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Talladega ties still run deep with immortal 'Alabama Gang'
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Talladega RELATED: Complete stats, race results for Talladega BESSEMER, Ala. -- In the beginning, there was Bobby and Donnie and Red. They were the Alabama Gang. Bobby Allison . Donnie Allison . And Charles "Red" Farmer. Three racers from South Florida who, as the 1950s ended and the '60s began, picked up stakes and relocated to little-known Hueytown, Alabama, in search of bigger race purses and infinitely more opportunities. Across much of the southeastern United States, local tracks were prime entertainment for folks in towns and cities such as Birmingham, Montgomery and Huntsville. And a driver with good equipment, enough talent, and a bit of luck, could make anywhere from two to three shows a week. You don't win bigger purses, of course, unless you run exceptionally well but that was never a problem for the Allisons or Farmer. In fact, they won so often on the region’s short tracks that other drivers quickly began to lament their arrival. It's a hard thing to pin down exactly when the Alabama Gang moniker first surfaced, and there are numerous versions of the story. But a similar thread runs through each -- whenever and wherever the trio arrived, the quality of the competition increased dramatically. "It was years before I heard the story behind it," former crew chief Larry McReynolds said. "I guess they kind of all traveled together in a caravan and would go to these different short tracks. They went somewhere, I don’t even remember where it was, and they all … Bobby, Donnie , Red, I think even Neil (Bonnett) -- three or four of them pulled in and somebody said, 'Well hell, here comes that damn Alabama Gang.' It just stuck and they kind of picked it up and ran with it." Bonnett, the former pipefitter who grew up in the area, joined the fold in the early '70s, and got his break only after working as a volunteer at the Allison's race shop in Hueytown. "I told him I didn't have money to pay him but what could I do for him," Bobby Allison said of Bonnett. "He said, 'let me drive one of your short track cars in a race or two.' I said, 'Tomorrow night is the night.'" Allison , whose NASCAR career was picking up steam, continued to compete in as many local shows as his schedule would allow. And as luck would have it, he was scheduled to run in two races in two different states the following night. "I promised I would race at Maryville, Tennessee, and I was committed to race at a short track in Virginia," Allison said. "So I gave him the car for Maryville and I went north the other direction." According to Allison , Bonnett won his race, at Smoky Mountain Raceway, "and that’s really when he became a member of the Alabama Gang. "He ran the car for me 64 times over the following year and won 61 of those races on short tracks all around Alabama," Allison said. Eventually they all competed at NASCAR's top level, what's known today as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, with varying degrees of success. Bobby Allison's star rose the highest, reaching its zenith when he won the series' championship in 1983 and culminating with 84 career wins and a much-deserved place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A crash at Pocono Raceway in 1988 nearly took his life, and ended Allison's racing career. Donnie , every bit as successful in those early years, won 10 times as a NASCAR regular while often running a limited schedule. Injuries suffered in a hard crash at Charlotte in 1981 eventually ended his career behind the wheel as well, seeing him make just 13 more starts over the course of seven years. At 84, Farmer is the only one of the original Alabama Gang members still competing, and can often be found racing at nearby Talladega Short Track. Bonnett had 18 career wins when he was injured in a crash at Darlington Raceway in 1990. After a brief but successful stint in the television booth, he returned to competition in 1994 only to die when his car hit the wall at Daytona during practice for that season's Daytona 500. • • • It’s a gray, rainy day and the sounds of afternoon traffic rolling across interstate can be heard here -- the thump-thump-thump of 18-wheelers and the hum of cars and pickups and SUVs headed northeast toward Birmingham or southwest toward Tuscaloosa. The rain comes and goes but the traffic is constant, quickly moving past Bessemer and nearby Hueytown and yes, here at Highland Memorial Gardens too. Back in the corner of the cemetery, midway across the section named "Garden of Everlasting Life," is the plaque, centered on a piece of granite. Coins rest atop the marker. Two dimes, a nickel and three pennies here, a quarter and three pennies there. Twenty-eight cents. Always 28 cents. Twenty-eight, the car number of David Carl "Davey" Allison . Nearby, although not in the same section, is the grave of Davey's younger brother Clifford. Another Allison , another second-generation member of the Alabama Gang. Another racer who could seemingly outrun everything except fate. • • • Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Supespeedway (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is a homecoming for McReynolds, a native of Birmingham. As a youngster, McReynolds would often walk to nearby Birmingham International Raceway with his aunt and her husband to watch the weekly shows. Later, he convinced his father to take him to Talladega, to the "big track." McReynolds won 23 times as a crew chief in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, including 11 times with Davey Allison . One of those, in 1992, came just down the road at Talladega. "Even though I’ve been gone 37 years it’s still my home track," said McReynolds, now an analyst for NASCAR on FOX. "And I guess to finally win there as a crew chief with Davey in '92 -- Davey would start talking about Talladega a month out. He loved that place and obviously had a huge fan following there. And of course he won there three times; he won his first race there in '87 as a rookie. RELATED: Recalling Allison's first win at Talladega "But it was pretty special to be able to go to Victory Lane. … Almost 20 years earlier, I'm sitting in the grandstands with my dad and I asked if we could sit somewhere where I could see the garage area on race morning, and where I could see the pits, that's what I really wanted to see because that's what intrigued me. To know 18-19 years later I actually was the crew chief of the car that won the race and of all people to do it with, Davey Allison , and I guess that's what was even much cooler, 20 years after that, for my son Brandon, who is Davey's godson, to win the ARCA race there. "So to know what all happened in that 40-year span, almost in 20-year increments, is pretty unbelievable." • • • Hueytown once hummed with racing activity, home to the Allisons and Farmer and Bonnett and their families and extended families and when they won, the people of Hueytown won, too. Today? Today the clouds hang low and the rain starts and stops and out on the interstate the traffic is constant. Shops and storefronts have that slightly-used look, some no doubt repurposed for yet another shot at one business venture or another. There are roads and highways in the area bearing their names but the Alabama Gang is more memory than reality around here these days. Members of the next generation of the Alabama Gang, either by birthright or birthplace, have come and gone. Davey Allison , winner of 19 races and a runner-up finish to his father in the 1988 Daytona 500, died from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash at Talladega just five years later. He was 32. Clifford, two years younger, was killed when he crashed during practice in 1992 at Michigan International Speedway. Hut Stricklin and Mickey Gibbs and David Bonnett. Guys that had the ties but not the good fortune. • • • In the beginning, there was Bobby, Donnie and Red. They were, and will always will be known, as the Alabama Gang. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Day 7: Donnie Allison talks Alabama Gang rebirth
Justin Allison , 21, 'has the most talent of any Allison'
Judy Allison , wife of Bobby Allison , passes away
Judy Allison , wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison , died Friday following complications from surgery, the Allison family announced. She was 74. The Allisons released a statement Friday night: "The Allison Family is sad to announce the passing of Judy A. Allison , age 74, after complications from surgery earlier today at Iredell Memorial Hospital in Statesville. "Bobby Allison , NASCAR Hall of Famer driver, and Judy were married for 55 years. She was surrounded by her family, daughters Bonnie Farr and Carrie Hewitt, grandson Robbie Allison , brother-in-law Donnie Allison and his wife, Pat. "At this time, funeral and memorial arrangements are pending and will be announced when finalized. The family members ask for privacy during this difficult and sad time." NASCAR also issued a statement on Judy Allison's passing. It reads: "NASCAR extends its condolences to the friends and family of Judy Allison , the wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison . Judy, the matriarch of a cornerstone NASCAR family, provided the foundation for the careers of a legendary husband and two sons who both lost their lives entirely too soon. Her love extended well beyond her own family, as many in the NASCAR family leaned upon Judy for support and compassion during many difficult times. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of a true friend, and a woman who has given much to our sport." Bobby Allison won 84 premier series races during his NASCAR career. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2011.
Dale Earnhardt's first MENCS start: 1975 World 600
Take a trip back to 1975 for the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway that saw Dale Earnhardt make his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start.
Richard Petty sparkles in Hollywood while receiving prestigious award
LOS ANGELES -- The bright orange hues of the setting sun lingered over the California coastline last Thursday evening, casting an appropriate illumination on the Hollywood hilltops in the distance and onto one of Los Angeles’ most distinctive treasures in the forefront, the Petersen Automotive Museum. Sitting on famous Wilshire Boulevard, the building's modern chrome-look design is head turning even in a city known for high profile. And inside it is one of the most impressive automotive collections in the world -- the Louvre for car lovers. On this night at this appropriate location, NASCAR’s "King" Richard Petty was honored with the Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to auto racing and for raising the profile of the American automobile. Equally important, it was a wonderful chance to celebrate Petty's upcoming 80th birthday on July 2 with a large cake and an eager banquet room of singers. The evening's host and museum’s founding chairman Bruce Meyer welcomed the large crowd, revealing with a smile, "It's the first time having a King here." Almost 300 people were on hand to honor Petty, and there was no mistaking the eclectic attendance -- NASCAR's most treasured, old-school hero being feted by Southern California's coolest and hippest car lovers. Good vibes, as they say out here. "Richard Petty's an icon in our sport, the Frances, the people that built the sport," said retired racer Donnie Allison , an invited guest of Petty's for the evening. "Richard Petty is without a doubt the most noted name in all of racing. It doesn't make a difference who you know or who you talk to. "Bobby ( Allison ) and I were on an airplane coming out here and sitting next to a guy who asked us what we did. I said that we raced and he said, I don't know anything about racing but I know who Richard Petty is. "What does that say?" Before the formal sit-down dinner, seven-time NASCAR champion Petty joined four-time champ Jeff Gordon to film an interview for FOX Sports. With the famous "Hollywood" sign landmark in the distance, Petty smiled at Gordon and they discussed his family's "redneck engineering." "There was no book, everything was new," Petty told Gordon. "We were so dedicated to working on those cars, we didn't know if it was night or day." Dressed in a black suit and wearing one of his trademark black, feathered cowboy hats and black boots, Petty settled in for the casual time with Gordon and they talked about everything from receiving this unique honor to Petty's favorite winning hardware. "I've got them everywhere," 15-time Martinsville winner Petty said, smiling about the track's famous grandfather clock trophy. With seven NASCAR titles and 200 wins, Petty could not be more revered, and seeing him celebrated in this unique setting seemed not only genuinely appreciated by him, but also a true gift to the crowd. "I'm pretty sure he's signed more autographs than any person in the history of the world," road racing champion Tommy Kendall said, smiling. "Seriously, he's been famous for a long, long time." "It's easy to think of 200 wins and say he was good, but you have to think about that. Everyone had the same limitations and the same challenges of knowledge and understanding and the Pettys somehow raised the bar. "And he raised it in other areas, too, in terms of fan engagement and even something as simple as why his autograph is so legible. It's probably not an accident. People spend their time and money to see him and he wants to give them something." On this night, Petty gave plenty -- his time, his smile, his approval and his sincere gratitude. "I'm just getting old," Petty joked before the program began. "But," he added of the recognition, "Petersen has been in publishing of all kinds of racing magazines. Being they cover all types of racing, to be selected in something like this is really a big thing. I guess it winds up showing we had a lot of good people working for us to be able to put us in this position. It wasn't a one-man show. "What can you do by yourself? "I've accomplished nothing by myself. With the crowd around me we've accomplished a lot. I just happen to be the guy out front. I'm not pulling them, they are pushing me." Always one to share credit and appreciate competition, Petty invited some of his closest friends and even some of his former fiercest competitors to join him this evening. NASCAR executives such as Vice Chairman Mike Helton, Executive Vice President & Chief Global Sales & Marketing Officer Steve Phelps and Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jill Gregory were there to support and enjoy. Fellow NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Rusty Wallace were there, too, along with the great Donnie Allison , NASCAR team owner Rob Kauffman, Kendall and Petty's son Kyle, who played guitar on stage to end the evening. The musical finale came after the tributes, however. And there were -- appropriately -- hours' worth of those. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and his sister, International Speedway Corporation's CEO Lesa France Kennedy, joined a lineup that included Roger Penske, Mario Andretti, Darryl Gywnn and others who sent video messages of accolade and homage. Newly inducted fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, team owner Rick Hendrick, fondly recalled in his message that Petty's famous signature was "the first autograph I ever got." Former United States Presidents George H. Bush and George W. Bush sent letters to be read on stage. The elder Bush wrote to Petty, "You are a legend. What may not be as well-known is your life's mission to help. ... You are an inspiration about what is best about our great country." Henry Ford, the great, great, great-grandson of Ford Motor Company's founder, delivered a tribute in person as did other major corporate executives. Petty finally took the stage briefly to acknowledge the kindness and many honors, and as you might expect, humbly and briefly reminded everyone, "It's a tribute to not only Richard Petty, but to our sport." At the live auction after dinner, Petty not surprisingly offered a big assist. Two people were in a lively bidding war for one of Petty's famous cowboy hats. When you're the King, your hat is a crown. And after the bidding concluded, Petty took off the very hat he was wearing, walked to the stage and told the audience he would give it to the other bidder -- in effect doubling the money raised for the Petty Family Foundation and Petersen Automotive Museum. And making two grown men very happy. The spontaneous gesture was an apt display of both the high regard Petty has earned and his unending willingness to give back to his many fans. Hats off to the King, indeed.
Davey Allison's first win: 1987 Winston 500 at Talladega
Relive Davey Allison's first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Talladega Superspeedway in the 1987 Winston 500.
Kyle Petty Charity Ride route announced for its 23rd annual trek
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, one of the most successful and popular charity rides in the country, today announced the route for its 23rd annual motorcycle trek. For the first time in almost a decade, the Ride led by former NASCAR driver and NBC Sports racing analyst Kyle Petty, will travel across the Pacific Northwest. With Manheim, North America's leading provider of used vehicle services, as returning presenting sponsor, the Ride will leave Portland, Oregon, on May 13 and arrive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on May 19, covering eight states in seven days. Petty will lead 200 bikers on the weeklong, 2,400-mile route to raise funds and awareness for Victory Junction - a camp dedicated to providing life-changing camping experiences for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. What started out as Petty and a small group of friends riding together for fun in 1995, has grown into one of the most successful and popular charity rides in the country. This year, more than 20 first-time riders will join the dedicated team of men and women riding for the cause, along with new sponsors and a continued sense of passion. "It's pretty straightforward: every single mile we ride is for one cause, and that is to send chronically ill children to camp at Victory Junction at no cost to their families," said Petty. "The Ride is an enriching experience for everyone involved, and this year we'll be riding through some spectacular parts of the country like Mount Rushmore, and for the very first time the Columbia River Gorge." The Ride will see many of our country's historic landmarks including Yellowstone and Badlands National Parks; Bighorn National Forest; and the iconic Harley-Davidson Museum, the birthplace of the all-American motorcycle manufacturing company. Emblematic of the American open road, riders will also take in roadside attractions, including the world's largest ball of twine rolled by one man in Darwin, Minnesota. Fans are encouraged to come support the cause and greet riders at one of the Ride's seven overnight stops or daily pit stops. Spectators along the route may also purchase memorabilia or contribute to the Ride's "Small Change. Big Impact." program, which accepts donations at each stop. 23rd Anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America Schedule: (Information about scheduled pit stops can be found on the Ride's Facebook page.) Day 1, Saturday, May 13 - Portland, Oregon to Walla Walla, Washington Day 2, Sunday, May 14 - Walla Walla, Washington to Missoula, Montana Day 3, Monday, May 15 - Missoula, Montana to Cody, Wyoming Day 4, Tuesday, May 16 - Cody, Wyoming to Deadwood, South Dakota Day 5, Wednesday, May 17 - Deadwood, South Dakota to Mitchell, South Dakota Day 6, Thursday, May 18 - Mitchell, South Dakota to Minneapolis, Minnesota Day 7, Friday, May 19 - Minneapolis, Minnesota to Milwaukee, Wisconsin As a result of the Ride, 7,985 children have attended Victory Junction at no cost to their families. Last year alone, the Ride raised more than $1 million, sending 100 children to camp. Victory Junction has served as the Ride's primary beneficiary since its establishment by Petty and his family in 2004 in honor of his late son, Adam. This year's Ride will feature several celebrity riders, including: NASCAR Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Richard Petty NASCAR legends Harry Gant, Hershel McGriff and Donnie Allison Former NFL great and ESPN's 2016 Coaches Poll greatest college football player of all time, Herschel Walker Heisman Trophy winner (1980) and Super Bowl champion (XXII) George Rogers NBC Sports NASCAR personalities Rick Allen and Rutledge Wood Harley-Davidson Museum president, Bill Davidson, who comes from a long list of Harley-Davidson greats starting with his great grandfather who founded the company. "As we travel to new parts of our country - or ones we haven't seen in a while - the Ride brings with it a passion for sharing the great work of Victory Junction and a comradery that can't be matched. That's what makes it one of the most popular motorcycle rides in the country," said Kyle's father Richard Petty. The 2017 Ride is made possible by presenting sponsor Manheim, as well as Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, FCA Fleet, Racing Electronics, WinCraft Racing, FLUIDYNE Racing Products, Petty Family Foundation, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Headbands of Hope, Piedmont Moving Systems, ArticBlu, Select-A-Vision and Goody's. "Giving back to the community is a core value of Manheim, so we're thrilled once again to be supporting Victory Junction and the children who camp there," said Janet Barnard, president, Cox Automotive Inventory Solutions. "Our teams are excited to welcome the Ride at two of our operating locations, Manheim Portland and Manheim Minneapolis, and offering their local support to this worthwhile cause." To keep up with Petty and the riders live, follow along on social media: Facebook: www.facebook.com/kpcharityride and www.facebook.com/kylepetty45 Instagram: www.instagram.com/kpcharityride and www.instagram.com/kylepetty Twitter: www.twitter.com/kpcharityride and www.twitter.com/kylepetty For more information about the 23rd Annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America or to make a donation, please visit www.kylepettycharityride.com .
Dale Jr. watches dad's Monte Carlo take a lap; more from 'Dega trip
RELATED: See Dale Jr.'s day at Talladega Six-time Talladega Superspeedway winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . visited one of his favorite tracks Thursday for an action-packed day of greeting fans, mingling with the Alabama Gang, assisting the track with its landscaping duties and watching his father's No. 2 Chevrolet take a lap around the superspeedway. The Hendrick Motorsports wheelman, sidelined for the rest of the season by concussion-like symptoms, was welcomed by Alabama Gang members Bobby Allison , Donnie Allison and short-track legend Red Farmer as an honorary member of the group. The Alabama Gang, with deep roots in stock-car racing's early days, was the nickname earned by a group of notable NASCAR drivers -- the Allisons, Neil Bonnett, and Farmer among them -- with ties to the state. Talladega's back straightaway was named "The Alabama Gang Superstretch" in their honor in the spring of 2014. Although Dale Earnhardt was not a part of the group, he remained great friends with the drivers -- especially Bonnett, a fellow outdoorsman. The group paid tribute to the first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee as Donnie Allison wheeled Earnhardt's famous No. 2 Monte Carlo around the 2.66-mile track. See glimpses from Dale Jr.'s day. We have a VERY special guest with us today surprising some awesome fans! Welcome back to 'Dega, @DaleJr ! pic.twitter.com/ibtEQnnAJ6 — TalladegaSuperspdwy (@TalladegaSuperS) September 29, 2016 . @DaleJr doing some track landscaping and surprising fans at @TalladegaSuperS . #NW88JR pic.twitter.com/ptrIfuXW8y — Nationwide 88 (@nationwide88) September 29, 2016 We have some REALLY cool stuff coming up with @DaleJr and the famed #AlabamaGang ! Keep an eye on Periscope & Facebook Live! pic.twitter.com/fT05pKOgrN — TalladegaSuperspdwy (@TalladegaSuperS) September 29, 2016 Donnie , Bobby and Red welcome @DaleJr as an OFFICIAL Honorary Member of the #AlabamaGang ! pic.twitter.com/JjCPAt99FJ — TalladegaSuperspdwy (@TalladegaSuperS) September 29, 2016 Dale Sr.'s No. 2 Monte Carlo rides again with Donnie Allison at the wheel! #AlabamaGang https://t.co/HeBNAtQWh8 — TalladegaSuperspdwy (@TalladegaSuperS) September 29, 2016 Good times today @TalladegaSuperS promoting the race with the Alabama Gang. Tickets are on sale for the race on October 23rd. pic.twitter.com/vm6OZFTslx — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 29, 2016 I remember this old thing. @TalladegaSuperS Hall of Fame. The carpet is teal, I kid you not. Great choice pops. pic.twitter.com/UMn4RAe34L — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 29, 2016 How cool to rename the MRN booth @TalladegaSuperS in honor of Barney Hall! pic.twitter.com/7u24pIDUnM — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 29, 2016 </p>
Stewart preps for relief driver switch at Talladega
RELATED: Weekend schedule " Dillon ready for action TALLADEGA, Ala. -- A week after returning to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, Tony Stewart becomes a start-and-park driver. In a manner of speaking. Start-and-watch might be more appropriate. The three-time premier series champion missed the season's first eight points races after suffering a back injury during the offseason. RELATED: Full timeline of Stewart's injury, comeback Stewart is scheduled to start his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway before turning over the wheel to XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon . It's an infrequent turn of events, but something that does happen from time to time in NASCAR. Last season, Erik Jones stepped in for Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver developed a neck spasm during a rain delay. Jones finished 26th. Hamlin was also involved in a driver swap at Talladega in 2013. Injured in an accident at Auto Club Speedway , Hamlin started the Aaron's 499 but eventually gave up the seat to Brian Vickers . J.J. Yeley replaced Bill Elliott during a race here in 2011; he also replaced Stewart in '08 during the summer race at Daytona. Stewart, speaking to the media Friday at Talladega, said he expects to do "what I always do around here at the beginning of the race … just ride around in the back until we get to the first caution." It won't be "glamorous," he said, but it meets his doctors' request. Well, almost. According to Stewart, his doctors didn't want him competing at all this weekend. "We need the points and so we talked them into letting us to at least start the race," said Stewart, who sits 101 points out of 30th. MORE: Standings pre-Talladega "I told them it normally doesn't go more than two or three laps at the beginning of the race before a caution. It might go 82 or 83 laps, who knows? But, we'll run until it gets there." Unofficially, the last time a relief driver won a NASCAR premier series race was 1977, and it occurred at Talladega as well. Donnie Allison started what was then a July race but eventually turned the driving over to Darrell Waltrip due to illness. Waltrip replaced Allison with 23 laps remaining and took the lead with six to go when race leader Skip Manning's car suffered mechanical problems. According to NASCAR rules, points earned by an entry are awarded to the driver starting the race, meaning Stewart will be credited with those earned Sunday by Dillon.
Junior becomes an honorary member of the 'Alabama Gang'
Members of the 'Alabama Gang', Donnie Allison , Bobby Allison and Red Farmer, make Dale Earnhardt Jr. an official member during a ceremony at Talladega Superspeedway.