Last year veteran sprint car driver Scott Russell stepped away from his driving duties at Placerville Speedway to hire one of Northern California’s most talented drivers in the late Stephen Allard.
While 2012 brought a great deal of triumph on the track it was followed by tragedy during the winter that not only devastated Russell but much of the local racing community. Now, Russell and his 14r sprint car team are ready to return to Placerville Speedway in the wake of Allard’s passing.
“We all share a love for this sport and a commitment to winning, but this year we will also share heavy hearts as we remember the good times and great finishes a very talented driver and friend brought us,” said Russell. “At the end of the season I knew Stephen would be moving on in 2012 with a new opportunity and I was prepared to get back behind the wheel of my own car. I never expected it would be as hard as it is but I’m ready to come back.”
During the 2012 racing season, Russell truly enjoyed being on the sidelines watching the 14r sprint car owned by Kami Arnold and himself as it developed a fan frenzy known as “Allard Mania” at Placerville Speedway. Allard took the team to incredible levels with the ability to win on almost any given night.
At the end of the season, Allard and the 14r team finished a close second to Andy Forsberg in the standings. Although it was another bridesmaid season for the team, it was by far the most incredible season for both driver and owners. It was then that Russell was certain the offers would be coming for Allard that would soon take him away from the team.
“We had a successful and amazing season with Stephen behind the wheel,” Russell said. “He told me he had an opportunity to drive fulltime with car owner Clyde Lamar in 2013 (King of the West Series) and I was proud of him. I knew with the successful season he had that those offers were going to come his way.”
Sadly, Allard never got the opportunity to follow the dream offer. On Christmas eve, the 40 year-old Cameron Park resident passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. While Russell is prepared to climb back behind the wheel, he never expected it to be in this fashion and will be racing his hardest in memory of the driver that proved the locally sponsored #14r team had the ability to win races and be a championship contender.
“Last season was truly a gift, to be part of the winning combination of Stephen and his crew chief Lee Lindgren. The two of them were so knowledgeable, determined and shared a common goal which was to win. After racing a year with them I have gained confidence and knowledge and I hope that will make me a contender this season. Perhaps that’s why Stephen and I were brought together last year. With that said, I have a renewed desire to climb back in the car this year.”
In 2013 Allard drove the #14r team to four feature victories, four top fives and nine top 10s at Placerville and two wins and four top fives in the traveling Civil War Series and contended for titles in both campaigns. In the end, it wasn’t the first time that the team finished a bridesmaid to the title as Russell finished second in 2011 and 2010 and third in 2009. This year, the 44 year-old Russell hopes that will change.
With the combination of the great knowledge passed on by Allard and Lindgren, the team has the tools to contend for the title as the season begins on April 6th. The one other element they maintain is a dedicated group of sponsors that return this season.
“I really have to thank my longtime sponsors Thompson’s Auto and Truck Centers and Capital Ace Hardware,” said Russell. “They have stuck with me and supported my decisions with this team over the years. Ron and Jeff Thompson have been with me since day one and Capital Ace Hardware came on four years ago and have followed us to nearly every race. I also have to thank Goodwin Trucking, Carol Russell Bookkeeping, Fresh Mex and Arnolds for Awards for their continued support. I look forward to continuing long relationships with all of these supporters and my crew and hope I can show that appreciation from victory lane.”
With word that Russell is returning, the racing community is already talking about a new brand for 2013, retiring his former knick name of “Wrecking Ball Russell” for a new likeness such as Retro Russell, The Russell Revolution and others that have been suggested on Facebook.
Regardless of what the fans choose to name him, all will be in great support of the decision made by Russell and his team to return for the full season. Although the first appearance is sure to be bittersweet as Russell will begin his year with a memorial tribute lap for Allard and another member of his team. Just one week before the passing of Allard, the Russell team suffered great loss with the passing of Linda London, co-owner of Capital Ace Hardware. Linda was just as vital to the Russell team as their driver was and one of their biggest supporters both financially and as a spectator weekly.
“Although I am excited to be back in the car, I will be racing in the memory of two very special people to me this year,” said Russell. “Stephen Allard and Linda London. Both of them were very close to us and very special to this team and we will never forget the great times they brought us. This season is for both of them and I hope I can honor them well.”
Russell will take to the track with his colleagues at Placerville Speedway with the first Red Hawk Casino-Hoosier Racing Tires championship event of the year on Saturday, April 6. His car can be viewed on display at Thompson’s Toyota on Forni Road prior to the season opening as well. Discounted season tickets are currently on sale for the speedway and more information can be found at placervillespeedway.com.