Home sweet home for Midwestern drivers

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NEWTON - For some drivers, auto racing is at its best in the Midwest.

Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett feel at home when the NASCAR Nationwide Series comes to Iowa Speedway.

Annett, of Des Moines, and Riverton, Ill., native Allgaier return for Saturday's DuPont Pioneer 250.

"Iowa's a racetrack I love coming to. I've had the good fortune of running well here," said Allgaier, who was second at the U.S. Cellular 250 here in August. "This is pretty much home for me."

Allgaier said it was nice to be back to the region, growing up four to five hours away. He admitted it isn't quite as home as it is to Annett, who was stationed on the dais next to him. The fans provide a great atmosphere to race.

Annett said he loves being back in Iowa, visiting familiar places and faces away from the track.

"Midwestern people are really wholesome ad very appreciative of everything," Annett said. "I think Justin and I are that kind of people."

Allgaier mentioned the Nationwide events at Iowa Speedway seem to sell out. Fans flock to the track and drivers are motivated to put on an extra special show for the support.

"For us, that's huge," Allgaier said. "As drivers, we pay attention to that kind of stuff. We know there are all the fans out there cheering for us. When you can race with a packed house it makes you want to win and work that much harder."

Annett has had to work that much harder to return this season. He has rebounded from an injury suffered during a devastating wreck at Daytona in February. He broke a bone in his chest and didn't return until May 25 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He placed 33rd in that race and then 19th last weekend at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

A top-five finish last August propelled him to a strong fifth-place finish in the final season standings. He said this race could be another springboard that is desperately needed.

"This is the perfect weekend for it, being the hometown race," Annett said. "If we can get that one race to say we're back right where we were at the end of last year I think we'l get on a roll from there."

Helping both of their causes, as well as that of the other Nationwide regulars, is only one NASCAR Sprint Cup driver will be in the field. Penske Racing's Joey Logano, who is 18th in the Sprint Cup standings and winner of last weekend's Nationwide contest at Dover, will drive the No. 22 ride, travelling back and forth from Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

Less Sprint Cup drivers does not always mean easier competition.

"Any time we have a stand alone is awesome, because it really changes how we approach the race," Allgaier said. "Obviously, the Cup guys are really fast when they come run with us. The less Cup guys you have the more challenging the racers are. The Nationwide regulars step up their game and push that much harder."

Annett echoed Allgaier's comments. He said many drivers get that one sponsor because of it being a stand-alone event. He said many times these races are harder to win than other ones.

"It's their one time to shine and they're going to take more chances than they normally would," Annett said. "Sometimes it works out and guys have really good runs and sometimes it doesn't. It definitely makes it an exciting race for the fans."

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