Johnny Allen, Another Unknown from NASCAR's Hay Day
Topics: Johnny Allen
Seated at the autograph table was a face I had not recognized from the last couple of years at the annual Living Legends of Auto Racing meet at Ponce Inlet, Florida. Honestly, he didn't look old enough to be a "legend" in my eyes, but at 73, Johnny Allen definitely fits the mold, though he as aged well. He didn't seem to want to bring any attention to himself, but swapped stories with fellow legends Vicki Wood, Russ Truelove, Dick Fleck, and Ray Fox, pleasantly signing autographs for the fans who had no clue who he, and the rest of these legends were.
Now Johnny won't be known for racking up a lot of wins over his 13- year career, recording only one in 1962 at the Myers Brothers 200 at the old Bowman Gray Stadium. As a matter of fact, it even seemed as if Mr. Allen, himself, knew that many would be unaware of who he was or where his place is in racing history. As he signed the small 4x8 pictures of his car, Johnny made sure to put the years that he was in NASCAR. Mine reads, "Johnny Allen 1955-1967". For a modest racer with a limited budget, his statistics are fairly impressive. He finished 7th in the Grand National Division (what we now know as Sprint Cup) in 1957. Through only 173 races during his tenure, recorded 61 top 10's and one pole. Johnny's first major event was the Daytona Beach Road Course in 1956, and finally calling it quits in 1967 at the Carolina 500 at what we last new as "The Rock". Johnny also competed in four races in the short two years NASCAR ran a covertible series from 1958-1959. Mr. Allen also drove the first car to complete the 500 laps of the inaugural race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Not bad for a guy who only ran 173 times in 13 years, yet as with most legends I've had the pleasure of meeting, his modesty is one of his true assets. Folks, these drivers are getting harder to find, and even a rarer gem is one who participated in NASCAR's convertible series. (There's still Richard Petty) Now, Johnny is a successful businessman. However, as the warm Florida sun outlined the few wrinkles about his brow, one could still see the passion he possessed for racing. Another autograph truly worthy of my "wall of fame".
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