Nolan Allaer celebrates his Formula Ford Runoffs Championship win on Oct. 1 at Virginia International Raceway.

Nolan Allaer celebrates his Formula Ford Runoffs Championship win on Oct. 1 at Virginia International Raceway.

Photo provided by Nolan Allaer

From spray bottle to champagne: Grosse Pointe Woods resident forges path in racing

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 16, 2023

 Nolan Allaer and his father, Robert Allaer, celebrate finishing first and second at the 2023 Formula  Continental Runoffs on Sept. 30 at Virginia International Raceway.

Nolan Allaer and his father, Robert Allaer, celebrate finishing first and second at the 2023 Formula Continental Runoffs on Sept. 30 at Virginia International Raceway.

Photo provided by Nolan Allaer


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Nolan Allaer was a go-getter long before he got behind the wheel of a race car.

Allaer, a 21-year-old Grosse Pointe Woods resident and University Liggett School graduate, was a racetrack enthusiast at a young age, supporting his father, Robert Allaer — a two-time runoff champion on the Sports Car Club of America series — at every race, but also networking in the process with other racers.

“We used to joke that he was a track rat,” Nolan’s father, Robert Allaer, said. “He’d go around the paddock with a spray bottle and a rag, a cute little kid, and come up and say, ‘Hey, can I clean your car?’ People would let him, and he wouldn’t ask for money, but they’d pay him and he’d come back with a bunch of cash.”

From the spray bottle to champagne showers, Nolan Allaer’s racing achievements have stretched far beyond what he ever could have pictured for himself in the world of racing.

The SCCA, which is a sanctioning body for racing, rallying and autocross in the U.S., holds the Formula Ford and Formula Continental, which are SCCA National Championship Runoff events that feature the top amateur racers in the SCCA, and Nolan Allaer has become a regular on the scene.

Winning the Formula Continental Runoff in 2022 and notching the championship win in both the Formula Continental and Formula Ford Runoffs, the pinnacle of championship racing in the SCCA, in September and October of this year, Allaer is etching his name as one of the premier racers on the circuit.

Through all his accomplishments in his young racing career, Allaer said it was the ability to share the track with his father that stands out the most to him.

Nolan and Robert have gone head-to-head on the SCCA circuit multiple times in the past few years, but nothing was as special as the father-son duo sharing the podium when Nolan took first and Robert took second at the 2023 Formula Continental Runoffs on Sept. 30 this year at Virginia International Raceway.

“The first time I was able to go out there and actually do it with him was just incredible,” Nolan Allaer said. “I can’t even explain the emotions before getting in the car for a winner-take-all where one race decides the champion, and the emotions of following in his footsteps of winning the title last year and defending it this year with him right behind me and to share the podium with him.”

Nolan possesses a racing gene that originates from a long-standing family tradition of racing in SCCA with his father, grandfather and uncle all making their own impact on the racetrack.

His grandfather, Lewis Cooper Jr., continues to race in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, while his uncle, Lewis Cooper III, was the last Formula Ford Runoffs champion to win the Runoffs for Ford in 2011.

That was until Nolan paid homage to his uncle by winning the Formula Ford Runoffs Championship on Oct. 1 this year at Virginia International Raceway, a tradition unlike any other in his family tree.

“The Runoffs have always been so important to our family,” Nolan Allaer said. “My uncle also won the Runoffs before. He won it in 2011 at Formula Ford. Up until this year when I won it at Formula Ford, he was the last Formula Ford champion to have a Ford engine win. Up until this year, it’s all been Honda. This year, I went back and did it in his car, actually. It’s just been like a whole family affair to go to the Runoffs. It’s so important to our family that oftentimes when I was a kid, the kids weren’t even allowed at the tracks because my dad needed to focus. It’s so competitive and means so much to all of us.”

Racing has brought indescribable feelings for Allaer the past few seasons as he’s made a name for himself, but Allaer only had one true feeling about racing growing up.

Sure, he loved being on the racetrack with his father, but Allaer began taking over the wheel on his own at the age of 4 when he began karting.

By 2008, Allaer was competing in the Florida Karting Championship Series and climbing up the ladder of classes, but that was until the 2011 season came to a close.

“I remember in 2011 that I absolutely despised the sport and did not want to do it,” Allaer said. “I was so sick of it and it was too much pressure for a kid. It was hot in Florida and it was miserable. Even though the driving was fun, the environment of racing wasn’t for me. I wanted to play hockey and I wanted to put all my time into hockey.”

The racing scene may not have been in the cards for Allaer at the time, but his love for cars and passion to one day become an engineer landed Allaer back behind the wheel in 2019 on a virtual racing platform called iRacing, which is a competitive racing simulation video game.

Allaer said his father recognized how much time he was spending behind the virtual wheel, so a graduation gift in 2020 of a lesson at the Waterford Hills Drivers School, an SCCA accredited driving school, was just what Allaer needed to ignite the racing spirit inside him.

On just his second day at the driving school, Allaer was two-tenths off his father’s track record, leaving both Allaer and his father speechless, yet excited for Allaer’s potential on the track.

Allaer took the SCCA scene by storm in the 2021 SCCA National Series, an amateur series, where he finished third in the Formula Continental National Championship and had several podium finishes to top off a stellar rookie season.

“Every day, every session and every outing, I was learning more about the car, more about myself, about how to drive, and about how to be around people on the track,” Allaer said. “Of course I was making many, many mistakes along the way, and if I could go back now, I’d be way, way better than I was. I look back and watch videos and think, ‘Why did I do that, that was terrible,’ but it was all about that learning process of building the results.”

While going through rookie mistakes and finding his footing, it was a bonus having his father on the racetrack with him, who never seemed to let go of the dad mindset even while competing against his son.

“I’d go around a corner and there’d be grass on the track and I’d jump on the team radio and I’d say to the guys, ‘Let Nolan know there’s grass on turn three,’” Robert Allaer said. “As a dad, you can’t ever lose the dad factor. You’re always thinking about your kid.”

Allaer would shift to the SCCA Pro F1600 Championship Series in 2022, tallying two wins and nine podiums as the leading rookie in the series as a part of Team Pelfrey.

The 2023 season brought Allaer to Brackley, England, as he raced for Ammonite Motorsports on the British Racing and Sports Car Club series.

Allaer was able to win a heat race at the BRSCC Formula Ford Festival on Oct. 20 on the Brands Hatch circuit and finish off his overseas season with a 16th place finish at the BRSCC Formula Ford Festival Grand Final on Oct. 21, but Allaer said the accolades couldn’t match up to the impact of the experience.

“Living in the UK has been an incredible experience,” Allaer said. “I can immediately tell that I am a completely different driver than I was before I left for the UK. Ammonite Motorsports definitely taught me a lot about what it takes to be a professional racing driver, where it’s your full life pursuit, and that involves everything on and off the track. Specifically, in the UK, the tracks I hit in that calendar were absolute bucket-list tracks for me. They’re tracks I’ve done in the simulator years before I even knew I was going to be racing. Going to Brands Hatch and running on the same circuits that F1 has been at, like Silverstone, and turning a tire on those hallowed grounds is just an absolute honor.”

Allaer, who is currently a senior at Miami University in Ohio and studying mechanical engineering, said his options are still open for the 2024 season, whether it’s on the Indy NXT scene or a trip back to England for the GB3 series, a rebranded Formula 3 series.

Regardless of where Allaer and his racing career ends up, Allaer said he knows he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be.

“It’s such a blessing to do what I am doing now and have this be my life and my purpose,” Allaer said. “I truly think I found what I was meant to do.”