Friday night during Vacuworx Qualifying Night for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series star is one of 72 drivers scheduled to compete in the final preliminary program before the championship features take center stage on Saturday, and it’s a day he’s been waiting for ever since last year’s Chili Bowl ended.
He has annually competed in the Super Bowl of Midget Racing for the last five years, but Allgaier has a history with the event that dates back to 2001, when he was a fresh-faced 14 year old.
Allgaier keeps coming back because – in his eyes – the Chili Bowl became intrinsically spooled in his DNA from that very first visit to the River Spirit Expo Center.
“To be back at the Chili Bowl is always such a treat,” said Allgaier. “This race and what it means to me as a race car driver, but more so too as a fan, is just something that’s special and hard to put into words. Just coming here to the Expo Center, I’ve been coming here for almost 20 years of racing and it’s never gotten old. Every time I come in here, I’m equally as excited as I was that first time.
“We were laughing on the plane coming out here about the first time I came here, I had actually never even sat in a midget. I mean, we bolted the seat in here in the Expo Center for the first time, we fired the car up for the first time in the parking lot outside … I didn’t even know how to put them into in and out of gear at that point,” Allgaier recalled. “The only thing I’d ever driven was a micro sprint. And you know, to think back on those days … my dad’s standing a few feet from me and, really, was probably crazy for putting me in one when he did, but we got through it and got stronger through the years.
Ultimately, it was that day that started a lifelong love affair for this race and this weekend.”
Allgaier is driving the No. 7a Ripper/Stanton-SR11 for Flea Ruzic and Steve Reynolds at this year’s Chili Bowl, seeking his fourth-career Saturday A-main start and first since the 2009 running of the event.
His car this week, oddly enough, was actually a show car just a few weeks prior to move-in at the Expo Center.
“That’s the funny part about my car is that, it’s kind of been the man with many hats, if you will,” Allgaier noted. “Last year, I was obviously here with one of my cars, but I’m having a good time in this situation. To be able to come here and be back with Flea, Steve Reynolds, everyone on this team … we had a lot of fun the last few years with having my own car and hanging out with them, but now this deal is just as good, I think.
“We just decided that, to do this once a year, it’s way too hard to have your own car and to operate at a high level,” Allgaier continued. “So we had an opportunity to be able to drive one of Steve and Flea’s cars, and I knew how good of equipment they have and watched him wrench on it and build it, so I’m excited to hopefully go out and show them what we’ve got here over the next two days.”
Regardless of where he finishes through the remainder of this year’s Chili Bowl, Allgaier will have his trademark ear-to-ear grin on his face because, in his own words, “that’s just what the Chili Bowl is.”
It’s a gathering of fans, drivers and enthusiasts, all with the same passion and love for racing in mind.
“I tell people all the time, that unless you’ve experienced the Chili Bowl, you’re not going to understand it,” Allgaier said. “You know, this place has it all: open wheel fans, winged sprint car fans, late model fans, modified fans, NASCAR fans … it doesn’t matter what your cup of tea is and what you enjoy when you get here, because you see this weekend, and you see the racers, and that’s what it is, is pure racing.
“There’s racers from I don’t know how many states, close to all 50 states, layman racers, stock car racers, asphalt racers, dirt racers, winged racers; there’s all different genres of racing covered with the drivers that are going to be here. And the fans are, there’s nothing like them here,” Allgaier added. “This whole week is just a blast, and to be a guy that’s been fortunate enough to come here for so many years and come back and run this weekend … I’m honored to line up each and every time I come here and race with these guys.”
That doesn’t mean Allgaier’s competitive fire isn’t still there, though. He wants to perform as bad as ever and hopefully end that decade-long drought of being outside the A-main.
“Don’t get me wrong, my goal is always go out there and win,” he smiled. “I’ve been close to getting in there. In 2007, the year we finished third to Tony (Stewart) and J.J. (Yeley), that was probably one of the most fun races in my entire life. But the thing that I love about Tulsa is that you can be the best race car driver here, in the best car here, and you can be in the Z-main on Saturday night. I mean it has no prejudice.
“This place doesn’t care who you are or how good your stuff is; you have to have that Tulsa luck, and that’s what makes this place so much fun and so special.”
How to Watch the Chili Bowl:
LIVE From the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Presented by MyRacePass – Story Index Page
News, analysis, interviews, behind-the-scenes and more – updated throughout each day.
LIVE PPV Streaming Broadcast – Racinboys.com
Monday – Saturday coverage
LIVE Television Broadcast – MAVTV.com
Saturday, Jan. 18th at 8:30pm EST
SPEED SPORT’s Chili Bowl coverage is presented by MyRacePass, the official timing and scoring app of the 2020 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Fans can download the MyRacePass app on their phones to follow all the action during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. For more information on MyRacePass, visit www.myracepass.com and use the hashtag #GetTheApp on Twitter!