Column By: NICK GRAZIANO / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – ROSSBURG, OH – A couple of years ago, Jacob Allen told his father he didn’t think he was cut out for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series tour. He couldn’t win.
“I really do believe I feel like I can win any race that I show up to,” Allen said.
The confidence stems from having not only the best season of his career, but, arguably, a “breakout season.”
Allen’s previous season bests included one win, nine top-five finishes, 20 top 10s and 79 laps led. This year, he’s already surpassed each stat with four wins – including his crown jewel victory at the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway – 15 top fives, 31 top 10s and 134 laps led.
What’s produced the change?
“You know, I don’t… I just keep believing in myself, keep believing in my team and keep focused,” Allen said. “We’re working hard on getting our race car to feel right for the racetrack. You know, with getting the car right for the racetrack it helps a tremendous amount on driving the race car, as well.”
The Hanover, PA driver and his Shark Racing team are currently on their best stretch of finishes since joining the World of Outlaws tour full-time in 2014. Allen hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in his last 13 starts, including his preliminary nights during the Knoxville Nationals, which he won, and Gold Cup, where he finished second. And more than half of those finishes are podiums.
To put his season into another perspective, with 11 races left to go this season, Allen still has more wins than three-time and defending champion Brad Sweet and is tied with 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz.
“To me, it’s like a humbling feeling more than anything,” Allen said about the stat. “Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz are people I look up to and have respect for. I’ve seen Donny win 30 races in a year. Hopefully I can have their respect and hopefully when I want to go talk to guys like that, that they’re open to giving me advice because I’m just a regular guy.
“I have a long way to go to what I think would be to consider myself a great in this sport. Because of those guys, I strive to be like them and be great like them some day.”
Allen and teammate Logan Schuchart have recently swapped the top two spots during the West Coast swing. Allen won at Gold Cup with Schuchart second and then Schuchart won the Tom Tarlton Classic ahead of his uncle.
Being able to add his name to the list of drivers who have won Gold Cup has multiple special meanings to Allen.
“It meant a lot, especially with Logan (Schuchart) winning it the year before,” Allen said. “And with Stevie Smith winning it, there are three guys from the same area that have won a crown jewel race – the biggest race in my opinion on the West Coast. Coming all the way from the East Coast and doing that is pretty special.
“You look at the names that have won the Gold Cup and there are some real gassers on there. So, to be a part of that list is a pretty huge accomplishment for me.”
This weekend, he and the rest of the World of Outlaws tour venture east for two stops in Ohio – Eldora Speedway for the BeFour the Crowns Showdown on Friday, Sept. 23, and Sharon Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 24
Allen has struggled at both tracks recently, finishing no better than 19th at Eldora this year and 23rd at Sharon last year. However, his previous stats at tracks have held little weight this year.
In the 33 different tracks the World of Outlaws has raced at this season, Allen has had a new career-best finish at 23 of those tracks.
A good portion of that stems from his new mentality of, “I feel like I can win any race that I show up to.”