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Retro Racing: Allison scored the weekend sweep at CMS in '84

May 27, 2011, Mark Aumann,

This week, Bobby Allison was inducted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2011. Two of his biggest rivals -- Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip -- are considered favorites to lead the Class of 2012. And all three played a role in the 1984 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The day before, Allison had made a last-turn pass to beat Waltrip by an estimated three feet in a side-by-side finish in the Late Model Sportsman race. Waltrip, who had already won two 600-milers at Charlotte up to that point, was spoiling for the rematch. But it was Yarborough, who longed for a World 600 victory to add to his resume, who turned out to be the biggest hurdle for Allison that day.

Allison enshrined

Bobby Allison was emotional as he was inducted into the HOF.

Waltrip started fourth behind pole-sitter Harry Gant and immediately went to the front on the second lap. But Allison, driving a car that had been completely rebuilt after an accident at Dover the week before, charged from his 16th starting spot into the lead by Lap 22.

"They got home late Sunday and started working on it Monday morning," Allison said. "They worked until midnight Monday and Tuesday until they had to load it up and leave for the track.

"I made four laps in it Tuesday. I felt comfortable with the car as soon as I made those four laps."

There were no cautions in the first half of the race as Allison swapped the lead several times with Dale Earnhardt before Yarborough took the point just before halfway. Just a few laps later, Richard Petty slowed with a broken valve, ending hopes that he'd score his 200th victory at Charlotte.

The first caution flew on Lap 221 after Terry Labonte and Trevor Boys made contact in Turn 3 as the skies darkened and rain threatened the race. NASCAR officials were forced to put out the red flag soon after raindrops began pelting the track.

Points leader Waltrip had been running just behind the leaders at that point, but once the race restarted, his chances of victory evaporated when he crashed in Turn 2 trying to avoid Ron Bouchard and then blew a right front tire on his way back to the pits. The crew worked feverishly to repair the damage, but Waltrip finished 26th, 41 laps off the pace.

Just as Allison crossed the start/finish line on Lap 261, the heavens opened again, causing a second red flag for a delay of 25 minutes. The torrid pace up to that point left just three cars in contention: Allison, Yarborough and Earnhardt.

When the race resumed, Yarborough ran away from the other two, building a sizeable advantage. But an accident involving Jimmy Means allowed the leaders to make one final stop for fuel and tires, setting the stage for a two-car duel between Yarborough's orange and white Chevrolet and Allison's red and white Buick.

Allison took the lead on Lap 366, only to have Yarborough snatch it back one lap later as the two ran side by side. Something had to eventually give, and it turned out to be Yarborough's engine -- 16 laps from the finish. His car began spewing huge amounts of smoke and Yarborough drove through the pit lane and directly into the garage.

"[The engine] just let go in Turn 1 without warning," Yarborough said. "It was an unfortunate thing. It blew up. That's the whole story. I didn't before, but I'm beginning to wonder what you have to do to win this thing."

With his closest rival out of the race, Allison steadily drove away from Earnhardt, eventually building a 17-second lead at the checkered flag, giving him the weekend sweep.

Allison got 123 miles on one 22-gallon tank during the race, and attributed it to crew chief Gary Nelson's modifications made after the car ran out of fuel earlier than expected at Talladega.

"Gary re-engineered the fuel system and Robert Yates worked to get better mileage from the engine," Allison said.

But it also raised eyebrows for NASCAR officials, who went over the car in post-race inspection, trying to find a place where the team might have hidden an auxiliary tank. They checked the car's door panels, fuel cell, fuel lines, dashboard, rear quarter panels, radiator, frame rails and roll bars without success.

After the inspection was completed, competition director Dick Beaty said the only conclusion reached was "the No. 22 car gets awfully good gas mileage."

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.