DALLAS -- The 2001 NHRA drag racing campaign was a year to remember for Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am driver Bruce Allen. The 51-year-old Texas Pro Stock veteran had one of his best seasons in a long time, racking up two national-event victories en route to his third career third-place finish and 13th top 10. Although Allen finished fourth in '97, his effort this season was his best since '89 when he compiled four wins in six final rounds for a second-place finish.
Allen blasted out of the starting blocks strong at the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., qualifying No. 1 and advancing to the semifinals before losing to eventual race winner Kurt Johnson. He captured three more pole positions at Bristol, Tenn., Denver, and Seattle, qualified in the top half of the field 16 times, in the top four 12 times, won at Brainerd, Minn., and the NHRA Finals in Pomona, and tallied 29 round wins for a raceday batting average of .604. During the second half of the season, beginning with the NHRA 50th Anniversary Nationals in Pomona, Allen accumulated more round wins (20) than any driver in the Pro Stock category. He talks about the completion of '01, the progression of the Reher-Morrison engine development program and what to expect from his Pontiac Grand Am in '02.
Was winning Pomona a momentum booster for 2002? "Not really. You're only as good as your last race. All you get to do is look back and enjoy it a little bit longer. Over the winter a lot of things will change -crew chiefs, drivers, new equipment, etc. The engine aspect of Pro Stock racing is so competitive, and extremely power related in the sense that if you gain five or ten horsepower over the winter you can expect everyone else to do that too. Just to stay even you have to increase your power. As far as momentum, it might make the morale around the shop a little bit better, but by the time we get back to Pomona for the first race, everything will be new and fresh. From a personal standpoint it was awesome for me. We accomplished a lot last year. In my midyear preview I think I said that we could finish in the top-five and win a couple of races, and we did. I felt like the potential was there all year. But personally I look at it as you're as good as your last race."
How much more horsepower can you get out of the current engine configuration?
"I think in the current configuration you could keep milking them a little bit and pick up 10 or 15 horsepower on average per year. Statistically that is about what we average year to year. But we're about to start a new program with GM, the DRCE3, and we're pretty excited about the potential there."
How much testing will you be doing during the winter? "The majority of whatever we do will be at Houston. We're getting a new car that we'll take out and debug. You like to get out at least three or four times - some people like to test more than others. I would say our goal is to test three or four times before Pomona, but it's more beneficial for us to stay in the shop for a couple of reasons. One is for ongoing development and the other is from a budget standpoint. That approach has always worked real well for us because we have to be smart with how we do it. When you start out the year you need to have fresh equipment, and you yourself need to be fresh. You don't need to be beaten down and already been to the equivalent of 10 races by the time you get to the Winternationals. The race season is long enough."
Can you test too much? "I think one of the things people get caught up in is going fast. I like that, too, but everything is relative. If you go to Reading, and it's fast there, that's great and I like that. But for the most part, everywhere we test in the preseason is conducive to fast times and speeds. But going fast in Houston in January doesn't mean much by the time you get to Pomona. Everyone goes to test with a plan. The key is to be disciplined enough where a fast run during the first session doesn't throw you off from your initial purpose."
Were you satisfied with the third-place finish? "Yeah. We had enough trouble in the beginning of the year that we finished as high as we could. I don't feel like I drove very well this year either. One of the things that makes for a bad combination is not making good runs and not driving well. When you get in that rut it's a pretty tough road. I was real happy that we finished third considering the year we had and where we were. There's a groove that you have to try and get in. Once you're there it helps tremendously, and builds confidence and motivation."
Any sponsorship in the works? "We always have a couple of people we're talking to. We don't have anything very promising at the moment. That's not going to keep us from racing. We'll still have Speedco on the car in some capacity, and of course we have Pontiac. Not having a major sponsor is not going to make an impact on whether we win or not. If something comes along, great. But if it doesn't we'll just do the best we can."
Do you have high expectations for 2002? "Yes, but not unrealistic. I think
we've got a pretty good idea on what it takes to race and be competitive. One
of the key ingredients is money. You also need to set realistic goals. I
think we've got as good of a chance of winning this year as we ever have - at
least for as long as I've been here. There are a lot of other people that
feel that way too. If we do the same kind of things that we did last year,
and run into some luck here and there, I really think we can win it. It's all
a matter of keeping the proper perspective and being real honest with
yourself at where you are. The key for anyone to do well is to put yourself
in a position to win. Then you do the best you can - the big picture takes
care of itself. If you pay attention to the little details the rest of it
happens on its own."