By Brody Jones
To say that Bon Aqua, Tennessee’s Willie Allen has come a long way in the last two years would be an understatement. From all the high-points to the low-points, the one constant for Allen is his strong resolve to keep going. The man had to resort to start-and-park rides after he was released by ThorSport Racing, following his 2007 Craftsman Truck Series Rookie Of The Year-winning campaign,. He lost his father due to the debilitating disease known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and spent a number of months on the sidelines due to circumstances beyond his control. And yet, Willie keeps pressing on, even with the odds stacked against him.
Going back to 2009, Willie was reduced to start and parking for K-Automotive just to keep his career going. “Yeah, I definitely didn’t love doing it.” recalled Allen. “But I viewed it as a way to keep myself out there because you know how the old saying goes: ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’, but I used the opportunity to help me learn about different tracks, and it was definitely a learning experience that allowed me to stay in the network of NASCAR racing.”. Starting in 2010, Allen had an opportunity to race with the Goodlettsville, Tennessee based Day Enterprises team. “Basically, I was start and parking with the Keselowskis and Mr. Day saw me racing late models around Nashville, he knew who I was and wanted to give me a shot in the car.” Allen said.
But tragedy struck Willie early in the 2010 season when he lost his father, Al to ALS. “It was a big-time loss for me.” lamented Willie. “My dad was my biggest supporter on and off the track. He was always the first in the shop and the last to leave. I miss him more and more each day. I really miss his advice. It’s still hard not having him here.” Shortly after that, the Nationwide Series returned to Nashville SuperSpeedway, just weeks after a devastating flood hit the Middle Tennessee area. With so many ties to the area, Willie was the focal-point of a piece about the floods by ESPN in the pre-race coverage. “I welcomed the media attention that weekend.” explained Willie “It brought a lot of awareness to the situation and I had a lot of friends and family involved with the floods, and it got the word out about the recovery efforts.”
That race itself, was an emotional roller-coaster for Willie. Due to an unapproved adjustment before the race, Willie was told he would have to start the race two laps down. “It was a crazy week-end.” recalled Allen. “We had a good car in practice and we did okay in qualifying. We weren’t as fast as we would have liked to have been but we felt like we had a good race car. I thought my crew chief, Newt Moore, was kidding me when he told me we would have to start the race two laps down. I was getting kind of aggravated with him because I’d never heard of NASCAR doing that in a race before.” But, almost in a Hollywood-esque twist, Willie managed to race his way back onto the lead lap. “I was definitely excited about the way things turned out.” said Willie. “We actually could have had a better finish if we hadn’t messed up on our tires. And it really meant a lot for our team to get complimented by Brendan (Gaughan) post-race. We had a great car and I felt like the team fought hard to get back on the lead lap.”
Things continued to get better for Willie at Bristol for the night race in August, when he and his Day Enterprises team picked up a top 10 finish, ahead of several teams that had more funding. “Both the Nashville race and Bristol were so much different.” recalled Willie. “I loved Bristol and the atmosphere for the night race. That was a big, big night for us. In fact, that race and the Nashville race were both huge for us.” But shortly afterwards, Willie was out of the Nationwide Series and found himself again on the outside looking in. “During that down-time, I was racing late models and working with my shock business, W.A.R. Shocks.” Willie explained. “I’ve been travelling and going to a lot of dirt races. I’ve been busy building a dirt late model chassis and been racing a dirt track car the last couple of weeks.”
Like any other driver that unexpectly has found themselves with some down-time, Willie has had his struggles with it. “It was tough because I’m super-competitive.” Willie stated. ”I loved racing and wanted to race in one of the big three touring series and I hated watching it from the couch.” But during that time, Willie got to focus more on his business away from the track, W.A.R. Shocks “Our business is doing suspension work throughout the United States.” explained Willie. “We do some retail shock manufacturing, we revalve and work with customers. We do everything from dirt to asphalt racing and we’re trying to expand testing by getting a leg up on the competition. We’ve got on & off track support and a couple of guys who also race and work with me and the chances are if you are having a problem, we can probably figure out what the issue is.”
During the interview, Willie also reflected on how he’s evolved as a person and as a driver from his early years in NASCAR until now. “Definitely the business of NASCAR has changed. The whole sponsorship deal going on has made it much tougher, but it’s made me more of a fighter and made me not give up. I’ve learned a lot at the different tracks whether I’m start & parking or driving and it’s a constant state of learning.” As far as his plans the rest of the year with Day Entersprises go, Willie addressed those as well. “I think we’re going to try to run Nashville and Kentucky and we’re hoping to run more if we can get ourselves a sponsor. I’d like to run full-time.”
Unquestionably, Willie has been through hell and back in the last year and a half, but he feels it’s made him a better person in the long run. “It definitely has made me see that I can’t take life for granted and I’ve got to make the most of it every day. For example, we just found out a few hours ago one of our old crew members, Stephen Masch, just died from the car wreck he was in and it definitely makes you realize to make the most of each day.” At the end of the day, Allen still hopes to be a factor in NASCAR in the years to come. “We’ve just got to keep digging and make the most of things.” said Willie. “I’d like to run full-time and I’ve been racing on different levels, and hope to be running a different type of car every week this year. I’m hoping a sponsor comes around and sees what we’re doing at Day Enterprises and if there’s any sponsor’s reading this, we’ve got a good program at Day Enterprises and all we need is some sponsorship to make things happen.”