Toughness helped define Davey’s on-track legacy

Davey Allison’s trademark toughness was as much a part of his lore as his triumphs. Time and again, the future Hall of Famer righted himself after being knocked down.

Allison’s grit was a prominent part of his final full season in 1992, when he had his closest brush with NASCAR’s premier series championship. Allison fought through multiple injuries, twice being airlifted from tracks, yet still started every race.

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In a particularly perilous stretch from spring into summer, Allison’s mettle was tested with a flurry of severe crashes. In April, he suffered rib and lower back injuries in a crash at Bristol Motor Speedway. The following week, Allison suited up with a flak jacket and a reinforced seat to ease the pain, then fought through late-race leg cramps to win at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

In those days, the race winner was routinely brought to the press box above the grandstands to meet the media. Allison’s trip through the bleachers attracted a crowd, which waited patiently outside the track’s rickety stairs for his availability to end. Allison, still reeling from the strain of 400 laps, signed autographs for every fan in line, asking only for a chair from the speedway staff.

One month later, Allison won again at NASCAR’s All-Star Race, the first held under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The price was costly; Allison crashed after contact with Kyle Petty under the checkered flag, making heavy contact with the outside retaining wall.

Allison suffered a concussion and a bruised lung. He completed all 400 laps the following week in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte to maintain his series points lead.

The hardest hit of all came two months later at Pocono Raceway. Contact with Darrell Waltrip’s car sent Allison’s No. 28 spinning into a dramatic 11-flip blowover in the infield grass. Allison absorbed a fractured and dislocated right wrist, a broken collarbone, broken right forearm and multiple facial bruises.

“I don’t know how many licks like this our little driver can take,” Larry McReynolds, Allison’s crew chief, told reporters after the race. Remarkably, Allison’s determination to start the following week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway became known in a matter of days.

Allison underwent 4 1/2 hours of surgery on that Pocono Sunday, with plates and screws inserted to address his arm fractures. After a follow-up bone graft operation Thursday, he was released from the hospital Friday and practiced the car the next day, fitted with a special cast to assist in shifting gears. An early caution allowed Allison to give way after five green-flag laps to relief driver Bobby Hillin Jr., who filled in admirably for a third-place finish.

All this occurred while Allison battled through significant facial swelling and dark, bloodshot eyes. “I would take these sunglasses off, but it’ll remind you of Beetlejuice,” Allison quipped.

Allison stayed on the mend and in the championship hunt that season, tough to the end.

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