The Original Outlaw

The doorbell rang here at the Archives last February, about a week before the 50th running of the Daytona 500. We were busy, but not too busy for our guests — especially when I saw it was my old buddy, Bobby Allen.

Allen, the original outlaw of the World of Outlaws sprint car gang, was a Miamian in his boyhood days. He hooked up with 1960 Indy 500 winner, Jim Rathmann, who was also a Miamian in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, to take a stab at winning the world go kart championship in NASSAU. They did that in 1960. What doesn’t get as much publicity, is that teenager Allen went back to NASSAU in 1961, and won it again! His dad, Joe, was building his motors.

The following year, looking toward the full size race cars and local ovals, Allen went to his go kart racing buddy Robert Hamke (now owner of Hamke Race Cars & Parts in Mooresville, NC) to discuss Hamke’s dad, Bob, building him a replica of their dominant No. 119 supermodified, piloted by Rod Perry.

Allen campaigned that super in South Florida before relocating up north to Pennsylvania to pursue a more versatile career, primarily aimed toward dirt. Quite honestly, the Bobby Allen today is the Bobby Allen he always was. Down to earth, humble, and quiet (well, most times). But, some say, his descriptive nickname of Scruffy may have held him back from certain professional opportunities. What’s debatable is weather or not those opportunities would have been in his best interest. As it played out, staying where he did and accomplishing what he did, in my opinion, was his best legacy.

Allen enjoyed doing his own thing and, by his own admission, wouldn’t have been comfortable adhering to a regimented season schedule. More than once, he referred to himself and the WoO bunch as gypsies. He would choose his race dates based on purse, never caring about points. He operated his own cars on a minimal budget, and picked up race day helpers as he went along, paying the price at times with fallouts.

I would run into Bobby in a select few Florida races later in his career. Once was at the one and only race promotion at the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg in 1992. The World of Outlaws staged an event on the indoor ¼-mile but, financially, it was a flop. Allen set fast time, but says he never got paid a penny. I remember shooting pictures there from a good vantage point in the stands when champion Steve Kinser came and sat next to me. Most of the drivers seemed weary of the evening when hardly any fans turned out.

Another encounter was at the opening of the brand new St. Johns County Motorsports Complex in St. Augustine, 1993. That was a beautiful clay facility but didn’t last long. Also in the early ‘90s, Allen came to Punta Gorda for a sanctioned WoO show with his brother, Joey, who ended up running Bobby’s car on the asphalt and setting fast time.

In the big picture, Allen is known for winning the 1986 Eldora Nationals, and the 1990 Knoxville Nationals. He has also been inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame. He won the Midwest Outlaw Sprint Series title in 1980, and was track champ three times at Hilly Rife’s Lincoln (PA) Speedway where he got his northern start.

Bobby Allen comes from the true grit era of dirt track racing, was a major entertainer for the fans, a man of his word to the promoters, and one who worked hard getting his car prepared at his shop as well as at the track. He was truly a rebel with a cause.

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