Davey Allison was perhaps the original “can’t miss” kid. The drivers he competed against in NASCAR’s premier series liked him so much they would give him advice even as he was beating them.
His father, Bobby Allison, and uncle Donnie had been long considered stock-car royalty and not only did he inherit their immense driving ability, he raced against them so well that he upped everyone’s game.
And in a pivotal time in the sport’s development – the late 1980s and early 1990s – it was clear that Davey Allison’s talent and popularity would be a crucial bridge between NASCAR eras.
Although Allison died in a helicopter crash in the Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway infield in July 1993 at the age of 32, he has ever since been celebrated for his great success on the track and his admirable following away from the track.
Later this week, Allison will be formally honored as a member of the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame class, joining his father Bobby, a 2011 inductee in NASCAR’s “Great Hall.”
The sport’s legendary team owners Roger Penske and Jack Roush, the late 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki and four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon join Allison in the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2019 – one of the most decorated and celebrated groups ever.
“He will never be forgotten and that’s been my biggest fear is that he would be forgotten is that people wouldn’t remember him,’’ Allison’s wife Liz said to NASCAR.com after learning of Davey’s honor. “They wouldn’t remember the driver that he was, the competitor that he was, the person that he was. They won’t remember.
“They won’t remember that he played a part, that he made an impact on the sport. He is part of why the sport is the way it is today. And that everybody in that garage area, every driver, they could take the Davey Allison ‘course’ of how to be a fan favorite and they would do really well.
“None of that will ever be forgotten now. That’s just the biggest sense of relief.”
In the time since Allison was selected for the Hall of Fame, his widow, Liz, has lovingly filled social media with professionally significant and personally endearing photos of Allison at the race track or pics of treasured keepsakes she’s discovered in the years since he passed away.
Wearing the tall baseball caps he favored, and sporting his trademark mustache, there are photos of Allison on track and off. The vast majority of them include a huge smile that Allison wore like a uniform. He was perpetually upbeat and optimistic, a friend to all those in the garage.
“Absolutely, he learned a lot from his father Bobby and I spent a ton of time with Davey,’’ said Rusty Wallace, the 1989 Cup champion and 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee.
“I enjoyed the competition with both of them. Davey would actually ask me a ton of questions, ‘hey, how you do this?’ He knew I was such good friends with his father, and he and I would talk short-track stuff. He was a great kid.”
In all fairness, Wallace may have learned from the young Allison as well. Davey came from a top-notch racing background that preceded him in NASCAR’s Hall of Fame – his father, Bobby, the 1983 Cup champion, an 84-time race winner and five-time championship runner-up and his uncle Donnie, himself a 10-time premier series race winner despite never running a full season.
A young Davey Allison never left any doubt that he also had the racing chops to make a career in NASCAR. He began competing full-time months after his high school graduation and excelled through the sport’s ranks – officially becoming part of NASCAR’s beloved “Alabama Gang” made up of Bobby, Donnie, Neil Bonnett and their longtime friend Red Farmer, all legendary competitors from dirt track, short track to NASCAR.
The 1987 NASCAR premier series rookie of the year, Allison won 19 races in his career, including multiple races every full-time Cup season he competed in from 1987-1992. He won five times in 1991 and 1992 and had already won once in 1993 at Richmond, Virginia, only four months before his death.
He was considered the 1992 championship favorite heading into the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway, leading the championship standings by 30 points over Kulwicki and 40 over Bill Elliott. But a late crash abruptly halted Allison’s title hopes.
He finished third in the standings while his fellow 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Alan Kulwicki hoisted the big championship trophy – Kulwicki, ironically losing his life three months earlier than Allison in a plane crash in April 1993.
Allison’s career was punctuated by both dramatic victories and dramatic just-misses. He won the 1992 Daytona 500, leading a dominating 127 of the 200 laps. Yet perhaps a more indelible memory for the Allisons and NASCAR fans is when Davey finished second in the 1988 Daytona 500, two car-lengths off the bumper of his father, Bobby. It’s the only such father-son finish in the race’s illustrious history.
The photos of the two celebrating in Daytona’s Victory Lane that Sunday afternoon – the joy in their eyes, the pride on Bobby Allison’s face remains one of the sport’s most cherished historical moments.
Another, of course, happened last May when Bobby Allison sat on the front row of seats at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and heard his son’s name called as a new inductee.
“What an incredible day for me and the family, Liz and the kids. … “ Bobby Allison told NBC Sports immediately after the announcement, his voice full of emotion. “Just a great day.
“Davey was always was an upper. Even when things went wrong racing, he’d say, ‘We’ll get them tomorrow, we’ll be fine.’
“This is a great honor.”
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