The year was 1987, and when NASCAR roared into Talladega Superspeedway for the first time that season, a young, local kid from nearby Hueytown, Alabama – Davey Allison – had high hopes. He was looking for his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) checkered flag, and little did he know how special that day would become.
“I’d wanted to be a race car driver for as long as I could remember,” Allison said in the late 1980s. “I knew how to build a race car from the ground up. I worked in my dad’s (4-time Talladega winner and 1983 NASCAR Champion Bobby Allison) shop from the time I was 12 years old, but I still felt like my strong point was still driving the cars.”
And boy, drive the cars he did, especially at Talladega, which hosts the Alabama 500 MENCS and fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) playoff events, this Saturday and Sunday.
May 3, 1987 was a beautiful day in Talladega, Alabama. With temperatures reaching just above 80 degrees and no threat of rain (the same forecast as the upcoming weekend), Allison, a rookie, strapped into his No. 28 Havoline Ford owned by Harry Ranier. Coming into the race he had only 13 starts in NASCAR’s premier series covering three seasons, with a best finish of fifth. But, this was his initial season with a team that had produced wins in proven equipment.
He started on the inside of the second row and took the lead for the first time on lap 60. The rest was history as he wound up leading a race-high 101 laps, including the final 10 after passing Dale Earnhardt – the Talladega King – who today, leads all drivers with 10 MENCS victories at NASCAR’s Most Competitive track.
A memorable scene ensued after the race with Allison’s elated crew members riding in - and top of - the beautiful white, black and gold Ford down pit road before reaching victory lane.
“I’ll tell ya, this car here was just awesome all day,” Allison said in the winner’s circle. “These guys did a super job with this car, and I could do anything I wanted with it. I’m gonna tell you what, I’m just tickled to death.”
While he had won four ARCA Racing Series races years before, the ‘Dega triumph kick-started an unbelievable year. He was victorious again two weeks later at Dover to become the first rookie in NASCAR history to win twice in one season. Running a limited schedule, in just 22 starts, he won twice and finished in the top-10 an amazing 16 times enroute to winning the Rookie of the Year award.
“Unbelievable year for us,” said Allison at season’s end. “There’s no way to really describe how we feel because we just couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams that we’d have two wins, since it’s just something that doesn’t happen nowadays in the sport. I owe a lot of credit to my dad, too, for paving the way for me more or less and giving me a shop to operate in, and his knowledge to learn from.”
It’s safe to say that Davey’s NASCAR career began at Talladega – literally. Not only did his first victory come at the 2.66-mile facility, but he made his first official NASCAR laps in a Cup car at TSS, finishing 10th in 1985, driving for veteran owner Hoss Ellington.
Over a nine-year career that included 191 starts, Allison won 19 times in the MENCS. In addition to his ’87 victory, two more came at ‘Dega in ’89 and ’92, both of which came for owner Robert Yates, the 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, who passed away just last week. Allison also captured the 1992 International Race of Champions (IROC) event at Talladega, as well as four ARCA Racing Series events, giving him a total of eight at the track across three separate series. That total places him second amongst drivers in all series at Talladega, trailing only Earnhardt Sr. who has 14.
But, with all the success, his legacy will be remembered as a friend to the fans. Always sporting a smile on his face – even through the bad times when luck wasn’t on his side. He would always take the time to talk to the media, as well as fans, after some kind of incredible racing heartbreak.
He was just glad to be behind the wheel of a stock car. He loved Talladega Superspeedway, he loved NASCAR and he loved the multitude of Allison and Alabama Gang followers. He was tragically taken away from us in 1993, but we all remember him as a good person who had a brilliant career, and it started at his home track – Talladega.
Talladega Superspeedway’s fall race weekend gets into full swing in just two days with practice sessions for the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Alabama 500 MENCS race on Friday. Saturday’s NCWTS race, where the field of playoff contenders will be trimmed from eight to six at event’s end, is set for a 12 Noon (CDT) start. The weekend will conclude at 1 p.m. (CDT) Sunday with the Alabama 500, the “Wildcard” race in the Round of 12 of the NASCAR playoffs and six-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final start at the fabled facility.
To secure your tickets to Talladega’s memorable race weekend log on to www.talladegasuperspeedway.