McReynolds remembers driver on anniversary of his passing RELATED: High 5: Remembering Davey Allison As New Hampshire Motor Speedway celebrates its 25th anniversary, FOX NASCAR analyst Larry McReynolds, a guest on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, remembered another Magic Mile milestone: the first premier series race at the track, which was the last event for Davey Allison before a helicopter accident claimed his life. After falling 63 points shy of the 1992 NASCAR championship, Allison's No. 28 Robert Yates Racing Ford got off to a slow start, according to McReynolds, who served as its crew chief. "I think we kind of got lazy between the '92 and the '93 season because we ran so well in 1992," McReynolds said. "We didn't work to make ourselves better, and we were struggling when '93 started." The Slick 50 300 at a new New England venue offered an opportunity for the team to turn the corner, and it gave the team reason to be optimistic for the inaugural premier series race. "We finally built a brand new car and went to Loudon, and we were leading that race with 30 laps to go and we had a car that was good on the long run," McReynolds said. "A caution comes out for debris with 30 laps to go. We were in a bit of a box. We had to pit so we pitted, and we ended up finishing third to Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin ." It was the team's first top-five finish in a month and sixth in the first 16 races of the season. An upbeat Allison did something on the way home that surprised his crew chief and fellow Alabama native as the No. 28 team headed to Charlotte and then on to Allison's home in Hueytown, Alabama. " Davey did something that night that I had never seen him do," McReynolds said. "He always flew his own plane. I think it's how he kind of took out his anxiety of the day, but he told his pilot and his dad, Bobby, 'You guys fly the airplane. I'm going to sit in the back with the guys.' "…we sat back there and he was so excited and happy because I think like he felt like we finally had hit on something that we had been missing most of 1993. He told me when we landed in Charlotte, 'You won't be able to get in touch with me tomorrow. I think I'm going to fly up to Talladega to watch David Bonnett, Neil Bonnett's son, test a car.' "I said, 'No problem. I'll call you on Tuesday.' "Well, unfortunately, I never got to make that call because the next day was when he was killed in a helicopter crash at Talladega." Later that season, Ernie Irvan took over the No. 28 ride, driving the car through the first 20 races of the 1994 season before a crash at Michigan International Speedway sidelined him for for more than a year. When Irvan returned to the No. 28 car in 1996, McReynolds was his crew chief, and that July, Irvan and McReynolds went to Victory Lane at Loudon, New Hampshire, for an emotional celebration in honor of the driver's comeback and to commemorate the three-year anniversary of Allison's passing. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Watch a promo for 'Chasing Davey' , premiering September 23rd on FOX Sports 1.
RELATED: Gordon's teammates plan tribute " Final 24 paint scheme My first meeting with Jeff Gordon came in Atlanta in 1992, two nights before what would be a sport-changing maiden NASCAR Winston Cup Series start for the then 20-year-old. I remember he was dressed casually in jeans and yes, sported "that" mustache. I met him as part of a larger group of friends in a bustling Atlanta hotel lobby. He was without a single "handler" and since he knew a couple people in our group, wondered if he could tag along with us. The plan was to do a group dinner then later stop by a sports bar to watch the big fight between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe. The young Gordon looked as much like a fan as a driver. You'd never know he competed in NASCAR's Grand National division. Even less apparent was that he would be making his first big Cup start that weekend, except for the occasional, "Hey Jeff," which he acknowledged in a downplayed manner. I still have a large button with a photo of Jeff and a friend of mine after we jokingly convinced the staff at Benihana's that night it was Gordon's birthday. It wasn't, but we got free dessert and the funny button. I had reported on a lot of IMSA sports car racing leading into this assignment for the Tampa Tribune , but this was my first big Cup race, too. Our primary racing beat writer, Herb Branham, was focusing his weekend coverage on "the big story" -- Richard Petty's last start. I was to handle the more routine race story topped by the championship. Looking back at it, I discovered that I never even mentioned Gordon in that story. He crashed and finished 31st. To be perfectly honest, my background was primarily stick-and-ball and I had no idea who Gordon was, especially compared to NASCAR's bigger names like Petty, Davey Allison , Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki, who won the title that weekend. Just to have a chance at this first big-time racing opportunity, I had to make myself valuable all around to the newspaper. So I offered to stop in Atlanta earlier in the week for a lengthy and candid interview with the Tampa Bay Lightning's big news, a woman goalie, Manon Rheaume. Manon was great. But NASCAR was better and 22 years later, I'm still here. I remember congratulating Gordon the day after our dinner on his "best of second round qualifying," but honestly had no idea of the fabulous racing legend this modest, fun, personable young man would become. He eventually lost the mustache, but never the mojo. RELATED: Photos of Gordon through the years Gordon is the first major NASCAR champion that I have covered from the very beginning to the very end, which comes with his retirement this weekend after the 2015 season finale in Homestead, Florida -- where he stands an impressive 1-in-4 chance to win a fifth title. And while Gordon has accomplished so much, transformed the sport and truly deserves the opportunity to possibly leave as a champion, it will feel very odd to me -- and to so many -- to say goodbye now. Gordon was the first NASCAR driver I had any lengthy conversation with or wrote any substantial stories about. Considering that now, after his four championships and 93 victories, it is something I will treasure as a reporter. And truly it started with what a down-to-earth person I have always considered Gordon to be. I'm fortunate to say I was there for so many of Gordon's firsts -- the Brickyards, the Daytona 500 s, the championships ... and the fabulous head-to-heads with Dale Earnhardt. RELATED: Gordon's top 24 NASCAR moments I still have the February 1995 edition of "Beckett Racing Monthly" magazine with Gordon's first cover photo and my story on him featured inside. I honestly hadn't read it in more than 10-15 years. The headline is "Flash Gordon" and talks about the amazing statistics he had already posted only two full seasons into what is now surely a Hall of Fame career. He was already truly one of the most popular drivers on the circuit -- later that very year winning his first Cup title -- and I remember his public relations team wanting me to send a letter in advance with a list of potential questions. I didn't. And Gordon was still spectacular. As impressive as his success on track had already been -- the 1993 Rookie of the Year, a win in his first Gatorade Twin 125, and then in the Coca-Cola 600 and the inaugural 1994 Brickyard 400 -- Gordon was genuinely humbled and amazed at the fan reaction in my story. "When I get a second to sit down, which isn't very often, I think back to when I got a chance to meet Charles Barkley or Chris Webber,'' Gordon said in the article. "That was a big thrill for me and they weren't rude, they were really nice. That made a big impact on me and I try to put myself in that same position. If I have an extra second, I always try to give it to the fans, especially the kids.'' And he always has. This weekend in particular, Gordon will be honored, acknowledged, remembered and cheered for more than two decades of transforming this sport on track and off it. As he said in that 1994 article, "I'm just a race car driver looking to make a living.'' And so he has. So, well done.
Winning driver ended up in the hospital, not Victory Lane
In the 1993 Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond International Raceway, driver Davey Allison earned his 19th and final career win before his sudden death.
Justin Allison , 21, 'has the most talent of any Allison'
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. and CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 9, 2015) -- FS1 with NASCAR Productions will present, as a part of FS1's NASCAR RACE HUB™, a new documentary short film series entitled Beyond the Wheel to offer an inside look at the sport's most interesting stories and traditions. The documentaries further NASCAR RACE HUB's expansion into dynamic storytelling, taking a new approach to explore pivotal moments and provide never-before-seen insights on influential NASCAR legends and fascinating historical characters. Premiering Wednesday evenings during NASCAR RACE HUB, the first film will launch Sept. 23 on FS1 at 6:00 p.m. ET. The four-part documentary short film series is comprised of the following themes: • Chasing Davey follows Robbie Allison , son of former NASCAR star Davey Allison , as he seeks a connection with his late father by participating in the sport Davey loved. • The Kiss details the once legendary trophy girls and iconic Victory Lane kiss, and how the tradition has evolved through the decades in response to America's changing values. • The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson, Yes! pays homage to the 1965 landmark Esquire article written by journalist Tom Wolfe that introduced the country to stock car racing, the New South and one of NASCAR's most infamous outlaw heroes -- Junior Johnson. • White Knight explores the story of the man many consider to be the winningest race car driver in history, Dick Trickle, who took home victories in an estimated 1,200 races and became NASCAR's Rookie of the Year at age 48 before tragically ending his life in 2013. The subsequent three films in the Beyond the Wheel series air on Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and Oct. 21, respectively (6:00 p.m. ET). Each documentary will also be available via FOX Sports GO, the critically acclaimed app that provides live streaming video of FOX Sports content at home or on the go, or on FOXSports.com following its on-air premiere.
RELATED: McReynolds wins at Iowa " Get more with Home Tracks When Brandon McReynolds first prevailed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series at Iowa Speedway, his father, Larry, rejoiced 1,000 miles away, sharing his glee while broadcasting the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on FOX Sports 1. Last weekend, the 24-year-old driver was close enough to see the reaction for himself, sharing the moment with his father in Victory Lane in the Hawkeye State just 11 weeks later. The father-son duo joined the Bill McAnally Racing team in toasting the NASCAR Next alum's rare Iowa season sweep. The triumph was further proof that the next-generation driver hasn't fallen far from the career path of his father, who oversaw two Daytona 500 wins from atop the pit box for both Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt. Still, he said he hasn't had any prodding to pursue the same livelihood in motorsports. "One thing I've got to give my dad credit for is there's a lot of dads out there who put a lot of pressure on you to be a race car driver, and he's never done that," Brandon McReynolds said. "He's just said whatever you're going to do in life, put your mind to it and work hard, roll up your sleeves and make the most of it. He's really allowed me to do that. He's allowed me to succeed; he's allowed me to fail. So to see him here and to see the smile and a little bit of tears on his face, it goes a long way with me. "It's really cool to see our relationship grow over the last few years. Obviously, we've always been close because he's my dad, but it's really cool. He's one of my best friends and it's cool to share this with him." The elder McReynolds happily watched the proceedings from the sidelines of Victory Lane, telling the team, "This is your night." He eventually relented, posing for a handful of photos against the backdrop of a moonlit Iowa night. Though Larry McReynolds' obligations with FOX Sports, which came to an end in June, have kept him from seeing more of his son's races in the K&N Pro Series West, he said he's seen growth in the face of some mild adversity. McReynolds has qualified among the top five for all but one race this season, but he has just two top-fives -- both Iowa wins -- to show for the speed. RELATED: Larry McReynolds bids farewell to boothmates While the results haven't been as consistent as hoped, the pieces have come together on the highly competitive stage at Iowa, host of the two combination events for the K&N East and West Series. "I think what he's hung his hat on is they've had a competitive car every single week," Larry McReynolds said. "The season didn't get started good at the beginning with a couple of engine issues and then of course he got spun out a few weeks ago battling for the lead, but I think that's what he's hung his hat on -- the fact that they've been competitive, they've been in position. Like I've always told him, and I speak from all my years of experience, you put yourself in position enough, the deal will get sealed." Though the younger McReynolds' focus for the short term was on savoring the Iowa victory and carrying momentum to the West series' next race Aug. 15 at Evergreen Speedway in Washington, the next deal that needs closure is his plan for next season. McReynolds said that 2016 was still in limbo but hinted that any potential moves would hopefully be made in conjunction with McAnally, a five-time championship team owner in the K&N Pro Series West. "I hate to beat around the bush about it, but obviously we work day in and day out," McReynolds said. "Me and Bill are on the phone constantly to make that next step or to move forward together. Right now, I really don't know, and I'm sure you guys get that answer a lot but it's really the truth. It's hard. We're lucky enough to have the sponsors that we do have with NAPA and Toyota and all of our associates that are behind us, and we hope to grow with those. Obviously, there's going to be some changing coming up here in the future. "There's a lot of movement going on. It seems like our silly season, even at the K&N level, it happens earlier and earlier each year. I know this (win) definitely helps and we'll see what it brings us, but we're working together to try to move forward together as a group."
Dale Earnhardt Jr . knows all about growing up in the shadow of a legend. He knows where that path leads, where it ends and where the next one begins. Buddy Baker did, too. Both are the sons of famous racers. Both followed their fathers into the sport. It was a connection, a common thread leading away from two very uncommon individuals. Baker, the son of two-time NASCAR premier series champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Buck Baker, passed away Monday following a brief battle with lung cancer. The father, tough as an old boot, taught the son plenty. A giant of a man inside and outside the car, Buddy won 19 times, including the 1980 Daytona 500 . He's been among the nominees for the Hall for the past two years. Earnhardt Jr.'s father, Dale Earnhardt, was one of the inaugural members of the Hall selected in 2010. The elder Earnhardt won seven NASCAR premier series titles, tying Richard Petty's formidable mark. He won 76 races. For many, Earnhardt was NASCAR, helping to fill the void left by the departure of icons that had carried the sport on their shoulders through the 1960s and '70s -- men such as Petty, David Pearson, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough. And Buddy Baker. The father-son connection question has been asked countless times of Earnhardt Jr. He is no longer surprised by it. His father's shadow loomed large over the sport, even after his death on the race track in 2001. The similarities to Baker's own circumstances became more obvious to Earnhardt Jr. over time. "When I was really young, I grew aware of his situation and I hadn't become a driver yet," Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "I didn't feel like I could relate to him. "I obviously knew just what growing up in household must have been like, the yearning to compete and get into the series and do what your father was doing and be a part of it to be more a part of his life. "To be more of a part of your father's life is one of the main reasons why you get involved. I maybe could understand that part of it." Baker's on-track accomplishments, and later his move into broadcasting, helped him shed the "son-of" label. Just as Earnhardt Jr.'s eventual success -- he's won 25 races, including a pair of Daytona 500 titles -- helped him blaze his own trail. "You almost forgot about that scenario and how similar it may have been to your own (situation) because of what he was able to accomplish," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He created his own identity outside of Buck (Baker). He did so many things on his own, added to his own identity and legacy that you totally really forgot about having those similarities down the road." NASCAR hasn't lacked for father/son combinations through the years -- Lee and Richard Petty; Richard and Kyle Petty; Bobby and Davey and Clifford Allison ; Ned, Glenn and Dale Jarrett; David and Larry Pearson; and more recently Ward and Jeb Burton just to name a few. There are a lot, Earnhardt Jr. said, "that I feel that connection to, that know what that connection is like." The situation isn't specific to racing, but racing is where both Earnhardt Jr. and Baker found themselves. Following in their fathers' footsteps. "Wanting to be in that shadow when you're young and wanting to be a part of his life when you're young and then trying to get out from under that shadow all the rest of the years of your life is definitely, I wouldn't call it a struggle, but it's just a unique situation that only a few of us can say we've been through," said Earnhardt Jr., "and we can relate to each other through that."
NASCAR.com's Kenny Bruce compares Jimmie Johnson to the 'Intimidator' RELATED: Johnson wins at Dover for 10th time The greatest NASCAR driver of all time is … Jimmie Johnson ? That's the word on the street, or in this case the voice on the radio, and since the bluegrass channel was on a commercial break I decided to stick around long enough to hear how that particular conclusion was reached. Such comparisons are inevitable – it's the sort of thing that arises when one is chasing legends. No different than when Jeff Gordon was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. No different than when Earnhardt was piling up victories and championships in pursuit of Petty. And no different than when Petty began piling up wins and titles on his way to overtaking a host of former champions, including his father, Lee, the first to win three NASCAR premier series championships. What the 39-year-old Johnson has managed to accomplish in little more than 13 full seasons in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series certainly puts him in the same league with Petty and Earnhardt, NASCAR's only seven-time champions. There's no doubt that Johnson, fit and trim and now only two wins away from matching Earnhardt's career win total of 76 victories, is one of the sport's greatest drivers. But is he No. 1? From a numbers standpoint, the Hendrick Motorsports driver will undoubtedly surpass Earnhardt's win total, and it's likely he'll eventually capture a seventh championship. He could, in fact, become the first driver to win more than seven titles. That would make him the most successful driver from a championship standpoint (neither he nor anyone else will come close to Petty's mark of 200 career wins), but will that make him NASCAR's greatest driver? No. That designation, without question, belongs to Earnhardt. Statistics are a great way to gauge success. But it takes more than numbers to measure greatness. Johnson has managed to excel during what some claim is the most competitive era in the history of NASCAR. Yes, there are more winners, on average, today. But there are also more races on the schedule, thus also more opportunities. A larger number of teams run the full schedule today, although that doesn't necessarily mean there are more "better" teams competing. Earnhardt never ran a season consisting of 36 points races; Johnson's never run in fewer than 36. Earnhardt never had the opportunity to compete at Kansas, Chicago or Kentucky; but by the same token, Johnson never raced at North Wilkesboro or Riverside. I have a strong feeling both could have won at those tracks given the chance. I'll argue that the talent pool Earnhardt often faced was just as deep – with lineups including drivers such as Petty and Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison , Cale Yarborough, Buddy Baker, Neil Bonnett, Geoff Bodine and Harry Gant. Eventually Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison , Alan Kulwicki, Tim Richmond and others took their place. Most were champions; many are already members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Johnson is one of the greatest drivers that today's fans will ever see. What he has done has been nothing short of amazing. If one wants to argue that he would not have won 74 races and six championships had it not been for Hendrick Motorsports and Chad Knaus, the same could be said of Earnhardt, who owed much of his success to Richard Childress Racing and the talented group he worked with there. But what elevates Earnhardt above the rest is more than the fact that he was so successful. He provided fans with some of the sport's most memorable moments during his two-plus decades. Among them: winning the pole at Watkins Glen in '96 (and setting the track qualifying record, to boot) just two weeks after suffering a broken collarbone and sternum in a vicious crash at Talladega; climbing from his damaged car and into the ambulance, only to quickly exit and return to his car once he realized it would still run, at Daytona in '97; his first and only Daytona 500 victory the following season, a win that erased 19 years of heartbreak. There was the "rattle his cage" incident with Terry Labonte en route to victory in the night race at Bristol in '99; the wrongly-termed but aptly promoted "pass in the grass" on his way to winning the 1997 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ; and the charge from 18th to first in the final five laps of the 2000 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . For two decades, greatness drove a Chevrolet and it carried the number 3. They were memorable moments that elevated the sport and defined the man. Johnson can win more races and win more championships, but he can't match that. He needn't worry – no one else can, either. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule