There was a time in the late '40s and early '50s when hundreds of people from all over the San Joaquin Valley would gather. The crowd would collect early, despite mosquitoes, heat, dust and the ragged din of racing engines. The place was the Tulare Thunderbowl, a quarter-mile clay race track about five miles south of town on which some of the best racing drivers in the country raced.
In the early days of the track, they hosted midget races, and it gained a reputation as one of the best tracks in the country. A hot racer on the midget circuit in those days could go straight to the Indianapolis 500, Billy Sr., Johnnie Parsons, Rodger Ward, Bobby Ball and other big time drivers raced there. Later, when midgets became less popular with the crowd, jalopy racing came in, and with the-slam bang jalopies came more local drivers and sponsors and a large following. The crowds loved it. The Thunderbowl jalopy racing was billed in advertisements as Mayhem on Wheels. Newspaper stories talked of drivers with nicknames like "Stroker", "Fly Boy," and "Alley Oop." This track in the middle of the California farm belt would launch the career of our next inductee, Allen "Ally Oop" Adkins, this young kid fresh from military duty, was described in the in an article in Jalopy Racing News dated September 3rd 1950 as driving his Floyd Gibson Ford Special Number 4 with usual skill and daring, captured the main event of the Jalopy Races at the Tulare Thunderbowl Saturday night. It was his fourth consecutive victory in main events at the Thunderbowl. Alley Oop would win over 30 main events at that Â¼ -mile bullring, and he was soon racing Stock Cars against the best the west had to offer. His first stock car race came at Bay Meadows in 1954 where he finished 4th in a 1954 Dodge Red Ram, ending up 7th overall in the Pacific Coast Late Model Championship that year. In 55 he finished second driving a 55 Dodge for the Charlie Vanco Trucking Lines team. In 1956 Allen raced factory backed Dodges for Philadelphia Automobile dealer Tom Harbason with good friend and 2001 West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame inductee Danny Letner, They went East to race in the NASCAR Convertible and Grand National Divisions, returning home to the West coast when they could. The following description comes from a 1956 program from Ascot Speedway and describes the hard charging.
Adkins, a quite well liked fellow in the pits, was one of the toughest stock car drivers in the Trophy Dash, when starting from the rear with an inverted start, Adkins could lap the entire field in a grueling race.
His driving style would be compared to Curtis Turner, Fireball Roberts and Dale Earnhardt. Allen was described by most as a real down to earth genuine nice guy with a huge smile. He would win close to 10 championship NASCAR races in his career and more than 50 in jalopy and modified races as well.
Retiring from driving in the early 60s he would become involved in the auto parts business and later gained added success as a garbage company owner. www.stockcarreunion.com