Along with his skills as a driver — he won the 1990 Knoxville Nationals in a career that numbers over 276 sprint car feature victories and put him in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame — Allen’s work as a designer and fabricator are also legendary. His rookies will drive the only Shark chassis in the field at Devil’s Bowl.
“Today everything is bought; there are manufacturers for the cars and all the parts; nothing is built out of the garage anymore,” he noted. “It’s gotten more business-like down the line. I’m a little the other way though.”
More borrowing went on, too.
“Back when I was driving, people would come to my shop and I’d give them old tires or little things that I had that they might need, and they’d do the same for me,” he remembered. “Jimmy Boyd just mentioned a front axle I gave him years ago. Now that I’m back on the road, people are coming up to me and reminding me of things I gave them at one time or another.”
It wasn’t called paying it forward at the time but those kindnesses are coming back to him now, and he mentioned how thankful he is for help from people like engine builders Don Ott and Charlie Garrett.
Although sprint car racing is more business-like today, Allen said one thing that hasn’t changed much in 36 years is the cars themselves.
“They’re basically the same, but the motors and the tires have changed a lot,” he said. “The motors generate more horsepower and stay together longer, and the tires have gotten better, too. With every tire company that’s been involved in sprint car racing, we’ve learned something. Nowadays what’s big as far as the engines go is the fuel set-ups. We’ve learned a lot about shocks too; that’s really important.
“The technology has gotten much better,” he summarized. “But everything costs more and more big business is involved than there was in the past.”
With this weekend’s show, called the Texas Outlaw Nationals presented by American Racing Custom Wheels, the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series is making its first appearance at Devil’s Bowl in more than a decade. Former driver Shane Carson is organizing a reunion of some of the drivers who were there in March 1978 when it all started. Included in this year’s event is an autograph session for the “original outlaws” like Allen on Saturday afternoon.
Bobby Allen didn’t compete in that first race, but he did race at a “test” two-day show that Johnson promoted at Lincoln Speedway in New Oxford, Pa. in 1977. Allen was in plenty of other WoO shows in 1978 though, and he finished third in the very first WoO season behind the champion, Steve Kinser, and Rick Ferkel. Doug Wolfgang and Jack Hewitt rounded out the top five.
Boyd won the series’ inaugural event March 18, 1978, ironically in a non-winged car.
Allen said he met Johnson a few years before that first WoO race at a race in Shreveport, La., and he was involved in Johnson’s first promotion at Lincoln before the World of Outlaws was formed.
“I just love racing and I wanted people to see how they ran at places like Knoxville and Manzanita,” he said. “Some people had never seen guys run up against the wall like they do at places like that.
“I wanted to have guys like Jimmy Boyd, Doug Wolfgang, Chuck Amati and people like that put on a show at Lincoln, and Ted was talking to all of us about organizing a series,” he said. “Originally it was Ted; me, and my sponsor, the M & J Coal Co., that were going to promote that show at Lincoln, but then they bought me out and I just drove in it. I can’t remember exactly when it was or who won though.”
Allen has seen a lot of different tracks and been in a lot of races since then, too.
Now all his attention is focused on getting Schuchart and Jacob Allen more experience.
They will be getting their first look at Devil’s Bowl this weekend. Devil’s Bowl is unique because the frontstretch is a little lower than the backstretch, so the drivers go up and down hill during the course of a lap. It will definitely be challenging, but they’re both looking forward to experiencing it for themselves.