CHICAGO -- Justin Allgaier grew up in the fishbowl that is downstate Riverton, Ill., where everyone sort of knows everyone else.
When Allgaier was in high school, the 5-foot-6 Allgaier noticed a tall, lanky kid roaming the hallways. It was hard not to notice him.
That tall, lanky kid was Mike Tisdale, who would grow to be 7-1 and become a starter on Illinois' basketball team.
"It's funny because I'm not the tallest guy in the world," Allgaier said. "We'd walk through the hallway and he'd be at the top and I'd be at the bottom, usually."
Allgaier sometimes wondered what life was like that high up. On the Nationwide series, sometimes you can get a similar feeling -- what is life like at the highest level, the Sprint Cup Series? It is a sweet taste Allgaier hopes to experience one day.
For now, Allgaier will keep plugging along on the Nationwide Series and will be at Chicagoland Speedway for Saturday's STP 300. Allgaier is fourth in the point standings and hoping to put on a good show for friends and family, all of whom will be assembled in a Justin Allgaier section at the track.
"I think it is double-fold," Allgaier said. "You've got the nerves because you've got everybody there. But at the same time, it makes it exciting and you want to push that much harder for all your fans, friends and family. It's a tough weekend. There's a lot of stuff going on."
Allgaier is in a year of transition, his first with Turner Motorsports, where he is building a relationship with veteran crew chief Jimmy Elledge.
Allgaier admitted he was initially intimidated by Elledge's experience.
"I was nervous -- am I going to give him the information he needs, the way he needs it to run well?" Allgaier said. "Am I going to do things the right way?"
Allgaier jumped out to a good start this year and led the points standings for three consecutive weeks but has slipped back in recent weeks. A strong showing in Joliet could get him back on track and boost his profile toward getting his first Sprint Cup appearance, which, for now, remains rarefied air for Allgaier and others on the Nationwide series.
"It's tough," fellow driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said. "Obviously, a lot of it is performance-driven, but a lot of it is money-driven too. You have people that have sponsors behind them, somebody they know. ... Right now, there's not a lot of guys retiring in the Cup series, and you only have so many seats to fill. It's difficult for sure."