HANOVER, Pa. — A great deal has changed and a great deal hasn’t changed since 1978 when the first World of Outlaws sprint car show ever was staged at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas.
Bobby Allen, of Hanover, Pa., finished third in the series’ points that inaugural year and he’ll be on hand at Devil’’s Bowl for a two-night show this Friday and Saturday to field two Shark Racing sprint cars for Logan Schuchart and Jacob Allen.
Schuchart, Bobby’s grandson, and Jacob Allen, Bobby’s son, are both rookies in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series this year, contending for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award presented by ButlerBuilt.
In February the trio left their home base to embark on a challenging, 10-month schedule of 93 races at 53 tracks in 24 states and three Canadian provinces.
Bobby Allen, who turned 70 in December, noted that the whole sport has gotten much more professional since Ted Johnson organized the top outlaw (unsanctioned) drivers into a series. Allen said that in the seventies as the drivers traveled from track to track in search of the biggest purses offered that particular weekend, there was a lot more camaraderie among the competitors than what he notices now.
“Before, it was like one big family; it was a band of guys traveling around and having fun along the way,” he said. “Today the drivers talk to each other at the track, but they don’t seem to hang out with each other much otherwise like we did. It’s all more like big business; it’s just different.”
Allen said some of the drivers would travel together in a convoy, and now and then they’d have cookouts in parking lots. After the races they’d lift a beer or two at a local bar or their motel’s lounge, and they’d play cards together if a race was rained out.
“It wasn’t really poker, but we gambled,” he said. “We’d put $5 at a time in the pot and a couple of times it got over $100.”
He added that the wives and girlfriends following the circuit would usually go shopping during a rainout and he was sometimes left with the kids.
“That’s when they got me, because they’d say they’d be back by 3 and it was really more like 6,” he added with a smile.
It wasn’t just his own kids he was babysitting, either.
“Kinser’s kids were the worst; they’d run in different directions and I couldn’t catch them,” he said. “And yes, that includes Kraig,” he added, speaking of current WoO driver Kraig Kinser.
“I did small magic tricks for the kids, so I was a pretty popular babysitter,” he added. “Just simple things; nothing fancy, but they liked it.”