Racing: Justin Allison
BARBER JUNCTION — Justin Allison made the 10-hour drive from Nashville to Piper, Kansas, on Wednesday, and the length of that journey gave him ample time to think about where he’s been and where he hopes he’s going.
The 21-year-old West Rowan graduate isn’t in Kansas for sightseeing. He’ll be making his debut tonight in the ARCA series, behind the wheel of the No. 88 Ford Fusion for the BCR racing team.
The race at the Kansas Speedway, a 1.5-mile tri-oval, is the Kansas Lottery 98.9. It’s the last ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) race of the season. It starts at 8:30 EST and will be shown on FOX. Concord native Corey LaJoie has dominated ARCA lately, winning three of the last four events.
So is Allison nervous or excited?
“A little bit of both,” he said candidly. “This is a pretty big step. This is a bigger race track. The cars are heavier. But I’d still say I’m more excited than nervous.”
People who know racing say Allison is a natural, and the success of the Pettys and Earnhardts and some others indicates that racing DNA can be passed along the same way that blue eyes or long legs can.
And if bloodlines do mean something, Justin will be a success.
His grandfather, Donnie Allison, was a great racer. The 1967 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year, he counted the 1970 World 600, the 1970 Firecracker 300 and the 1971 Winston 500 as the crowning moments in a 10-win, 242-race career.
Donnie’s brother, Bobby Allison, Justin’s great-uncle, is even more renowned and stands as one of NASCAR’s all-time giants. He won three Daytona 500s, three Southern 500s, three Winston 500s and two World 600s. He was the 1983 Winston Cup champ and a frequent winner of most popular driver polls. He won 58 poles and 84 races and finished in the top 10 446 times in 718 trips to the track.
Justin’s tight family ties to NASCAR greatness are expected to bring some extra attention to tonight’s race. This is the racing equivalent of Pete Rose’s grandson making his minor-league debut.
“We’re extremely proud Justin is joining our team,” BCR team manager Howard Bixman said in a press release. “We could not be happier to be partnered with the legendary Allison family. Justin’s grandfather has expressed to me how much talent Justin has.”
Grant Enfinger, 28, who drives the No. 90 Ford for Team BCR, will be Allison’s mentor and also his teammate for tonight’s race. Enfinger has made 51 ARCA starts and has won twice this season. Like Donnie and Bobby Allison, Emfinger is a native of Alabama.
Allison stepped into a special go-kart built by his father (Kenny) and uncles for the first time when he was just 2 1/2 years old. He was racing go-karts at age 5 and drove an Allison Legacy car at Martinsville in exhibition charity races when he was 9 and 10.
Football and baseball detoured his racing interest for a little while, but as an eighth-grader he made the decision that he definitely wanted to race, and those other sports went on the shelf.
“I graduated from West the same year (2010) that K.P. Parks did,” Allison said with a laugh. “But the closest I came to sports at West Rowan was masonry. I finished third in the state masonry competition.”
Allison is good with his hands, and he understands race cars from the ground up. He doesn’t just drive. He can build them and fix them.
Allison started racing in the Allison Legacy Series seven years ago, with considerable success.
He won for the first time in the Series in 2007. In 2010, he won seven races and the series points championship.
Allison competed in his first late model race in 2010 and has been competing in selected races in PASS (Pro All Stars Series) and in USAR Pro Cup.
Allison tested at Nashville Superspeedway on Monday and was approved to make his ARCA debut.
“I think it took me about five laps to get all the butterflies out, but then I started running consistent, and that’s the big thing,” Allison said. “The testing went well.”
Allison says his famous grandfather, now 74, has been with him every step of the way, and his career takes a giant step tonight.
Allison will be driving the HaVaCo Technologies Ford. Rush Racing Products, Husky Liners and Rick and Bubba’s Smoked Sausage are his other sponsors.
And if all goes well, the latest Allison should be a regular on the ARCA series next season.