Justin Allgaier has some ground to make up to catch the four-driver breakaway atop the NASCAR Nationwide Series. For Allgaier, there's no better place than his home track.
The Riverton, Illinois native has plenty of motivation to defend his Chicagoland Speedway win from a year ago in Sunday's STP 300 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN), the first of two Nationwide races this season at the 1.5-mile track.
Allgaier ranks fifth in the standings, but he isn't exactly nipping at the heels of the tour's stalwart top four of points leader Elliott Sadler, top rookie Austin Dillon, defending series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish is the only one of the top four without a win this season, but he holds a hefty 41-point cushion over Allgaier.
Besides the hopes of injecting himself back into the title race, Allgaier has extra incentive to impress sponsor Brandt, an agriculture product manufacturer from Springfield, Ill, in its backyard.
"It gives me the chance to hang out with all of the folks who allow me to do what I do every weekend, which is something I'm extremely grateful for," said Allgaier, who enters Sunday's 300-miler with four straight top-10 finishes. "I'd love nothing more than to be able to repeat what we did last year and take all of the guests to Victory Lane with us."
Allgaier's triumph last year at Chicagoland wasn't short on drama. He took the lead when Carl Edwards ran out of fuel in the final lap, then moments later out-coasted Edwards to the checkered flag when his own tank went dry. Four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars competed in the STP 300 last year; this season, Kyle Busch is the only Sprint Cup championship contender on the entry list.
Still, making inroads on an extra-motivated top four won't be any easier for Allgaier. The series' lead quartet were the top finishing Nationwide Series regulars last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, qualifying them for this weekend's Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus.
The highest finishing driver among those four will bring home the six-figure payday, won last Saturday by Dillon with his third-place finish in New England. Dillon is eligible for a cool $1 million if he sweeps all four rounds of the program.
"I think the guys racing for the Dash 4 Cash will be up front racing for the win," said Dillon, who prevailed last September at Chicagoland on the way to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. "I think between me, Stenhouse, Elliott and Hornish, and you also have Kyle Busch up there running, there's going to be some great racing going on, and especially for that extra bonus."