As a teenager, Bobby Allen was a world-class go-kart racer whose résumé included a 1961 triumph in Milan, Italy, and pair of victories (1960 and ’61) in the battle for the Sir Victor Sassoon Trophy, which was awarded to the winner of the 100-lap Grand Prix during the annual Bahamas Speed Weeks in Nassau.
Allen’s father, Joe, dabbled in stock car racing and Bobby Allen started driving half midgets at age 12. The youngster quickly advanced to go-karts and then modifieds but had his sights set much higher.
“I’m from Miami and Jim Rathmann was an Indy car driver from Miami. That’s who I drove some of the go-karts for,” Allen told SPEED SPORT. “I won some pretty good money for a kid 16, 17 years old; and hanging with an Indy car driver, I wanted to go to Indianapolis. At that time, sprint cars were the way to get to Indianapolis, so I loaded up and went to Pennsylvania where they raced sprint cars three and four times a week.”
Allen never achieved his goal of racing in the Indianapolis 500, but his dedication and success resulted in his induction into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1988.
One of the sport’s original outlaws, Allen did things his way. He built his own chassis, assembled his own engines and made most of the setup calls on his familiar No. 1a sprint car. Focusing his limited resources on the mechanical aspects of the operation, Allen, who earned the nickname “Scruffy,” didn’t worry about presentation or appearance.
“I’ve always been a little bit of a rebel – OK, maybe a lot,” he said.
Estimates indicate Allen won more than 275 sprint car features, including 30 with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and 46 with the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions. Six of his All Star victories came en route to the 1980 series championship.
In the traditional sense, Allen never truly retired from driving sprint cars, but a business opportunity took his life in a different direction.
“I think it was 1997 at Sharon Speedway and I believe I won,” Allen responded when asked about his final race. “After that, I went back home and sold a lot of my stuff to build an indoor go-kart track. I never quit. I thought if I could get this indoor track going and make some money, finally, I could race on some money being made instead of just off of what I win.
“Well, the thing never made any money, so three or four years went by — I ran a couple of times in different cars – and I said, ‘You might be done, Bobby.’ I wasn’t that old; I was only like 57,” Allen continued “I never quit but I said, ‘I guess I’m done.’ That was it and I went on to run the go-kart track.”
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