Allard having successful season despite loss of brother, friend

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 23, 2013 

Jonathan Allard makes a turn in his 410 sprint car during the first night of the 42nd Annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup Friday, June 21, at Skagit Speedway in Alger.

BROOKE WARREN — Skagit Valley Herald

Renowned 36-year-old sprint cup driver Jonathan Allard's last six months of racing have been filled with success and sorrow.

He compiled 11 wins in 14 nights of competition in New Zealand, ran well with the World of Outlaws and has top-five finishes during his last nine races.

Allard's also been driving with a heavy heart.

His older brother Stephen Allard, who made a successful career driving sprint cars, died in late December, and his friend and fellow driver Jason Leffler died Wednesday, June 12, in a wreck during a 410 sprint car heat race in New Jersey.

Still, Allard's dominated sprint car racing by taking the lessons he's learned from those close to him.

"He gave me some of the best advice in that your career is like a stock market situation," Allard said of Leffler during an interview Friday, June 21, from the pits at Skagit Speedway. "If your stock is really high, people want you. If your stock is really low, people look over you. Really, I model a lot of things after him, and he is one of those get in, gas it up, race as hard as you can, don't take any prisoners, then get out of the car and treat people with respect. I learned a lot of that from him."

Allard and Leffler got to know each other during trade shows along the East Coast, and the late driver made a big impact on Allard's career, the Williams Motorsports driver said.

Allard saw Leffler's stock-market analogy come to fruition years ago. He was on the road, got injured and was down on his luck, but fortunately Williams Motorsports owner Morrie Williams gave Allard the chance he was looking for, and the driver's stock suddenly began climbing again.

"Without Morrie Willams, my career was floundering at that point," Allard said. "I tied up with Morrie, and from that point on things really took a turn."

The last six years have been filled with titles and countless feature wins.

"The talent has always been there, just never really been able to put it together, and that's what Morrie's been able to provide me on and off the race track - life success."

Allard is certainly accomplished at Skagit Speedway's premier summer race. He is one of four sprint cup drivers who've become three-time Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup champions. He most recently won a 2011 title. Allard also won back-to-back in 2005 and 2006.

The three-tenths-mile high-banked oval dirt track in Alger has always been a special place for Allard to race.

"As I came up when I first started racing and competing up here, it was very intimidating," he said. "All my heroes were here at Dirt Cup. To become one of those guys later in life, it has definitely been a treat. (Skagit Speedway owner) Steve Beitler has helped me make a living as a race car driver."

And Allard is gunning for a fourth title this weekend. He thinks he's got as good a chance as anyone, too.

"We have the equipment it takes to win," Allard said. "We are going to put all the right pieces on the track. We just need to put the right puzzle together correctly."

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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