CHICO, California — In late 2019, Jonathan Allard left California little knowing that this would be the last time he would see the Golden State for nearly three years.
After spending the season primarily as crew chief but also having some resurgent runs behind the wheel of Country Builders Construction’s sprint car, Allard boarded a flight to his New Zealand home where his wife, a native New Zealander, resides.
However, the trip turned out to be a much longer stay than expected as the COVID-19 pandemic spread just before his planned return in early 2020, causing uncertainty and eventually an inability to travel between houses.
“Unfortunately, with COVID, that’s what happened and everyone got nervous about what was happening,” Allard told SPEED SPORT. “It felt like I should have left within the week and I postponed everything to make sure my wife and everything in New Zealand is safe.
“With that came the border restrictions,” Allard continued. “Without being a full New Zealand citizen, there was no way to get back and forth. When I left, I basically didn’t know when I could come back.”
Allard made the most of his time, grateful to be able to spend it with his wife and still do plenty of laps in the sprint car. He has racked up many trophies in the Dalton’s Landscape machine in recent years.
With restrictions recently eased in New Zealand, Allard is back in California and ready to do what he does best, which is drive a sprint car in the bullrings where he grew up.
Allard is one of the most accomplished Wheelmen in the region. A Chico, California native, he has accumulated three titles with the NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Cars along with 40 consecutive wins. He owns four Super Dirt Cup Championships at Skagit Speedway.
Perhaps most notably, Allard achieved one of his favorite hometown wins of all time when he won the 2014 Gold Cup Race of Champions against the NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in the last lap and last corner.
In a welcome glimpse of left coaster nostalgia, Allard’s homecoming will be aboard Morrie Williams’ legendary No. 0, the ride he rode to many of his greatest achievements and helped establish his legacy. A random phone call a few months ago with Williams Motorsports crew chief Ashley Smith led to the reunion.
“Ashley said, ‘Well, we really don’t have anyone, would you be interested in coming back here?'” Allard explained. “And that was something I really wanted to do with the relationship that I had with Morrie and Katie (Williams) and the whole team. After I left, we were still very close. And after Morrie’s death, being part of that team again was something I could only dream of.”
Among the fairytale elements of Allard’s return is that his first race back at his home track, Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California, will be when NARC kicks off the Road to Dirt Cup this Friday.
Allard is third on the all-time winners list for sprint cars and is very popular with the community.
“Chico is obviously my home stadium and probably one of the better places to go home and really get down to earth because I do a lot of laps there,” noted Allard. “It’s the ability to refresh and reboot myself and try to get back into the groove as quickly as possible.”
Allard also credits the Butte County bullring as the catalyst for the success he has experienced throughout his career.
“Chico allowed me to race really hard and I had to race against guys who were really, really good in their time and place,” Allard said. “From local Friday night shows to NARC shows to outlaw shows, you really had to be on the ball with every race in Chico and I think that gave me an opportunity to have some of the tools in place that it takes to win some of these other circuits.”
After Chico, Allard and the Williams team will travel north with the series to Cottage Grove Speedway. They will then proceed to another facility that will be excited for Allard’s return, Skagit Speedway, as he seeks his fifth Dirt Cup crown.
This year it will be the 50thth edition of the prestigious event and will award US$50,000 to the winner. Allard has not competed in the prestigious event since 2014, but his four wins rank second all-time. The Dirt Cup holds a special place in his heart as it helped take it to a new level in his career.
“The Dirt Cup is a very special place,” said Allard. “The prize money allowed me to buy my first house and do many things in my life. With the story up there, it’s very special to be a part of it and to be one of the guys who won multiple Dirt Cup championships. It’s special to me and we have a lot of great fans up there. To go all the way up it’s pretty nice to be back in that car and represent the 0 team.”
After the Dirt Cup, Allard will return to New Zealand to complete some commitments before returning to the States sometime in August. He then plans to end the year competing primarily in NARC racing while getting involved in some of the California circuit’s big 360ci shows, including the Trophy Cup.
While Allard will no doubt have victory on his mind when he returns home to drive the car that has been so pivotal in his career, at circuits that have been so crucial to his development, the unexpected break of the 45- Yearlings given an additional perspective beyond claiming checkered flags.
Allard intends to take in as much as he can during the homecoming and find moments to step back and appreciate where he is and the path he’s taken while trying to capitalize on a special opportunity from which he wasn’t sure if he would ever have it again.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to enjoy a part of what we built a long time ago,” said Allard. “I never really had to stand and, as they say, smell the roses. I’ve never really looked at where I’m at and appreciated what I had until it’s gone. Now I have a chance to shake everyone’s hand, hug everyone and go out and perform, do my best and keep my head up no matter where we finish and just appreciate what we’ve been able to achieve in the past and hopefully in the future.”
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