In open wheels and NASCAR, "safety first" is the mantra for Allgaier

Justin Allgaier was one corner away from a solid starting spot in Saturday’s 31st Annual Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.

In open wheels and NASCAR, "safety first" is the mantra for Allgaier

On the last lap of Thursday’s qualifier, Allgaier was running fourth in his family’s 7a midget, when he hit the cushion with his right rear tire and flipped. Upon landing, Allgaier was hit by Thomas Meseraull. He finished 17th. 

Although he’ll start 15th in the First C Feature, Allgaier felt relieved just to walk away. On Friday, he didn’t have a scratch or a bruise. Allgaier wasn’t sore. Aside from a headache, he was none the worse for wear. 

“I’m a very spiritual person,” Allgaier told Motorsport.com. “I don’t take any of these races lightly. You never know what can happen. Let’s be honest, the safety equipment, that’s the worst place you can skimp. We go to the race track and we spend thousands of dollars to get the biggest engine or the most performance out of a race car. That’s all great, but if there’s nobody to sit behind the wheel and drive the car, what does it matter what equipment you have?

“I’ve been lucky to work with great safety partners over the years. I took a ride 10-years-ago that hurt a lot worse, and that’s just a testament to how far these cars have come.” 

The dangers still exist

Still, despite the advancements in safety, there are reminders of how dangerous the sport of open-wheel racing remains. 

Two year’s ago, four-time Chili Bowl winner Kevin Swindell lost the use of his legs following a wreck in the Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals. Bryan Clauson, who won the CBN in 2014, succumbed to injuries last August after his accident in the Belleville (Kan.) Nationals. 

And in the third heat race on Friday at Tulsa Expo Raceway, the No. 22x midget of polesitter Payton Williams rocketed into the air and landed upside-down. Williams was transported to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a severe concussion, broken nose and fractured eye socket. 

 

Allgaier considers Williams very lucky. 

“Any time you crash, it’s bad,” Allgaier said. “Especially with everything that’s happened over the last six months to a year. The way that my crash went down and the tire getting into the top of Thomas’ car like that. 

“I’m a big proponent of safety. We’ve done a lot to our car to make it as strong and as safe as possible. We put a halo on the top of it and done some things in light of Bryan’s crash and some other people’s that we thought were safe. 

“Actually, the unfortunate part — or the crazy part is — Thomas is where I got the idea to build the cage the way that I built it. His personal sprint car has the same thing that my midget does, and he doesn’t have that on his midget because he’s driving for somebody else.”

Giving credit where credit is due

Allgaier, who finished third in the Xfinity Series standings in his first season with JR Motorsports last year, applauds NASCAR for its continual progress in the area of safety. Although the latest advancements are costly, the investment outweighs the alternative.

Prior to this year's Chili Bowl, Allgaier added a halo-type addition to the top of the roll cage along with adequate wall tubing to beef up the driver's enclosure.

“NASCAR mandates a lot of the rules. We got so many safety initiatives that we do on a regular basis, you don’t think twice about it any more. It becomes normal. Here, in the open-wheel ranks, and really at the local levels of racing, period, whether it’s every Friday or Saturday night or as big as an event as the Chili Bowl, it’s just not as prevalent as it probably should be.

“We did what we did to prove we could build a strong race car that was fast and could do all the things we needed it to do — and it was — and it held up, too. Hopefully, we can get other guys to come on board and make these cars safer and safer.”

An uphill battle

Although Allgaier faces an uphill climb to the A Main  on Saturday, he’s grateful for to be as high as the “C” in an alphabet that begins with “O”. With the support he’s received from K1 Speed, JRI shocks and his NASCAR sponsor Brandt Agricultural, at least Allgaier’s 15-lap feature will be televised in prime time. 

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Allgaier said. “I literally put myself from starting at the B Main to the back of the C Main — which with the quality of cars here, obviously, the less cars you have to pass the better. I’d rather lock into the A Main and not have to worry about it. That would be the easy way to do it. But it’s never that easy. We had a good race going, but it didn’t work out. It just wasn’t meant to be.

“Either way, it’s just frustrating to be that close and have nothing to show for it. But these guys, they thrashed (Thursday) night. They came in early this morning and we’re already to go. So, that’s all you can ask for.”

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