It’s not often that a string of four straight top-10 finishes in short track racing events is viewed as a legitimate accomplishment. But it’s not often that the driver has endured what Allen Karnes has had to overcome. Cancer, atrial fibrilation, a thyroid issue, you name it and Karnes has probably dealt with it.
But the 48-year-old driver from Sharpsburg, Georgia is still racing, and now the results are starting to come.
Dating back to the April 24 race at Five Flags Speedway (FL), Karnes hasn’t finished lower than 10th in Southern Super Series competition, a series generally known as one of the toughest Super Late Model touring series’ in the country. Since then he’s scored three more top-10 finishes and even threw in a fifth-place run at Mobile International Speedway (AL) in April as well.
He’s made five Southern Super Series starts this year, but he said he’s unsure if he’ll continue running that series this year.
“The bigger and faster the track the better a driver I am,” Karnes told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m not scared of that stuff. I drive too hard for the little bullrings. I’m only worried about Pensacola and Mobile.”
Karnes is focused on running well at Pensacola so that he can make the biggest short track race of the year, the 48th Annual Snowball Derby in December. A driver in the top-10 in Blizzard Series points at Five Flags gets a provisional to be locked into the most prestigious Super Late Model race in the country.
His runs so far this year with the Southern Super Series have him confident he can accomplish that goal.
“I felt like I had at least a top five car on Friday night at Five Flags,” Karnes said. “That car on Saturday at Mobile was going to be a top three I think. So with a little bit of luck and some better qualifying efforts we’ll get up front pretty quick.
“I definitely have some things that I can improve on, but I can drive a race car,” Karnes said. “I just need a race car that I can drive.”
There was a point in time where it looked like even if Karnes had the car to drive, he wouldn’t be medically allowed to. Karnes was diagnosed with Thyroiditis this past winter, as well as atrial fibrilation, which is an irregularly beating heart.
“They were worried about the possibility of me developing a clot and having a stroke,” Karnes said. “That only came to light in December. But for a while they didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt no energy. I just felt drowsy. It was one hell of an ordeal.”
It’s an ordeal that Karnes said he’s apparently been dealing with for close to seven years now. It just took until this past December for it all to finally be figured out.
“Eight years ago I used to run eight miles in 30 minutes,” said Karnes. “That was all the time I had to run. And that’s like a five minute mile so that’s hauling ass. Then one day I was running and I couldn’t catch my breath. Then it started happening to me in the race car at Nashville a few years ago. Finally I realized that this can’t be good.”
After going to about eight doctors, Karnes was finally diagnosed and a procedure was scheduled for January. He was given anesthesia and had his heartbeat “shocked” back to normal while he was under.
“When they did that, my heart rate was 72 beats per minute,” he explained. “It stayed that way for about a month. Now it’s down to 58 beats per minute. And I’ve lost about 30 pounds too.”
Karnes was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1999. Going through cancer is tough enough, but this latest scare during the offseason “was more challenging than my cancer.”
Things are starting to go back to normal for Karnes now. As he said, he’s continuing to lose weight, and as a result, he’s starting to get his energy back.
“I almost feel how I did eight years ago,” he said. “I still need to get in better shape, though. I need to lose about 25 more pounds.”
Fortunately for Karnes, he was able to keep racing. But with everything he’s been through, what keeps him wanting to come back to the track?
“It’s just the competitiveness in me,” he said. “It’s all about competing.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor -Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com photo