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Nationwide Series driver Willie Allen racing a day after his father passed away

By Lee Montgomery

RICHMOND, Va. – NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Willie Allen is driving with a heavy heart Friday at Richmond International Raceway. His father, Al, passed away Thursday after battling complications from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Al Allen, 55, was a big supporter of Willie’s career, and that’s why Willie decided to drive all night to race in Richmond.

"Tough week. After Talladega, as soon as I got home and laid in the bed, my mom called and said he was having trouble breathing, so we rushed him to the hospital," Willie said. "He actually walked in the hospital. Just thought he was having a rough time, pneumonia or something."

But Al didn’t get any better, and doctors put him on a bi-pap breathing machine. Willie said the decision was made Thursday to take him off the machine.

"Man, I wouldn’t be racing if it wasn’t for him, 100 percent," Willie said. "Countless hours at the shop. There wouldn’t even be a chance of me being here (without him)."

Willie wondered whether he should race Friday at Richmond, but he said he knew what his dad would want

"I kind of questioned myself: What should I do?’ Willie said. "I know 100 percent what he’d want me to do. That’s all he worked for, for me to do this. It’s been tough today. It’s been super tough, just focusing. I ain’t going to lie. Trying to work through it."

Willie and his wife Kristen drove all night Thursday and got to Richmond about five minutes before practice began at 9 a.m. Eastern.

"All worn out," Willie said. "But it’s worth it, coming here for him."

Willie smacked the wall in practice but still qualified his No. 05 Day Enterprises Racing Chevrolet.