(10/7/2022 – Alex Nieten) Hanford, CA… Back in early 2005, Jonathan Allard was without a ride when a door opened that would forever change his career.
Up until that year, Allard only knew car owner Morrie Williams personally through some occasional pit area small talk. As sprint car season got underway in California, Williams’ driver at the time, Dennis Moore Jr., suffered an injury. In need of a new wheelman, Williams struck a deal with Allard, leading to him climbing aboard the Williams Motorsports No. 0 and marking the beginnings of one of the most dominant pairings in west coast history.
“I got to meet Morrie a few times around the tracks in California,” Allard explained. “I didn’t know him other than a passing hello. I found myself without a ride and was helping my brother (Stephen) at Silver Dollar (Speedway) one night a few races into the season. Morrie’s driver, Dennis Moore, had a car crash into him and broke his arm. They needed a driver, and I was available. We never looked back from there.”
It didn’t take long for Allard to get acquainted with his new team. In his first start with the NARC Fujitsu General Sprint Cars (then Golden State Challenge Series), Allard finished second. In 21 series starts that year, Allard and Williams won a trio of races, notched 11 podiums, and logged 15 top-fives. Despite missing the first two events of the season prior to Moore’s injury, Allard led the series in the podium and top-five categories. Also among his accomplishments that year were three top-fives with the World of Outlaws and the first of his now four Dirt Cup victories, all of which would come in Williams’ iconic car. Allard even made the Knoxville Nationals main event twice (2009 & 2012) driving for Morrie.
The very next year they engineered a dominant season as Allard won a whopping seven of the 19 NARC races in 2006 and ultimately claimed his first series championship. They would also go on to earn the 2008 and 2012 titles.
On top of creating a wildly successful driver to car owner dynamic, Allard and Williams formed a strong friendship throughout their time together, one built through Williams’ genuine care for Allard not only as a driver but also as a person.
“Morrie was much more than the typical car owner for me,” Allard said. “He was a friend and a mentor. Morrie was always a steady guide to center us as a team and myself personally. He allowed me the ability to make mistakes inside the car which allowed me to understand myself better.
“Morrie allowed the team to work towards success with guidance and a nudge once in a while when needed,” Allard added. “Morrie never moved us in a direction through force, and that is rare in motorsports.”
Allard became like family to Morrie, his wife, Katie Williams, and the race team as their connection stretched beyond the racetrack.
After nearly a decade of dominance, Allard and the Williams team amicably parted ahead of 2014. Despite going different directions, Allard and Morrie remained close the entire way to the day the racing community sadly lost Morrie in 2019.
The very next year, the Morrie Williams Memorial was born and held at Hanford’s Keller Auto Speedway. Unfortunately, travel restrictions under the height of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t allow Allard to attend as he was with his wife in New Zealand, where they share a home.
Now, with those travel troubles erased, Allard is back in the states and set to strap back in the No. 0 this weekend for the third annual Morrie Williams Memorial in a reunion that couldn’t be better scripted in fiction.
While this Saturday will mark Allard’s first NARC start in the Golden State in three years, the Chico native did get his feet wet during a brief stint with the team in June. The four-time Dirt Cup champion flew back and competed at the 50th Annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup in Washington as Peter Murphy and Kevin Rudeen returned 410ci sprint cars to the event. The on-track performance didn’t go as he’d hoped, but Allard came away happy after getting some laps and getting to reunite with the team.
“While it was disappointing for me performance wise, I considered it a success,” Allard commented. “Spending time with Katie and Ashley (Smith, crew chief) and the Williams Motorsports family definitely made me feel like I was finally back home. The Dalton’s racing family put this together with the Williams team, and I find myself in the best spot to enjoy what Morrie build and loved.”
Fortunately for Allard fans, he and the Williams crew plan for this year to be the beginning of another extended run together. During the last few years in New Zealand, Allard has continually proven he still has plenty left in the tank, collecting a healthy tally of checkered flags in the Dalton’s sprint car.
And while Allard hopes for a strong effort in Hanford on Saturday as he continues through the early stages of another tenure with Williams Motorsports, this weekend might be more about enjoying the moment. The evening promises to be full of emotion as Allard gets the opportunity to submerge himself back in the Golden State racing community where he is beloved and primarily recognized for the extensive resumé he constructed in Morrie’s machine. It wasn’t all that long ago that Allard only dreamed of again driving the zero car, and now not only is it a reality, but he also gets to do so at the race that honors his late friend.
“I am so excited for the weekend,” Allard said. “I know we have some work to do to get up to speed again, but I hope that I have a few guys upstairs looking down to help with that. It will be emotional for me. Fortunately, I have the best around me with Katie to get the best out of us as a team. Katie has always contributed so much to this team, and we’re looking forward to what the future holds for the Williams Motorsports 0.”