A Forever Shining Star: Remembering Davey Allison, A Racer's Champion
While all the attention from the racing press will mostly be on tonight's Samsung Mobile 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway, part of my attention will be on what the racing world would've been like if we still had Hueytown, AL's Davey Allison still around with us.
It's been nearly 20 years since his tragic death on July 13, 1993 at Talladega, AL, when he was attempting to land his helipcopter to attend and watch his friend's son test at the superspeedway that he established himself as a true stock car legend.
Instead of having the opportunity to watch Neil Bonnett's son David test at the track, his helicopter crashed, succumbing to his injuries while Red Farmer survived that harrowing crash.
The death of Allison was essentially the end of the "old school" NASCAR family names, although we still have Dale Earnhardt, Jr. out there competing for wins and this year's Sprint Cup title. However, there hasn't been an Allison on the track since that day, nor has there been a Petty, a Yarborough, Baker, or Pearson competing full-time on the circuit.
Although I was only 7 years old when Allison died on that July afternoon, I remember feeling like I had lost a brother of sorts. I looked up to Davey Allison because he had this drive and determination that no matter what was handed to him at the track or with life, he never gave up.
Witness: the 1992 season was essentially an exercise in patience and strength for the young racer. Sure, he won the Daytona 500 and Winston All-Star race that year, but with that came some adversities and tragedies.
He was injured more times than a crash test dummy, with broken ribs, severe concussions, a bruised lung, broken arm and wrist, and collarbone. Today's NASCAR would never allow any driver to compete on the track in that condition, but Allison pressed on, like a true champion.
He also lost his younger brother Clifford, who died in a practice session crash for the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series race at Michigan International Speedway in August of '92. Allison's testimony of life could best sum up the loss of his brother and how he dealt with his injuries on the racetrack:
"There ain't nothing that can come up today that me and the Lord can't handle together and He will certainly help me get through what I've had to get through."
His steely determination and faith carried him through his career and most especially for the remainder of the 1992 season. Despite coming up short in his efforts to win the title, the fact that he never quit and that his No. 28 Texaco/Havoline Ford Robert Yates Racing team stood behind him remains a true testimony to the human resolve to always keep trying your hardest.
Younger race fans who may have just gotten into the sport in recent years may not know who Davey Allison is, but there's YouTube clips of older races online now where they can watch one of the most aggressive but tremendously talented racers of all-time right before their eyes.
He could keep up with "The Intimidator" in Dale Earnhardt, and he certainly wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers with the sport's cagey veterans like a Darrell Waltrip or Ernie Irvan.
There's the 1991 Valleydale Meats 500 at Bristol, TN where he got into it with Waltrip, who often feuded with the Allison clan like his dad Bobby or his uncle Donnie. To say the least, it was worth the price of admission to see old school mix it up with new school on the track and on the cameras.
Sure, fans will often declare that the superspeedway king of NASCAR will be Dale Earnhardt, Sr., but his main nemesis at these tracks was indeed Davey Allison. If there was anyone who could keep up with him, especially at Talladega Superspeedway, it was Allison who could muster a good challenge around those high 33 degree banked turns on a sweltering Sunday afternoon.
Just how competitive was Allison? When he was hung out to dry in the 1991 Sears DieHard 500 at Talladega, AL, shuffled from second place with a chance to win and beat Dale Earnhardt to a disappointing ninth place effort, he punched the wall of his transporter in disgust.
Find a racer today who'd be that distraught about not winning a race, especially when they're a top driver consistently battling for wins and titles.
Allison's legacy somewhat lives on today, with Talladega Superspeedway often inducting two racers into the Walk of Fame that was established in his honor back in 1994.
Current FOX Sports commentator and former Allison crew chief Larry McReynolds pays homage to his friend often by wearing the ring that he won the Daytona 500 with in 1992 and even his son Brandon has raced stock cars with the No. 28 on its side and roof.
And somewhere in an American racetrack, be it a late model or dirt car race, there's a youngster who's carrying the No. 28 colors and flare to a win right now.