Would you rather win at a “lower level” or run mid-pack at a “higher level”?

Justin Allgaier celebrating an Xfinity win in Darlington(Photo: Getty Images)

If you heard the story of a race car driver who dreamed of making it to the NASCAR Cup Series, and after a successful run through the ARCA Menards Series and the NASCAR Xfinity series, did exactly that. But the ending of that story depends on the reader’s perspective. After making it to the top level of motorsports, the driver in question only scored one top-10 finish in 79 starts. Then after two full seasons, that driver was no longer a part of the NASCAR Cup Series.

Is that driver a failure because he didn’t succeed at the “top level”?

The second half of that driver’s story includes 13 wins on the NASCAR Xfinity Series after joining one of the “lower level’s” top organizations bringing his career total to 16 victories. And not only did that driver win races but he has been a constant contender for the Xfinity Series championship for the past six seasons.

Justin Allgaier

After taking that part of the story into consideration, is that driver a failure?

That was part of the story that makes up the racing career of Justin Allgaier. The Riverton, Illinois native won six races on the ARCA Menards Series then another three on the NASCAR Xfinity Series by the age of 26. That success paved the way to a NASCAR Cup Series opportunity with the team owned by Harry Scott. But as stated above, only one top-10 result was produced with finishes of 29th(2014) and 30th(2015) in the final standings.

So, has Justin Allgaier had a successful racing career or not?

Recently, I posed a question on Twitter that asked, “Would you rather be a long-term NASCAR Xfinity Series driver who wins races and competes for titles OR a mid-pack Cup regular who gets a rare top-10 occasionally?”

No disrespect is meant here as this is just a factual comparison of numbers but another way of phrasing that question could be, “Would you rather have the career of Justin Allgaier or that of Landon Cassill?”

Based on the highly unscientific results of that poll among my Twitter followers, it appears as if most people would rather go into a race feeling like there is a chance of hoisting a trophy at the end of the day in a so-called lower series rather than going into a race hoping to finish in the top-20 at the top-tier level.

At the age of 35, it’s likely that Allgaier’s chances for any additional Cup opportunities will probably be limited to spot starts as a fill-in for an injured driver or something of that nature. No doubt, though, there are numerous racers who would trade places with him today because of his Xfinity Series success. But as was said earlier, it’s all a matter of perspective. For some, simply just being at the top level, and perhaps making a bit more money, might be good enough.

As is evident from the wording the Twitter post above, there was another poll question that had been previously asked of my followers. The first question had to do with Dirt Late Model racing and various forms of cars and engine packages used in that form of motorsports.

To most people who follow dirt racing, Super Late Models are considered the top level. After all, those are the types of machines used on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series as well as in the crown jewel Dirt Late Model Dream and the World 100 held at the Eldora Speedway. However, there are several other types of Late Models that compete on clay surfaces.

Over the past several years, Crate Late Model racing has grown in popularity among both competitors and fans. With their lower horsepower engines, that form of racing can be a bit more affordable than fielding a Super Late Model(although there is no such thing a cheap form of racing). And with that growing popularity has come bigger and bigger shows.

It is not unheard of at all for top Super Late Model stars such as Jimmy Owens, Kyle Bronson or Jonathan Davenport to enter an occasional Crate event. And for good reason as some of those races have paid as much as $50,000-to-win in purse money.

But even with those invasions, some drivers at this “lower level” have made good money and have received a certain degree of prestige without having won on one of the Super Late Model tours.

With that in mind, I took to Twitter to pose the question, “Would you rather be a highly competitive Crate Late Model driver who races for feature wins and championships OR a mid-pack Super Late Model driver who only occasionally runs up front?”

While the percentage was a bit closer than with the Cup/Xfinity poll shown above, there was a still a significant majority in favor of racing for wins at a the “lower level” over riding around in the middle of the pack at the top-tier.

Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch is often criticized for racing in forms of motorsports that are perceived to be beneath the Cup Series. And that was no different when the Joe Gibbs Racing pilot competed in the recent Lucas Oil Tulsa Shootout for Micro Sprint Cars.

Busch was quick to point out on Twitter that there are talented racers at all levels of the sport.

Although some may discredit other forms of racing apart from the ones they consider to be the top level. But as Busch stated, there are highly talented drivers in every form of the sport. Winning at any level is a noteworthy achievement and has to be considered within that particular driver’s own situation.

As for my own views, I would rather win at a so-called lower level that languish at the top. To bring this back to the original premise, Justin Allgaier has had a very good career in motorsports and it’s one that this person who has never done more than write about racing is rather envious of.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association

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