Surgoinville engine builder wins second national drag title

Jeff Bobo • Updated Jan 16, 2019 at 12:47 PM

SURGOINSVILLE — Providing the power for a national champion drag racing team in 2013 was a pretty big deal, but for Surgoinsville engine guru Mike Allen Sr., placing first and second in 2018 was almost as good as it gets.

Allen Competition Engines (ACE), operated in downtown Surgoinsville by father and son Mike Allen Sr. and Mike Allen Jr. was the exclusive engine builder in 2018 for two Extreme Pro Stock competitors in the Professional Drag Racers Association (PDRA).

Steven Boone ran away with the 2018 Extreme Pro Stock national championship, while 2013 champion Elijah Morton had to rely on a runner-up finish in the season finale at Richmond, Va., to sneak his way into second place in the points.

An especially satisfying win

For Mike Sr., that one-two finish in the points championship was especially satisfying after what happened in 2016.

That year it appeared another ACE customer, Richard Penlon, was going to run away with the national championship.

Heading into the season finale he was up by 225 points, but he wound up losing the title by two points.

Mike Sr. said it took him about a month to get over the depression of losing that title. But there’s nothing like winning to help you forget a disappointment.

“It kind of makes you feel like you’ve almost had a perfect season,” Mike Sr. told the Times News Tuesday. “We couldn’t have done much better. We could have won a few more races, but as far as your placement in the championship, finishing first and second out of two teams is as good as it gets.”

Allen Competition Engines is born

The Allen family has been racing for nearly five decades, although it wasn’t always on a race track.

“I alway had to fool around with the hot rods when I was in high school, and it started there,” Mike Sr. said. “I had an accident when I was in high school, and my dad told me them old hot rods were going to get me in trouble, so we went into the racing business. I actually ran at Bristol back around 1971 when I was 17 years old in the B-Modified class, and my dad had to sign for me because I was too young. We just kept fooling with cars, racing as a family — my dad, my brother and myself.”

In 1973, Mike Sr. was driving back from Mooresburg, where he had picked up some parts, when he was in a serious highway accident that paralyzed his right arm. At that point, his brother became the primary driver, although Mike Sr. did still drive at times with an automatic transmission and a power glide shifter.

But eventually his focus shifted to engines and creating horsepower, especially when Mike Allen Jr. began driving.

Allen Competition Engines started in 1990 at its current location on Main Street, although it was only a part-time operation

“I kept going to auctions and buying equipment, and of course I still had a regular job,” Mike Sr. said. “At that time, I was service manager at Daugherty Brothers in Gate City. But the more equipment I bought, the more we did (in the engine shop), and the more time we put in after hours. In 1990 when I bought the business license, I knew that’s what I was going to do, but I actually quit Daugherty Brothers and came in here full time in 1997.”

A major factor in his decision to go full time in the engine shop was a surgery that restored some limited movement to his right arm and shoulder. Until that point, he had to keep it in a sling, but following the surgery the sling was discarded.

It took 16 years for ACE to win that first national championship, with Morton behind the wheel.

But sometimes winning only fuels the desire to win again.

How’d they win the 2018 title?

Following the 2016 disappointment, and limited competition in 2017, there were high hopes for 2018.

Then Morton suffered a mechanical problem in the season opener at Galot Motorsports Park in Benson, N.C.

Without a backup engine, they drove to Surgoinsville for a replacement, and arrived back at the track just in time to qualify for the race, thanks to a rain delay.

Their perseverance paid off, as Morton went on to win that season opener.

They followed that up in race No. 2 at Maryland International Raceway with Boone and Morton finishing first and second.

Boone later won at Darlington (S.C.) Dragway in the second-to-last race to clinch his national title.

How about a repeat in 2019?

The Allens are hoping to repeat in 2019, as both Morton and Boone will once again be using ACE engines exclusively.

It’s going to be a busy year because ACE expects to be preparing motors for two additional drivers: Penlon and Matt Giagrande.

Is the new goal for them to finish 1-4 in the championship?

“Well, I’d like for them all to place good,” Mike Sr. said.