NASCAR driver and Zipp rider Justin Allgaier stopped by the Zipp factory in Indy, so we sat down and talked about race cars and bikes. Justin competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for JR Motorsports, driving the No. 7 Chevrolet. He earned his 19th Xfinity Series win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2022.
Justin’s pursuit of speed is a lifelong passion. He climbed behind the wheel of his first race car, a quarter-midget roadster when he was just 5 years old. In this conversation with Zipp Content Manager Dan Lee, he explains how cycling complements his preparation and training as a professional driver. Cycling also is a passion for Justin, down to analyzing the sport’s nuances and performance details. His favorite wheel is the Zipp 454 NSW. Below is a podcast and an edited excerpt of our Zipp Speed Podcast conversation with Justin:
You just toured the Zipp factory and were remarking about specific uses of carbon fiber in your race car. What role does carbon fiber play in NASCAR?
Carbon fiber is a huge part of performance, especially why the Zipp wheels are carbon, while a lot of the parts on the race cars are carbon. NASCAR has tried to limit, as much as they can, the use of exotic materials. They’ve classified carbon under the exotic materials for the simple fact of not necessarily for performance-based issues but for cost capping, for example, the Zipp 3 ZERO MOTO wheel. I think at the hours to develop that wheel to where it was capable of being the wheel it is today. With auto racing, it’s the same. The biggest difference is the weight; our cars are around 3,400-3,500 pounds. When you think about that much weight, the development costs for carbon to be compatible with that weight is extreme.
The seats are made of carbon. Then you look at the interior of the car. All the driver surrounds are carbon; the dash is a carbon shell. All our venting or bracketry holding venting and shrouds are made of carbon.
In the suspension, we do have some carbon ducting. There’s some carbon under the hood where the air intact is located. (With) carbon, the properties of airflow are truly incredible. Forcing air into the engine, that ability to direct that air where you want to, is super important.
What model is your NASCAR?
NASCAR has the moniker of being a stock car. I am a Chevrolet driver. I drive a Chevy Camaro. They are 34,050-pound stock cars! They are V8 engines, naturally aspirated, 350 cubic inches, and roughly about 700 horsepower. Four-speed transition. Not a lot of electronics. They are no onboard electronics other than the ignition panel.
How does cycling fit into preparation for motorsports?
When you look at all forms of motorsports, the majority of the ladies and gentlemen who drive racecars, we’re cyclists. It’s very similar to being out on a bike ride. The conditions are ever-changing. You’re trying to prepare your body for the conditions, hydration before, hydration during, not bonking during a ride—well, I’m trying not to bonk during a race. I get in a car, and we’re going to race for three or four hours. I can get on a bike and ride for three or four hours. There are many things that have a great correlation for why I want to get on a bicycle and ride because it helps me so much in the race.
Do you have a favorite ride near one of the NASCAR tracks?
I’ve been lucky enough to ride a few times at the Speedway here in Indianapolis. That is the most fun ride. But last year, I did a ride in Durham, South Carolina. You rode two laps on the racetrack, and we left the tunnel and rode 20 miles in the local surrounding area and then back to the track. It was on the day of the race. We got to ride and have some camaraderie. There were a lot of fans who came and rode the ride with us, and then I went on to win the race that afternoon.
What role does tire pressure play in NASCAR? How do you vary pressure for differing track and weather conditions? How does that compare with tire pressure for cycling?
In (NASCAR) racing, one of the things we look at is when you’re on the track, your tires are the last thing touching the ground. The correlation from the centerline of your axle below, your wheel, how the wheel is secured to the hub, and the tire is a significant part of how we get traction.
We range from around the 10-pound (tire pressure) mark up to 60- or 70-pound mark. That is, left-side tires as a minimum and right-side as a maximum. We tend to run a lot softer pressure on the left side and a lot stiffer on the right side. The reason for that is this when you go into a corner, and you’re taking that corner at 170-180 mph, because of the way the inertia is, the right side is taking the punishment. On some race of racetracks, we go to; the left-side tire may be a different construction, so you’re going to bump the air pressure up. We know that heat generates air pressure, so that’s one thing to consider when you’re going out for a ride. Is it going to be hot? Am I going to be on dark asphalt roads, or am I going to be on lighter asphalt roads? There’s a huge difference in how the tire performs through the heat cycle. We take into consideration the volume of air in that tire. Cycling, there are people who understand that.
Riders can use the Zipp tire pressure guide and experiment to dial in their ideal pressure.
Having a starting point is great. Everyone should go and see, what is my recommended pressure. The rider is going to have to find out what’s best for them. When I look at our group of four cars, we have significantly different air pressures even among our four cars. We all have the same recommended starting air pressure. But we all do things differently based on how our drivers are operating.