Kenny Schrader, left, and Jeff Gordon talk before a race in 2008. Schrader is still competing at 59. (Chris Graythen / Getty Images)
Brooklyn, Mich. — There’s just something about stock car racing that brings families together.
Take the Allisons.
Justin Allison ran laps around Michigan International Speedway on Thursday under the watchful eye of his grandfather, Donnie Allison, and grandmother, Pat.
Donnie Allison, for those who may not recall, won the pole position in the first Winston Cup race at MIS 45 years ago, where he ultimately finished third. Allison would win 10 races over 20 years on the circuit. His brother, Bobby (84 wins) and his late son, Davey (19 wins), also drove on the NASCAR circuit.
Now, Justin Allison takes the reins during his first season on the ARCA series.
“We’ve worked hard to get to this point, and we’re going to continue to work hard until we get to the top (Sprint Cup),” said Donnie Allison, 74. “I’ve been with a lot of youngsters, I’ve worked with Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Brian Vickers, Regan Smith and I’ll put Justin at the top of that line if not above all them. I’d put him right there with Joey Logano.
“Really, it’s his ability. He’s got it. He just needs the opportunity to get some racing miles in, actual race miles. I had no doubt in my mind that he could do it (top-five at Pocono). It’s not a question of whether he can or can’t, but when he will. Right here at this particular race track, if he doesn’t have some kind of car problem, he’ll do very well.”
Justin Allison, 21, finished fifth last weekend at Pocono, a season-high finish in five races.
“The biggest thing is getting used to these cars and the big tracks,” he said. “I was running Asphalt Super Late Model on half-mile and smaller tracks and we were running 140 (mph) at some places.
“I was going 200 at some places at Pocono, but you can’t really tell you’re running that fast unless something happens. I have to get more comfortable here.”
Allison got his start when his father, Kenny, who competed on short tracks, built him a go-kart as a toddler. Justin Allison competed in five go-kart races when he was 5. He switched to stock cars in the Allison Legacy Series in 2006, winning the series title in 2010, before moving to Late Model and Super Late Model events.
Allison’s goal is to earn a ride in the Sprint Cup series.
So, does he feel any extra pressure because of his name?
“I think people put extra pressure with the name, but I just block that out,” he said. “I don’t care what people say, I’m just me, not my Grandpa, Uncle Bobby or my cousin.”
He was sixth in practice at 184.459. John Wes Townley topped practice at 187.393 mph.
Racing with the 'kids'
Kenny Schrader is no longer driving in the Sprint Cup series at age 59, but he sure is enjoying mixing it up in ARCA.
Schrader was preparing for the Corrigan Oil 200, where he will be competing against drivers half his age.
“There’s a lot of good talent in this series,” said Schrader, the NASCAR rookie of the year in 1985, who won four career races. “These kids have to know what’s up before they get here and that’s one of the things this series is really good for. They learn how to drive the heavy car with the big horsepower on three-eighths miles, half-miles and miles, dirt, pavement and speedways. They can learn what they are doing here before they move up to the next series.”