NASCAR driver Justin Allgaier is such a fierce competitor, he's nicknamed "Little Gator." There is more to the moniker and more to the man than meets the eye!
Illinois-native Allgaier broke through for his first road win when he took the checkered flag at NASCAR's Nationwide race in Montreal on August 18th. Allgaier's popularity grew big time with one courageous move when he bumped and passed local favorite Jacques Villeneuve on the last lap.
For 26-year-old Allgaier, it was a victory 20 years in the making. Allgaier started racing when he was five.
"One night we went to a track and there were my age running cars and it just hit me that this is something that I want to try. My dad called in that night, and I was going a million miles an hour as I normally would as any five-year-old would telling him that I needed to race. He said 'no, not going to happen.' I said 'but mom said,' and that was pretty much the end of the story. I've been racing ever since. I can't imagine doing anything else," Allgaier said.
Racing is in Allgaier's DNA.
"Having a bicycle or a Power Wheels or whatever it is at a young age, you are drawn to it. You are drawn to going fast, no matter what child it is. You want to move and you want to be mobile," Allgaier said.
Move, and be mobile -- it's no wonder Allgaier's nickname is "Little Gator." However, there's more to the moniker than meets the eye. It began even before a PR person called him that because of his size and ferociousness on the race track.
"I actually got the nickname from my dad. My dad's 'Gator.' When he was born, they told my dad's father, my grandfather, 'Alligator, you can come in and see your son now.' The name is kind of hard to say and hard to spell. He became 'Gator.' We were at the race track one day and one of the crew guys from the race team said 'hey, this must be that Little Gator you're telling us about that races.' I have the greatest parents you could ever ask for, and I have more respect for my dad than anyone I know, and so to be 'Little Gator' to him is pretty awesome," Allgaier said.
Allgaier is one gator who loves to test the waters when it comes to getting behind the wheel.
"I can go 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as long as I am out there doing what I do on the race track. There is just something about it. I don't even know how you explain it. It's just that drive to want to go beat everybody else," Allgaier said.
A man of deep faith, Allgaier feels blessed to follow his passion. More important is his perspective on life -- one that belies his 26 years.
"You don't realize how fragile our every day is until you figure out how to step back and look at it. I think for me, this year, that's something I've really tried to do, is try to say 'okay, if my career ended tomorrow what would I have accomplished? What would I have wanted to accomplish? Where else do I need to go? What impression did I leave on everybody?' If something happened and I stopped racing tomorrow, I would be perfectly content with everything that I've accomplished. Do I want to quit? Absolutely not, but this sport has given me everything," Allgaier said.