Sprint Car pilot Jonathan Allard redefines the term “road trip”
Racers across North America often joke that in the heart of racing season, it’s not uncommon to wake up in the morning unable to identify what city or even what state they are currently in. It’s just part of the baggage that comes with living life as a throttle-mashing nomad.
As challenging as it can be to sometimes identify your locale here in the continental 48, imagine just how tough it would be if you frequently bounced back and forth between the United States and New Zealand to race.
Enter the life of California-native Jonathan Allard.
“Yeah, sometimes it can get a little mind-boggling when you are hopping planes between the U.S. and New Zealand,” laughs the personable 39-year-old. “It’s only about a 12-hour flight, but you lose a day during the course of the trip, and that in itself can twist your brain. However, I wouldn’t have my life any other way.”
Jonathan grew up in Chico, California, in a racing family. His father and brothers were active in the sport, so it was only natural Jonathan would be fueled by the same desire to compete.
“I just felt that competitive nature inside me when I was young, and my first taste of racing came about the age of 6, when I started racing bicycles,” remembers Jonathan. “We traveled all over the country doing BMX races and just got to a point where we realized we are spending a lot of money to just race for trophies.”
Watching his older brother, Stephen, race Go-Karts really caught Jonathan’s attention.
“The motorized stuff definitely seemed more appealing than the pedal stuff,” Jonathan jokes. “By 1986, I got my first taste of Go-Kart racing, and I was hooked from the get-go.”
Jonathan enjoyed Go-Kart racing for the next seven years until a new love entered his life. It came in the form of a Sprint Car.
“If you are into racing, growing up on the West Coast, you just have to be in awe of Sprint Cars,” notes Jonathan. “It’s just the way it is.”
In 1993, he got his first taste of Sprint Car racing. He would dabble in the division until 1996, when he sold every piece of Go-Kart equipment he had to put his sole focus on Sprint Car racing. He ran weekly at his home track, Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico.
For the 17-year-old, it was a dream come true.
“We were about as low budget as low budget could be, but we made do,” Jonathan recalls. “We were a small, family-owned team, and I was incredibly lucky to have someone sponsor me a 410c.i. engine.”
Jonathan quickly adapted to the new challenge and soon found himself as a frequent flyer in victory lane. He wreaked havoc up and down the West Coast.
“By 2000, things really started to ramp up for my program, and I was offered my first full-time ride with a team,” remembers Jonathan. “From that point, it seemed like my career was really in the fast lane.”
The 2004 season found Jonathan jumping on the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car tour to compete for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year title. While the year started a little slowly, as he adjusted to tracks he had never seen, Jonathan had begun to hit his stride by mid-season.
That’s when fate interjected itself into his career.
“I got an eye injury in a crash at Rolling Wheels Speedway in New York in May, and it really started affecting my nighttime vision,” recalls Jonathan. “So, I went to a couple of doctors and ultimately learned that I had a bruised retina and needed to take the rest of year off from racing to allow it to recover. It was pretty tough to swallow.”
While Jonathan headed to the sidelines, the team he had been driving for on the WoO tour soldiered ahead with another driver. This left Jonathan looking for new options.
“At the time, it kind of felt like the end of the world, but as fate would have it, it might’ve been one of the best things to ever happen to me in my career. It’s funny how things work out sometimes,” he says.
“Plain and simple, Morrie was just an amazing car owner,” said Jonathan. “He gave me everything and more than I could ever need, and we enjoyed incredible success together. I’ll always be indebted to him for the opportunities that he afforded me.”
During his time in the Williams Motorsports entry, Jonathan also began to expand his racing resume internationally. It was during this time that fate intervened into Jonathan’s life once again.
“Back when WoO went and ran in New Zealand in 2006, I met a guy down there who ended up buying a car from me,” Jonathan recollects. “In 2009, he asked me to come back and run a few races for him. Not only did I really enjoy racing down there, but it ultimately led to me meeting the love of my life, and future wife, Lani.”
Racing in New Zealand allowed Jonathan to not only expand his racing operations, but also exposed him to an amazing atmosphere for a driver.
“Racing in New Zealand is just incredible,” quips Jonathan. “The tracks there tend to be located in the center of huge cities — comparable to San Francisco. Every race has at least 10,000 fans in attendance, and their enthusiasm creates an insane atmosphere. I love every minute of racing there.”
Spending five months a year racing in New Zealand and the other seven months of the calendar competing in the United States allowed Jonathan to make a decent living in the racing world.
As he racked up countless accolades on two different continents, it seemed things couldn’t get much better. However, as life often has a way of doing, it threw him a painful curveball on December 24, 2012.
On that Christmas Eve, Jonathan’s older brother, Stephen, passed away unexpectedly at just 40 years old. It was a life-changing experience for Jonathan.
“I was clearly devastated, and wasn’t sure which direction to go next,” remembers Jonathan. “For a moment there, I questioned even staying in racing, but then I realized that my brother would’ve punched me in the nose if I had ever mentioned quitting to him. It definitely changed my perspective on life though, and made me really appreciate every second that I get to spend with my family.”
Not only did Stephen’s passing change Jonathan’s perspective on life, but it also changed his direction in the sport. In 2014, he made the extremely tough decision to leave the Williams Motorsports ride to become the pilot for Clyde Lamar’s #3 Tri-C Motorsports machine.
“It was really tough to leave the Williams ride because they were so good to me, but Stephen’s passing was part of the decision in me moving to the Clyde Lamar entry,” notes Jonathan. “Prior to his passing, Stephen had worked out a deal to drive Clyde’s car, so for me it felt like I was carrying on his legacy by taking over that ride. Every time I get in that car, I feel like he’s right there with me. I wanted to finish that deal for him.”
After eight years of driving for Morrie Williams, it initially proved to be a tough adjustment for Jonathan to move to a new team.
“It was definitely a challenge at the beginning, but I have zero doubt that I made the right decision,” he comments.
In 2011, Jonathan’s car owner in New Zealand elected to pursue other interests and sold his team. Jonathan wanted to keep racing down under, so he put together a small operation to allow him to run the five-month schedule.
“I really learned a lot at that point about treating this sport like a business and racing smart,” says Jonathan. “It’s worked out well, and honestly I’m looking to put something similar together back here in the United States. I look at what guys like Brian Brown and Jason Johnson have done with their own teams, and I hope to be able to achieve something like that in the very near future.”
In January 2014, he married Lani. Their time together proves to be quite different than most marriages.
Lani and her son continue to live in New Zealand, where she operates her own business. He spends five months living with her in New Zealand, while racing there over the winter. During the other seven months of the year, she flies to California every other month to spend time with him.
“I know it sounds crazy to some people, but for us it works just great,” comments Jonathan. “I’m very blessed to have such an amazing wife that understands and supports my love of racing.”
While Jonathan continues to pilot the Clyde Lamar #3c on American soil, he is actively pursuing putting together a small operation to run big events across the nation, similar to what he does in New Zealand with his team.
“I’m trying to put together enough sponsors to run a limited schedule to hit some of the bigger shows across the country,” notes Jonathan. “We are going for quality and not quantity here as far as the number of races we want to run.”
As he continues to build his own operation, Jonathan has learned a lot about the value of taking care of sponsors.
“I’ve learned that it’s important to always represent your sponsors well, even on those nights where everything seems to be going wrong,” he says. “You have to make every effort to give back 110 percent at all times. At the end of the day, they are exactly like family because they are supporting you in reaching your dreams.”
Washington’s Longacre Racing Products, who is a long-time sponsor of Jonathan Allard, echoes the value the California-racer brings to the table.
“It never ceases to amaze me how Jonathan goes out of his way to go above-and-beyond in giving back to us,” says Longacre Vice President of Sales Tom Glithero. “Whether it’s having our decal always displayed prominently on his car or bringing his car to our shop for our employees to enjoy, he truly does it all. Racers could learn a lot from what he brings to the table for a sponsor.”
Jonathan’s season has been off to a fast start. He claimed wins in nine of the 13 events he entered in New Zealand en route to claiming the 46th annual New Zealand title, which was the second of his career. He also claimed the Rolling Thunder Championship and recently added his first win of the year in the United States with a Silver Dollar Speedway triumph.
Jonathan Allard continues to chase his dreams on a daily basis. In his career, he’s already accumulated a bevy of track championships, major event wins, and other accolades in the United States and New Zealand. While most racers would be happy to sit back on this impressive list of laurels, he continues to forge ahead in pursuit of bigger accomplishments.
When asked for a parting piece of advice for other racers who are pursuing greatness, he thoughtfully notes, “Just live everyday of life to the fullest and never pass up an opportunity to spend time with those you love the most. Everything else will fall into place.”