Racing is in the Allen family's blood.
Larry Allen, who lives in Washington, said he grew up in East Peoria. He graduated from East Peoria Community High School in 1961.
Allen, 70, said he got into the racing world through his father, Floyd “Pappy” Allen, who built race cars. It all began in a little garage on Doering Avenue.
“He raced at the old Peoria Speedway, his cars did. When I got old, I bought in with him,” Allen said.
Racing is in the Allen family's blood. Larry Allen, who lives in Washington, said he grew up in East Peoria. He graduated from East Peoria Community High School in 1961. Allen, 70, said he got into the racing world through his father, Floyd “Pappy” Allen, who built race cars. It all began in a little garage on Doering Avenue. “He raced at the old Peoria Speedway, his cars did. When I got old, I bought in with him,” Allen said. Jim Strube of Peoria raced the Allen's car. This led to the group moving their race car building venture from the single-car garage to a larger facility in Peoria. Then, after moving again and renting a garage, Larry said they decided to buy their own place. The Allens opened Allen Automotive, 427 Taylor St., in East Peoria near the ball fields at Central Junior High School. After Larry's father died, his brother took over Allen Automotive until his death. Today, Larry's nephew, Craig, operates the business. Larry opened his own business 15 years ago called LA Racing, which is located at 25295 Schuck Road in Washington. Larry's sons, Sean Allen and Shane Allen, are also involved with LA Racing. Shane also races. Larry said he has probably built over 100 racecars, including Hornets, Late Models, Modifieds and Street Stocks. “A lot of times we just repair them,” Larry said. Before building any race cars, Larry recalls going to watch the races with his father at Hoffer's Death Valley Racetrack in East Peoria. Recently, Larry donated photographs and other Death Valley racing items to Doug Morris, who owns a race car museum with his son Joe, called Joe's Garage in Towanda. Joe's Garage is an attraction on Route 66. Larry said he acquired boxes of Death Valley images and trophies from East Peorian Marge Creek. Creek's sister, the late Bobby Wagner was married to Bob Wagner, who raced at Death Valley. “My dad actually helped him quite a bit before he got involved himself,” Larry said. Larry said he had Bob Wagner's trophies on his table and his friends often looked at them. One of his friends was local race car legend Herb Shannon, who died in 2012. “I told Herb, 'I want to do something with them trophies. I don't want to put them up in the attic. They need to be seen,'” Larry said. Shannon told Larry about Doug Morris in Towanda. “He offered to buy them, but I said, 'No, I just want you to put them somewhere where people can see them,'” Larry said. Larry went with Marge Creek to the museum in Towanda in March. “(Doug) built a shelf for (the trophies). He had them all polished up nice and neat and has them all sitting there together,” Larry said. Seeing the photos of Death Valley brought back fond memories for Larry. “I remember walking across here (the track) on Sunday afternoon for the races,” Larry said, pointing at a photo. “You sat in the middle and there was a big old tree. My dad used to put us kids under there. In the No. 3 turn, they had a concession stand and they had boards nailed to the tree for a calendar and there was a sign there that said, 'Not responsible for accidents.'” Unlike some of the pits today where the race cars are kept in the center of the track, Larry said at Death Valley, the cars were parked on the outskirts of the track and the spectators sat in the middle. Death Valley Speedway, which was located on land owned by the Hoffer family in Highway Village off of Meadows Avenue, was a half-mile dirt-oil covered track that operated from 1947 to 1952, according to the Peoria Oldtimers Racing Club. The track didn't have the same safety precautions of today's racetracks, Larry said. “They used to start up the hill, go across the top of the hill, go down the hill and make a turn,” Larry said. “It was (dangerous). I remember going out there Sunday afternoon and it was shut down.” Larry said he heard stories about the racetrack's closure, but he doesn't know if they are true. “People used to climb trees to get a better view of the track, and they said the week before (the track closed), someone hit a tree and killed two kids up there,” he said. In his entire career with race cars, Larry said he only raced in a mechanics race once and he won. What Larry didn't realize during the race is that his son was racing against him. “He pulled out after I got out on the track. He passed all the cars real easy. He came up to me and he would just show me his nose in the turns, and I would go harder. In the last lap … I thought it was another guy. I thought, 'This guy isn't going to pass me now on the last lap,'” Larry said with a laugh. Larry said he always wanted to race, but after buying in with his dad and building cars that were winning, he said, “I didn't want to be a loser.” Today, Larry is slowing down a bit in the world of racing after he had a liver transplant, but he still loves everything about racing, especially the people.