For a racer who’s “just doing it for fun,” longtime sportsman racer Artie Allen has been investing a lot of time making sure his NHRA Top Fuel debut goes off without a hitch.
That was supposed to be this weekend for the Jacksonville/St. Augustine resident, but the Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway has been postponed until further notice because of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent mandates from the state government there.
“I’ve been putting this together for about three years,” Allen said. And he has planned well, enlisting some of the smartest nitro veterans to get him launched in style.
“Mike Gunderson, of Jacksonville, was selling all of his stuff, so I figured it was a good time to get in it,” Allen said. “I had Murf McKinney build me a brand-new dragster. And Aaron Brooks helped me license and get all my runs in last year. In getting licensed, we even had Del Worsham help us set up to get the car down the track. We’ve been talking to Del since I started this thing. He’s been a real big help to me. He’s pretty knowledgeable, He taught me a few things. We’re getting a little help from Aaron. Then Tony Shortall is going to oversee it.”
Brooks, Allen said, certainly will focus primarily on Justin Ashley’s dragster but will offer advice as needed: “He just wanted to finish what he said he was going to do. He has been really good – super – to help us.”
His all-star line-up behind the scenes brings a wealth of experience to Allen’s camp. Brooks is Justin Ashley’s tuner who has worked with Morgan Lucas, Richie Crampton, Melanie Troxel, Cruz Pedregon, Steve Faria, Greg Carillo, Mike McIntire, Jndia Erbacher, Mike Morel, Mike Ashley, Mark Oswald, Del Worsham, Frank Hawley, and Alan Johnson Racing. Shortall, who describes himself as a “Dale Armstrong disciple,” has prepped cars for Steve Torrence, Cruz Pedregon, Tony Pedregon, Cory McClenathan, Jeff Diehl, Jndia Erbacher, and Rit Pustari. Worsham is a two-time nitro champion and co-owner (and co-tuner with Nicky Boninfante) of the ROKiT Phones/ABK Beer Funny Car team with Alexis De Joria.
Jeff Edwards, a former Terry McMillen crew member, is the car chief among the crew of eight.
Allen said he “raced alcohol up until ’06, then I swapped over to A/Fuel in ’07 and bought a Bill Reichert tune-up and ran that. He competed last weekend at Gainesville Raceway at the Division 2 Baby Gators in his Top Alcohol Dragster but missed the cut.
Naturally, he’d like to go rounds and surprise a few people in his first appearance, but Allen said, “I hope so. I hope we’re set up. Right now I’ll be happy if we qualify and get in the show. That’d be fun. We’re going to enjoy it. My goal is to run consistent, even if it’s a slow number. We’ve got to learn the car. And I like learning the mechanics of the car. I do all the mechanic work on it.”
Allen won the Division 2 championship in 2008, and he said, “After I won the championship, I just kind of laid low for awhile.” Allen – whose main job is as an underground utility contractor doing water, sewer, and swamp drainage – has put most of his free time into raising daughters Elizabeth and Sarah. Elizabeth serves as the team’s public-relations representative, and Sarah, 17, is completing her final year of eligibility in the Jr. Dragster class this season. And he’s keeping an eye of Sarah’s drag-racing ambitions.
“I’m building her a new A/Fuel car. Hope to get her licensed by the end of the year and run the regional [event] here next year,” he said.
Besides the Gatornationals, Allen’s plans call for appearances at the Charlotte four-wide event and the Atlanta and Bristol races before re-engaging with Sarah’s Jr. Dragster schedule. “They’ll run her pretty good through the summertime,” he said. Then I’m going to start back at Charlotte, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Pomona . . . maybe. We’ll see how it goes. We’ve got some good people helping us.”
He said he’s particularly excited to try the four-wide format at Charlotte: “I’ve always wanted to do it, so I think it’ll be fun. I’m looking forward to it. It’s something different. The sound . . . Just being part of something like that, that’s pretty neat.
“I think we’re going to have fun with the fuel car,” Allen said. “As long as we’re having fun and spending time with family, we’re good with it.”