Bruce Allen Returns To Hospitable BIR BRAINERD, Minn., August 15, 2001 - It's over 1000 miles from the Reher-Morrison engine shop in Arlington, Tex., to the racetrack at Brainerd International Raceway. But the quarter-mile dragstrip at BIR...
Bruce Allen Returns To Hospitable BIR
BRAINERD, Minn., August 15, 2001 - It's over 1000 miles from the Reher-Morrison engine shop in Arlington, Tex., to the racetrack at Brainerd International Raceway. But the quarter-mile dragstrip at BIR is one motorsports facility that's treated Pro Stock Grand Am driver Bruce Allen like a favorite son. Since beginning his career in 1985 Allen has won 12 national events and competed in 32 final rounds. The 51-year-old Pro Stock veteran has notched three of those victories (1987, '89, '90) and three runner-up finishes (1985, '86, '91) in the friendly confines of BIR. In addition, he was the No. 1 qualifier at this event last year but lost in round one to Darrell Alderman.
Heading into this year's race, the 16th on the schedule, Allen will admit that it's been an up-and-down season. Currently ninth in the points standings, he's placed his '01 Pontiac Grand Am at the top of the qualifying ladder at four events (Pomona, Bristol, Denver, Seattle), in the top four of the field at eight races and in the top half 10 times. Although he's struggled at times on raceday, Allen has won 14 rounds of eliminations this year and advanced to the semifinals at the last two events. At Brainerd he's hoping to pull the trigger on his first victory of the year.
How would you evaluate your season to this point? "You know, we started out real strong. We actually won the Super Bowl race in Houston, and then in Pomona we were the No. 1 qualifier and went to the semifinals. We really felt like we had a chance to do something this year, but then we kind of stumbled for a couple of races. Phoenix wasn't real good to us and we didn't even qualify in Gainesville - we kind of went through a mini slump. Then in Houston we ran well again. It's been up and down, but here lately we think we may have found our stride. Sometimes you just feel lucky to win rounds, when you really don't have a fast enough car and you have to be lucky to win. This year we haven't been in that position. We've been fast enough to win if the driver drives well and the car responds. Sometimes that hasn't happened. Sometimes the car drives well but the driver doesn't do his part, and sometimes the car hasn't responded to the changes that we've made. Some of that is a learning curve, but as you get this deep into the season you should have some of that under control. I feel like that is what's kind of happened to us and we've gotten beyond the hard times.
What have been some of your other concerns? "Sponsorship-wise we didn't even know if we were going to get to race all year. That was a bit of a concern. George Marnell has been a good customer, and we also have a deal with Mike Edwards which shows you that a benefit of running good is other people noticing that and wanting to take part in it. After all, we do have an engine shop and that's our business unlike other teams that don't lease or wouldn't want to lease. That's been our income for the race team and the result of the success of Reher-Morrison Racing engines has been us running well - it's been really rewarding all the way around and we feel that our program is on the upswing. By running our program the way we have, we've been able to supply other teams with good, competitive engines, and in turn that has allowed us to continue. Our engine program has improved due to everyone's participation, but at the same time everyone has benefited equally from a power standpoint."
Are improvements in the engine development program the reason the race team has improved this season? "I think the engine program has been a big part of it. But let's face it, when you have fields as tight as what we have it's a combined effort of several things. First, having a really good racecar, which the Pontiac Grand Am is - they are awesome. The longer wheelbase has certainly made the cars easier to drive and easier to control. It's a good car. Our engines are running better then they ever did. I think we're looking at all of our data more closely and we're able to make better decisions predicting what we're going to do the next run. The hardest part about drag racing is taking the information from the previous run, forecasting what the car will do next and being able to make the adjustments necessary to adapt the car to the track. The way Pro Stock is now, you can't afford not to make the correct call. If you don't make those first two qualifying runs, you probably won't make it in the show no matter how much power you have. Our improvement can be attributed to an improvement in the racecar and the engine program, in addition to the team working well together. You have to be able to constructively criticize each other, and question what each person says and thinks without them getting upset with you. But it's not cut and dry. Racing has a lot of unknowns. A lot of it is making the right call and having the confidence to make it. We've actually struggled this year on race day. If we've had a problem, we haven't known when to be conservative or aggressive for the first round of eliminations. Every round is important. A lot of people have trouble looking so far ahead that they don't see what's right in front of them. They worry about who they may have in the semifinals before worrying about who they have first round. You can't take anyone for granted. That's where we've missed it a little bit."
What do you want to accomplish this year? "I'd like to win a race. The fact that we haven't isn't the end of the world though. As long as we're running well those chances will keep coming. We just feel that we can get so close but then we can't close the deal. The more times you put yourself in that position the better you get, and one of these times we're going to win. When we do win we'll probably start winning more often."
How does the decision process take place after you've made a lap and are getting ready for the next session? "At the end of the track when David (Reher) and George (Polonis) come to get me, we discuss what the run looked like and what it felt like. That's the very first thing we have to do. You have to be realistic though about what you see and think. Then we go back and look at the computer and then try and decide what's going to happen with the track during the next session. You think about what the track is going to be like, the fact that there will be a session of Fuel cars that will have been out there, and from that we try and decide what we need to change or not change. It also depends on whether they sprayed the track or scraped the track. Those are all things you have to be aware of. You get to a point where it gets closer to the time that you have to run, and then you sit down and discuss what everyone thinks we should do. Then we decide on a major, minor or no change at all. Most of the time we take a conservative approach on making the next run. Very seldom do we decide to be aggressive. Our part of figuring out what to do is by committee. Each person usually has good points. We don't have to agree with each other either and nothing's guaranteed, but you listen to every viewpoint because right or wrong, we all have something to contribute. We've been out there a long time. You need to go with what got you there, and in our case knowing when to be aggressive or conservative is part of our forte."
Why do you think you run so well in Brainerd? - "We do seem to run well there. The track has been repaved several times too, so it's not like we go to a surface we're real familiar with it. It just happens to be that we do good there. Maybe it's the time of year, but it does seem to be one of our better tracks. Maple Grove is good to us as well. I'm looking forward to the next three or four races. The fans that go to the race in Brainerd aren't casual fans, they are true fans. They know what's going on. They're real knowledgeable and are great fans."
What do you hope to accomplish over the next few weeks? " We're always in an ongoing search for more power. That's real critical in racing Pro Stock. We're in the stretch now that you kind of need to get it put together. I think the next few races will be good for us. We're only three points behind (Ron) Krisher, and if we can put three good races together we could jump a few spots in the points standings. Our goal right now is to get in the top five in points, get some consistency and win a race."
Do you still enjoy racing? "It's more fun when you have success. It's frustrating to work hard and not get anything out of it. Once you've had success, you want to do it again and again. It's been a lot of fun here lately for us. We're more confident and believe in each other more. It's a lot of fun and I'm thankful to still be out here. Hopefully we can get that win we've been searching for so we don't keep being reminded on how long it's been. That winning feeling is something you never forget and I want that back again for myself and my team."