Hood: Happy Birthday, Davey, And A Big Thanks
By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer
There was little fanfare on Friday over what would have been the late Davey Allison’s 50th birthday as activities got underway for this weekend’s NASCAR tripleheader in Phoenix.
Much of the talk centered on NASCAR’s newest star, 20-year-old Trevor Bayne, who pulled off a memorable victory in the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 Ford in Sunday’s Daytona 500.
But five years before Bayne was born, a young Davey Allison was already beginning to generate a similar buzz in 1986 after winning on race tracks throughout the nation during his journey to the top level of NASCAR.
The son of 1983 Sprint Cup champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison and nephew of 10-time NASCAR race winner Donnie Allison, there were no short cuts for Davey Allison who was forced to earn his way to the top of the sport by working on his own cars and learn his trade on short track bullrings.
During his rookie season in the Cup Series in 1987, Allison made an immediate splash by putting the No. 28 Ford owned by Harry Ranier and powered by engines built by Robert Yates on the outside of the front row for the Daytona 500.
Allison’s Thunderbird was painted in the colors of Texaco Havoline for that year’s Speedweeks in Daytona. But the sponsorship deal didn’t immediately come to fruition, so Allison competed in the 500 without a sponsor.
After falling off the lead lap early in the race, Allison’s lapped Ford found its way at the front of the
lead draft later in the race.
That didn’t set well with Dale Earnhardt’s team owner, Richard Childress, who complained to NASCAR that the rookie driver, who was several laps behind, should move over and let the leaders zip past.
Allison wound up complying with Childress’ request but not in the conventional manner. He simply flexed the muscle of his Thunderbird and sped away from Earnhardt and the remainder of the lead pack.
Eight races later, Allison found himself in victory lane for the first time in the Cup Series with a popular win at his home track in Talladega, Ala.
During the next seven years, Allison went on to win 18 more races in NASCAR’s Cup Series, highlighted by a dominating victory in the 1992 Daytona 500. He wound up finishing third in the series standings on two occasions and was pegged by many as the driver destined to win multiple titles in NASCAR.
I believe Allison was destined for greatness because of his desire to win.
Following a race in Talladega, he led the field late in the event only to get shuffled outside of the top 10 on the final lap. Letting a potential victory slip away infuriated Allison so much that he injured his wrist following the race after punching the wall inside his team hauler.
But the course of NASCAR took a different direction on July 13, 1993 when Allison was killed in a freak helicopter accident while attempting to land in the infield at Talladega Superspeedway.
Later that day, the racing world was shocked to learn that the driver who was positioned to challenge Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon as the top driver in NASCAR was gone.
Seeing Mark Martin remain competitive well into his 50s, I can only wonder if Allison was still with us how the NASCAR record books would appear today.
Would Gordon have dominated the sport in the mid and late 1990s? Would Jimmie Johnson be on a quest for a sixth consecutive championship?
I’ve heard many racing insiders say over the years that Allison was a lock to win several NASCAR titles. But that all changed on a summer day in central Alabama in 1993.
He never won a Cup title, but Davey Allison did manage to leave us with many great racing memories while establishing a higher level of competition in NASCAR.
Nearly two decades following his death, I think it’s fair to say that his accomplishments continue to have an impact on NASCAR.
Happy birthday, Davey!
– Jeff Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments