Sunday, March 18, 2001

Auto racing insider


Allen has returned to ASA roots

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A caller asked the whereabouts of Glenn Allen Jr., the Lockland High graduate who once ran in the NASCAR Busch series. Allen has returned to the American Speed Association circuit, where he once had great success.

        Allen, 30, was Busch rookie of the year in 1996 and finished a career-high 11th in points in 1998. Busch is NASCAR's No.2 tier behind Winston Cup, and Allen was the most visible Cincinnati driver on the national stock circuits. But he lost his full-time Busch ride late in 1999, when his two-car team had sponsor and ownership problems.

        Allen ran a handful of Busch races in 2000 with limited success. He rejoined ASA in mid-2000 and had nine top-10 finishes.

        It was ASA where Allen made a national reputation, with six career wins. This year Allen has run 20th and 24th in the first two ASA races of the season. ASA is one of the feeder circuits for Busch and Winston Cup. It races mostly in the Midwest and Southeast.

        EARNHARDT PHOTOS: The Orlando Sentinel's request to have an independent medical expert examine autopsy photos of Dale Earnhardt sparked a torrent of protest. Some believe the overriding issue is the credibility of NASCAR itself.

        NASCAR has stood by its medical expert, Daytona Beach trauma physician Dr. Steve Bohannon, who believes the separated lap belt discovered in the wreckage of Earnhardt's car allowed Earnhardt to hit his face and chin on the steering column. That impact, Bohannon said, probably fractured the base of Earnhardt's skull.

        But Bohannon is the director of emergency services at Daytona International Speedway — which is owned by International Speedway Corporation, which is owned by the France family, which owns NASCAR. The Sentinel wants to make sure the physical evidence supports Bohannon's claim that the seat belt failure caused the skull fracture, and not the lack of a head-and-neck restraining device.

        Former driver Darrell Waltrip, who retired to the Fox TV booth this year, has been leading the call for NASCAR to improve safety. Waltrip threw several hard questions at NASCAR president Mike Helton on national TV the week after Earnhardt's death, and he continues to keep the issue alive.

        “I'm still a little concerned about questions that are being asked and not getting the proper answers,” Waltrip wrote recently on allwaltrip.com, his Fox Sports Web site. “It seems that the more answers that we get, the more questions those answers create.”

        Waltrip added: “I have a photo that someone got to me through the Internet of the interior of Earnhardt's car. It's not a good-quality shot, but I don't see any damage to Earnhardt's steering wheel or any indication that he flew forward in the car because of a broken seat belt. I still feel a little bit suspicious about all of that. I would like to know more, just like a lot of people would.”

        RARE FEAT: Kevin Harvick last week became the fifth Winston Cup driver to win in his third Cup start. The others: Dan Gurney in 1963, Bill Norton in 1951, Johnny Mantz in 1950 and Bob Flock in 1949. (Flock's win was in NASCAR's third race ever.)

        LOCAL SCENE: Curt McClure of West Harrison, Ind., was the first $1,000 winner of the season at Tri-State Dragway in Hamilton. McClure, 19, won the combo eliminator (Box and No-Box brackets combined) in a 1973 Barracuda.

        E-mail tgroeschen@enquirer.com.

       



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