Analysis: Hall of Famer Donnie Allison was better than you think


From championships to race wins, any single moment in time can define a driver forever. When it comes to 2024 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Donnie Allison, it’s a rather unique case. The defining moments most commonly tied to Allison are, oddly enough, ones that didn’t see him come out on top.

The conclusion of the 1979 Daytona 500, a race he was leading during its final moments, is usually first to the tongue of any race fan. The success of “The Alabama Gang,” including his brother Bobby and nephew Davey, is as well.

Allison wasn’t your typical driver on paper. He never raced a full-season schedule and doesn’t have high season-long points finishes because of it. Simply looking at his stats won’t ever tell anyone the full story about his career.

He was better than you think.

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Donnie Allison through the years Donnie Allison through the years

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Allison only drove in more than half of the races on the schedule five times in his 21-year career and never started more than 70% of the schedule. That didn’t stop him from being one of the best drivers in NASCAR. From 1968 to 1980, Allison ranked ninth in wins.

In 1970, Allison tied for third in wins (3) and was fifth in laps led (697). He was surrounded on those lists by Richard Petty, Bobby Isaac, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and David Pearson. A true Hall of Fame group.

He had the third-best average starting position in 1971 (4.2), thanks to five pole positions. Only Petty (46 starts) and his brother Bobby (42 starts) had more poles, both with nine. Allison grabbed his five in just 13 starts.

1980 was the final season Allison drove double-digit races, mainly due to the injuries he would sustain in a crash at Charlotte in 1981.

At the conclusion of the 1980 season, he had cemented himself as one of the greatest drivers over NASCAR’s first 30-plus seasons.

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Allison shined no matter what number was on his door. His 11 starts for Wood Brothers Racing in 1971 accounted for one win and eight top-five finishes. He was the first driver for DiGard Racing in 1973, qualifying 11th or better in 40 of his 45 starts. Four of the five times a Hoss Ellington car visited Victory Lane, it was Allison behind the wheel.

At the end of the 1988 season, Allison took off his helmet for the final time. He had 10 victories to his name, as all 10 came with a fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee finishing in second.

Whenever Allison was behind the wheel of a car, he was a threat to win, and it didn’t matter who was in the field.

He won against the best of the best. It is only fitting that Allison will be enshrined as one of those legends himself in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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