ARLINGTON, Tex., Jan. 13, 2004 -- With the beginning of another race campaign set to take off in just a few short weeks, Pontiac's Bruce Allen has every reason to be excited, if not somewhat optimistic, about the upcoming NHRA POWERade tour. The timing of a late surge in '03 by Allen's Speedco Grand Am couldn't have come at a better time, and helped lock in another top-10 points finish for the Pro Stock veteran. As the new season gets underway, last year's rally may also provide the pivotal launching pad the Reher-Morrison team needs to be successful again in '04.
"I think we have everything set as far as being ready to run," said Allen. "More than anything, we're concentrating mostly on final prep work, trying to get our stuff running better and trying to acclimate ourselves to the new tire rules. We're pretty much set with the same sponsors from last year with Pontiac Grand Am, Speedco and our engine-lease customers supplying most of our funding.
"After the first race everything will shake out and all the hoopla and hype over the winter will wear off. Over the years I've learned to ignore all the preseason anticipation and just concentrate on what we have to do to be successful."
Like everyone else in the Pro Stock category, the Reher-Morrison team has spent time adapting to the new 16-inch beadlock tires, rules put in place by the NHRA to enhance the safety of the sport. Although adjustments will be required on the Speedco Pontiac to sustain last season's performance level, Allen feels changes made in other years have had a more dramatic impact on pre-season preparation.
"There was a bigger change last year with the LED lights than anything that's happened in the last 10 years," said Allen. "People look at a situation, find what they want to find and come up with their own conclusions. But when you look at the big picture, most of the time it's not that significant from a performance standpoint.
"Over the years, we've changed from Pontiac Firebirds to Grand Ams, and from Chevy Camaros to Berettas, and if you think about it, those changes with the car were huge, significantly more dramatic than the adjustments we have to make this year with the beadlock tire. The rules are what they are, they're the same for everybody and we'll make it work. The key will be getting comfortable with the new tire, getting used to how it feels and figuring out what gear ratios to run with it."
Time flies when you're racing, and with just a blink of an eye Bruce Allen finds himself in his 20th season as an NHRA Pro Stock competitor. Among active, full-time drivers, only Warren Johnson has raced longer, and Allen's ability to compete at such a high, competitive level for so long is a testament to the Reher-Morrison organization.
"Part of it has been getting the necessary funding to be able to race this long," said Allen. "But it also takes a considerable amount of drive to want to stay competitive. I've been fortunate that we've had great sponsors like Pontiac, that I've been healthy enough to keep racing, and I'm also thankful that we've been good enough to want to continue. On the other hand, Dave's (Reher) been doing this longer than me. They started racing Pro Stock in 1976, so he's got another nine years on me. Racing for that long says something about the entire Reher-Morrison program and what the organization has been able to accomplish over the years. In any form of motorsports, whether it's NASCAR, IRL or NHRA, it's very rare, to find a team or an individual that's been able to compete at that high of a level for so long, and Dave's been able to do just that.
"You look at what Dave's been through in both the loss of Lee (Shepherd) and Buddy (Morrison), and you couldn't blame him for walking away and going to do something else. That's a lot of stamina on his part, and being partners, we've been able to keep one another going when maybe the other guy wanted to step away. When you get to be our age though, we're at another place where we have to ask ourselves, 'what else would we do?' Sure, we build engines at the shop, and we could do just that, but would we be happy and would that be enough, just getting up and going to work? Probably not. During tough times you forget that, but you have to always keep in perspective that racing is fun. Not too many people get to compete like we do and you have to always keep that in mind."
A lengthy bio on the back of Bruce Allen's collector card lists an impressive score of accomplishments accumulated over the years. Since 1985, the Arlington, Tex., resident has won 16 national events, raced in 38 final rounds, scored seven top-five, and 13 top-10 finishes. Allen's best points finish was in 1989 when he posted a second-place showing and captured four national event victories in seven final rounds. Heading into the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona he has 296 round wins for a career batting average of .527. Among active full-time drivers only Warren Johnson (772), Jim Yates (358) and Kurt Johnson (347) have won more.
"The most important thing in Pro Stock is the consistency of your level of performance," explained Allen. "If you're good enough to win a couple of rounds a race for the entire season, that's usually good enough to win the championship. Last year was the exception and you would have had to have done better than that. If you can also do better than what you anticipate at a race, if you can win a couple of rounds when you didn't expect to, you feel much better doing that than getting beat in the first round when you may have the best car. The key is to be realistic and do the best that you can. When you've been racing as long as I have you understand the importance of finding a little good in what otherwise would be a bad situation. When things are going good, enjoy it because it won't last forever. And when you're running bad, stay positive because getting back on track can be just around the corner."
Allen's charge to third place during the final half of the 2001 season is the performance template Reher-Morrison has set out to duplicate in recent years. Allen won a pair of national events that year and 20 rounds of eliminations after the season's midpoint - the most of any driver in the category.
"By the end of June, people usually do one of two things," explained Allen. "They either decide they're not capable of improving and they back off, or the cars that are really good and in a position for a strong finish start to step it up. There may be more testing or more work to find more horsepower, but the key is not to burn yourself out early chasing things that aren't there. This year I think we can be as good as we were at the end of '01. Our goal is to start out strong, get through that tough spot in the middle and try to build toward that top-five finish.
"From about Columbus on, that's where you'll need to make your move. That's where you'll have to go to work and press it that much harder. If you're in good shape after the Pontiac Excitement Nationals, you'll have to work a little harder to stay there."
Although winless in '03, the Reher-Morrison team scored a pair of back-to-back low-qualifying efforts at Phoenix and Gainesville and battled its way to an eighth-place finish. It marked the fourth time in the last five race seasons that Allen had scored at least one No. 1 qualifying effort. Three consecutive races at the end of the year qualifying his Speedco Pontiac Grand Am fifth or higher, as well as a trip to the semifinals at the NHRA Finals has Allen enthusiastic about competing again in '04.
"I'm getting more and more excited about it as we get closer," said Allen. "I'm ready to go. The schedule doesn't get too hectic until around May and June, and if you're running good, then you look forward to each new event. It's not only the challenge but the fact that you're meeting your goals. And even if things aren't going well, you need to stay positive because there's always an opportunity to get things turned around.
"A top-five finish is the minimum that is acceptable to this team and I think we're more than capable of doing that. Whether or not we're good enough to win the championship, I'm not going to sit here and say that. When you get a string of races together where you're running strong, then you realize that all of a sudden you are in the hunt. At the beginning of the season everybody sets that as their goal. In our case I'm confident that we're a top-five car, our program is that good and we have the funding to be that successful. At the same time, I think it will be another one of those years where it's a battle all the way to the very end."
General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs 342,000 people globally in its core automotive business and subsidiaries. Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931. GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in more than 190 countries. In 2002, GM sold more than 8.6 million cars and trucks, nearly 15 percent of the global vehicle market. GM's global headquarters is at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer website at www.gm.com.