Willie Allen, the 2007 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Rookie of the Year, has entered the $30,000-to-win Winter Showdown at Kern County Raceway (CA) on February 1-2, 2019. The 2015 Pro Late Model Champion at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN) will be making his second start in the $150,000 event after finishing fifth in 2017.
The crown jewel for Super Late Model racing on the West Coast left an impression on the Bon Aqua, Tennessee driver that left him hungry to return for more.
“I came out there in 2017, driving for the (Brain and Eric) Richardson’s. I had so much fun racing with those guys on and off the track,” Allen told the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series. “I really fell in love with Kern County. The speed and the grip there is so much fun. We had such a good car there for most of the race weekend and had a top-five finish.
“We were so close that weekend to having a chance to win and contending for the win. We lost just a little bit on race day. We had a rain delay in between practice and race day and it cooled down 35 to 40 degrees, and we lost the handle on the car a little bit. But we took some good notes and hopefully we know what to do with it.”
Allen, the “2009 Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway 200” ASA Late Model Challenge Series Division winner, will debut a new Super Late Model at the Winter Showdown, hoping it will give him the edge he needs to score the win in the “Nation’s Richest Short Track Race.”
“We are bringing a brand-new car. The first time it ever hits the race track will be at Kern County,” Allen stated. “We are partners on this car with the Zipfizz people out of Seattle and some guys here out of Nashville. It is kind of a group effort. All these guys wanted to join forces and run some of the bigger shows with the Zipfizz Energy Drink Group. I think we are bringing a good piece. We will try to test a few days before the race and see what we’ve got.”
Allen continued, “I’m really excited about this year and running some of these bigger races with them. It is a great opportunity for me to get back on the track. We’ll run the Summer Showdown at Evergreen Speedway (WA) and the All American 400 and some of the bigger shows with them. The car is something we can work on at our shop here, but it is definitely going to be a bit of a learning curve with the car. But it is something we have worked with before. We are ready to get out there and to get tuning on it.”
Allen’s first attempt at the Winter Showdown was in a car owned by Brian Richardson. It resulted in an impressive fifth-place finish. Practice found Allen consistently at the top of the board, but his qualifying effort resulted in a disappointing 12th-place effort, handicapping his starting position. The team recovered to finish in the top-five, giving Allen valuable experience towards this year’s event.
“We had one of the best first laps, which was my fastest lap of my two laps in qualifying,” Allen recalled. “I over-arched getting into one on my fastest lap and it was sideways all the way through the turn and down the back straightaway. That’s why we didn’t qualify very well.
“We kind of got off a little bit in the pits during the race, but then we made some good adjustments and we were just a little too tight at the end. We finished fifth there, but I feel like we got a lot more consistent setup, and we have continued to learn throughout the last two years.”
Allen spends much of his time these days taking care of his business, W.A.R. (Willie Allen Racing) Shocks and Suspension in Centerville, Tennessee. He is also busy with his car rental program, allowing drivers to compete in some of the biggest Pro and Super Late Model events in the southeast in high quality equipment. Allen has also taken his mechanical and setup skills out west, serving as a crew chief for the Collins Motorsports Teams in the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series. He has also helped SRL championship contender Eric Schmidt’s efforts in 2018 and the Richardson Racing group from Bakersfield.
The personable Allen still loves to get back behind the wheel as often as he can, and he has had an ample amount of success when doing so. In addition to his 2015 Nashville Pro Late Model Championship, Allen holds the top spot for the most wins in the $5,000-to-win “Big Machine Records Pro Late Model Series” at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. The series currently pays the highest winner’s purse for a regional Late Model series. In a few weeks, the 2019 Winter Showdown will be a great opportunity for Allen to add to his racing legacy. He would count a victory there as one of the biggest accomplishments in his career.
“Winning the Truck Series Rookie of the Year is probably the biggest thing I have done thus far in my career,” Allen relayed. “I was part of the GM Driver Development Program, and I kind of won the Gong Show type of deal they had there. As far as the Late Model stuff that we have won, we won the ASA race in Nashville and a portion of the World Crown deal they had at Gresham (Motorsports Park), and those are the ones that stick out in my mind.
“Man, this would definitely be a huge, huge win for us. I thought we got really close at Irwindale (Speedway, CA) when we came out and raced before with the SRL. (Allen finished third to race winner Bobby Hodges and runner-up Derek Thorn in 2017). I love coming out there and racing with the SRL. Larry Collins and those guys run such a professional organization, and it is just fun to do something out that way. Every time I come out I really enjoy it and I get to eat In-N-Out Burger, so it’s all good,” Allen chuckled.
“Winning this race would definitely be right at the top. The race seems to get bigger and bigger every year. Definitely the amount of people following the race is huge. To add to that list (of winners), with Kyle Busch winning last year, it would be awesome to be on that list. It would be a top one to win, that’s for sure. No one is lucking into that win.”
To make the trip from Tennessee, it takes a lot of time, money and effort. Allen has a large group that he would like to thank for their help.
“I’d just really like to thank Zipfizz, first and foremost, for all their support in helping put this deal together,” Allen said. “Of course I’d like to mention W.A.R. Shocks, Eagle One Performance, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and Rich-Pac, as we will probably use their shop when we are down there. Also, I’d like to thank Aero Race Wheels, Eibach Springs, Strange Oval, W.A.R. Inc., Mobley Speed, ProFab, Apache, Mark Westlund, Dave Yuchasz and last but not least MHR.”
The 2019 Winter Showdown will get underway with an optional practice day on Thursday, January 31. On Friday’s 51 FIFTY Energy Drink Opening Night the Super Late Models will have two practice sessions. Winter Showdown Qualifying Controlled by Traffic Management Inc. will also take place on Friday, which will lock the top-30 into the feature event. Those drivers outside the top-30 and not receiving provisionals will participate in the Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse Last Chance Race to fill the final four spots in the 36-car SPEARS Manufacturing Winter Showdown 300 field, in positions 31-34.
Friday night will also feature qualifying and the Motor City GMC Super Stock Showdown, featuring two 30-lap segments for the Kern County Raceway Super Stocks. The SPEARS Manufacturing Modified Series will also be on hand for practice and a 20-lap All-Star Race.
Saturday February 2 will open with the SPEARS Manufacturing Modified Series practice, followed by qualifying. The Modifieds will then race for 75 laps in the 51 FIFTY Energy Drink Showdown, followed by the $150,000 Fifth Annual “SPEARS Manufacturing Winter Showdown 300” for Super Late Models.
For a complete schedule, go to: https://www.srlsouthwesttour.com/winter-showdown/
-Story by Kevin Peters, SRL
-Photo credit: Speed51.com