LEGENDS: THE SERIES - THE LEGEND OF JEB ALLEN
Few ever climbed higher or sunk lower than Jeb Allen who, six years after becoming the youngest driver ever to win the NHRA Top Fuel Championship, was addicted to drugs and alcohol, estranged from family and friends and living in the back of his truck.
In this episode of Legends: The Series, Season Four, Allen, now a successful homebuilder, revisits the good days, discusses the bad and explains how “tough love” finally enabled him to break the cycle of abuse.
A crew chief at 16, the youngest licensed NHRA Top Fuel driver at 17 and the youngest Top Fuel winner at 18, he raced with sponsorship from Revell, Dodge and English Leather. He won NHRA, AHRA and IHRA championships. Eventually, though, the pressure he placed on himself took its toll.
“I said I’m gonna be the best or I’m gonna go broke doing it,” he recalls. “Well, I won three championships – and I went broke.”
When sponsorship became an issue, Allen turned to booze and drugs and “drifted off into space for several years.
“When you’re an addict, you’re the last one to know,” he said. “Don Garlits lost respect for me towards the end, as many people did. I was drinking quite a bit. I’d have two beers on the way back down the return road whether I lost or not.”
Allen hit bottom when he drove to his parents’ home one day and was told that his dad was hiding in the closet because he didn’t want to see his youngest son. That was too much for someone to whom family meant so much.
“I took all the drugs I had,” Allen said, “(and) when they ran out, I checked myself into a rehab facility.”
And decades later, the former poster boy for drag racing now serves as a reminder of how strength and determination can overcome even the most crippling addiction.