By Amanda Dyslin
---- — GAYLORD — The past five years have been fraught with tragedy for racing champion Brett Allen. But from those tumultuous times have come great victories.
At a gathering in 2008, Allen's legs were so badly burned in a campfire accident that doctors didn't think the Gaylord man would walk again, let alone race. But for several years afterward, enduring surgeries and physical therapy, Allen fought his way back to his feet and back behind the wheel of his spring car.
To celebrate his accomplishments, Allen has entered a national “Search for a Champion” contest, which aims to find a driver worthy of a Champion sponsorship. The grand-prize winner will receive $50,000 from Champion spark plugs, which Allen would put toward racing fees and other costs.
“To give back to everyone for all of their support, if I win the grand prize, I will sponsor a free admission night at the Arlington Raceway this summer,” said Allen, who races primarily at the Arlington Raceway, which his parents own.
Allen's story is compelling. Even with third-degree burns that took his muscle tissue in 2008, he set a goal of racing again.
“The tissue burned to the bone. It was pretty close to having to amputate,” he said. “I was also told I would never have the motion in my feet to be able to operate the gas pedal or the brakes.”
By 2009 Allen was walking and raced a few events. He did a few more the next year. But he said he wasn't quite ready for a full season, admitting that fear was standing in the way.
When Allen felt ready to return for a full season, his best friend, Dan Grams, died in a car accident in December 2012. Allen said he was devastated, but he still returned for a full season in 2013, dedicating his season to Grams.
Allen won his first race in more than five years during the event dedicated to Grams' memory. He also went on to win his first track championship and the Minnesota state championship last year.
“That was amazing,” he said.
Also in Grams' memory, Allen and some of Grams' other friends fundraised to get all three of Grams' sons behind the wheel of gokarts, which was a dream of his.
“I'm still walking on cloud nine from everything that's happened. It's definitely helped me and our friends throughout our grieving process from losing Dan,” Allen said.
Now Allen said he's focused on winning the national contest as his next goal, and he's looking forward to the upcoming racing season, which starts in April. He plans to do some racing in other parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska this year.
At a glance The "Search for a Champion" contest is open for voting through Feb. 2. Individuals can vote daily. To view Allen's contest-entry video and vote, visit http://www.alwaysachampion.com/search-for-a-champion/entry/1567869.