When my parents told me that Davey Allison had crashed his helicopter at Talladega my first response was to ask if he would be able to race on Sunday. To me Davey Allison didn’t fly helicopters. At 10 years of age I was still to young to fully understand the types of injuries that could occur from a helicopter crash.
The next day Davey Allison was gone.
It was a crushing blow. I can still recall going to the baby sitters that morning hopeful that Davey would again climb into the black #28. Later that day I found out that Davey Allison had passed away at the age of 32. I had just lost my favorite driver.
I can’t recall much else about the 1993 season after the death of Davey. While the #28 car would continue to carry the Texaco colors none of the drivers, as good as they were, could take Davey’s place.
To sum it up, My father was a diehard NASCAR fan. He would watch the races every Sunday. If for some reason the television couldn’t pick up the channel that the races were on he put the radio on top of it and turned up the volume. On days he worked on race day my mother was instructed to record the race on the VCR and no one was to tell him anything that happened. If the race was rained out he didn’t want to know.
I didn’t understand it. I guess part of me didn’t care. I had little die-cast NASCAR’s that I played with but staring at the television for hours was hard work. My dad would keep prodding me to watch the races with him. Seeing it as an opportunity to spend time with a man who often had little to do with me I agreed. It wasn’t really the NASCAR that I wanted. It was the time with my father.
Of course my father can not watch anything without cheering or booing someone. I can recall one evening he gave the television the bird of honor for ten minutes after Dale Earnhardt won a race. He insisted that I have a favorite driver. I didn’t know these guys. I knew my father liked Bill Elliott. So naturally when I saw the Texaco Havoline Ford driven by Davey Allison I said that car looks cool. I had found a driver to cheer. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. Maybe parts of me still do not fully understand it.
In his short career Davey collected 19 wins, 66 top-five and 92 top-ten finishes.
There were a few times I watched NASCAR with my cousin Brian. There were a few races in which Davey started at the front of the field and we knew immediately that he would find his way to victory lane that day.
Naturally a few races stand out from Allison’s career to me. I’d love to say I watched the 1988 Daytona 500 where he raced against his father, legendary driver Bobby Allison, but the truth is I was five years old. Also I will not dwell on the 1992 race at Atlanta. It is something that bothers me to this day.
In 1992 I was a full fledged follower of the anything Davey Allison. The names Robert Yates Racing and Larry McReynolds were music to my ears. When Allison won the Daytona 500 that year I was ecstatic. When he edged Kyle Petty to the line at the All-Star race a few months later I was in amazement.
Though none of those moments compare the the experience I had on March 7, 1993 at Richmond. Sadly when I went to write that date I initially typed 2003… I still can’t believe how much time has flown by. I’ve been to NASCAR races since then. Nothing comes close. It was the first race I ever attended and it’s the only race I wish I could go to again.
I woke up around 4 am got dressed and scarfed down a few bowls of cereal. My father took one look at me and told me I was wearing the wrong hat. The wrong hat? I couldn’t believe my ears. I was wearing the hat of the guy my father called “The Dominator” just a year before. I was wearing my black Texaco Havoline hat with white rope across the bill. You tell me how I was wearing the wrong hat.
My father forced, for lack of a batter word, me to wear a white Bill Elliott hat. Ok I did like Bill Elliott but he was not Davey Allison and I was not happy about this. We arrived at Richmond International Speedway early. My dad thought it would be fun to walk around souvenir haulers for far longer then a 10 year olds attention span allows. He even bought memorabilia for my mother (Rusty Wallace) and sister (Kyle Petty) and when it came to me? Nope. You got yours on. Really dad? Bill Elliott? “STILL not Davey Allison!” I remember shouting.
When I first saw the race track show cars for Davey Allison and Darrell Waltrip were on it. My father took a picture of me against the catch fence trying to squeeze the #28 into the frame. We made it to our seats and the place felt packed. You can probably guess what drivers gear seemed to surround me. A total of 400 laps were to be run on that day.
The race started and the thing that I recalled best was watching how quickly Bobby Labonte was losing touch with the cars in front of him. The leaders went by and then I would count out loud until the #22 car would make it’s appearance. Things were pretty calm for a while at least that I can recall.
Finally Allison took the lead and high fives were exchanged all around me. With the aid of a box score I can tell you that it was lap 172 that saw Allison climb to the top of the scoreboard. I can still remember one gentleman in front of me with a straw hat on with a #28 bandana wrapped around it. He was excited and it made me excited. I was at Richmond International Speedway and my favorite driver was leading.
Davey would relinquish the lead a few laps later but I still was expecting a victory out of him. Seeing him up front for those three laps convinced me that this was going to be a special day.
Meanwhile Bill Elliott had a motor going sour. On lap 243 it finally let go and the #11 car went to pit lane with smoke coming out of it. My initial thought “way to go Dad. Sure picked a winner today.”
While Elliot’s day was over Allison was just getting started for the show. The final 150 or so laps were magical. Davey led nearly all of them and his car was out front. After 400 laps he had won. I have never felt such joy at a race track as I did that day, even if I was still wearing a Bill Elliott hat.
Davey ran 13 races after that win in Richmond and while he came close his last win came on that March afternoon. It would be 17 years until I attended my next NASCAR race.
Following his death I struggled to find a favorite driver. I liked Dale Jarrett and Ernie Irvan, two drivers who would eventually drive the #28 but they weren’t Davey. I briefly flirted with liking Rusty Wallace, and still found myself cheering for Awesome Bill but none of them ever made that connection with me that Davey did.
Davey was exciting to watch, engaging in interviews and nothing looked cooler then him standing next to his car. What ever it’s called… It’s had me hooked on the sport to this day.
Thank you Davey Allison for making me a NASCAR fan.