Beloved Alabama native Davey Allison leads 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class

Beloved Alabama native Davey Allison leads 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class
Davey Allison drives the Robert Yates Havoline Texaco Ford #28 in a 1989 race. Allison was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in the 2019 class. (Wikimedia, us44mt)

Driver Davey Allison, the beloved Alabama native who captured his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) triumph at his home track of Talladega Superspeedway (TSS) in 1987, was honored as a member of the 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class.

Joining Allison, the son of 2011 NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, was four-time premier series champion and six-time Talladega victor Jeff Gordon; MENCS team owners Roger Penske (seven wins at Talladega) and Jack Roush (five Talladega victories), and 1992 MENCS Champion Alan Kulwicki. They were enshrined at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In addition, long-time NASCAR executive and former Talladega Superspeedway PR Director Jim Hunter was presented the 2019 Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Here’s a breakdown of the inductees:

Davey Allison

Allison, the Hueytown native who was a fan favorite and one of the most respected competitors by his peers, had 19 MENCS victories (in just 191 events), three of which came at Talladega, as well as the 1992 Daytona 500. In his 14th career start in NASCAR’s premier series, he captured his first career victory at Talladega in May 1987, and later that year claimed the NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors.

Davey Allison seemed always to have a smile on his face. (Kathleen Lupole/Wikimedia)

Always with a smile on his face, Allison proved hard work and dedication paid off after learning to build cars himself, getting an education from the three original members of the Alabama Gang – his dad (a four-time TSS winner), his uncle Donnie Allison (a 10-time Cup winner, including two at Talladega) and close friend Red Farmer (a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee who had two ARCA triumphs at TSS). Allison cut his teeth working at his dad’s shop after school and at night.

 

Allison entered the final race of the 1992 MENCS season with a 30-point lead in the championship standings but was caught up in a wreck – not of his own doing – with just 43 laps remaining. He would finish third – behind champion Kulwicki and Bill Elliott – in one of the most dramatic and highly contested finales in NASCAR history. His life was tragically cut short by a helicopter accident at Talladega in 1993.

Allison ranks second only to Dale Earnhardt Sr. in total Talladega wins, with eight. In addition to his three MENCS wins, he has four ARCA Racing Series victories and one International Race of Champions (IROC) victory. He made his MENCS debut at Talladega in 1985, when he finished 10th. The 1987 Daytona 500 saw an incredible finish in which Davey Allison finished just two car lengths behind Bobby Allison, the only father-son 1-2 finish in the race’s illustrious history. The younger Allison won five times in 1991 as well as 1992, with his final Cup triumph coming at Richmond in March 1993.

Named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers, Allison is also a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Talladega-Texaco Walk of Fame.

“Davey Allison was one of the most talented race car drivers our sport has ever seen,” said Grant Lynch, Chairman of Talladega Superspeedway. “He loved the sport and was willing to do anything to promote it. He was so genuine and he resonated with fans everywhere. We are so happy for the entire Allison family, who mean so much to us here at Talladega.”

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon’s career in racing expanded NASCAR’s fanbase. (National Guard/Wikimedia Commons)

Gordon, with once-in-a-generation talent and charisma, helped take NASCAR from a regional sport to the mainstream in the 1990s. As a 24-year-old driving for Hendrick Motorsports, he became the youngest champion in the modern era to win a premier series title in 1995. He went on to add three more titles in 1997, 1998 and 2001. Overall, he won 93 races, which ranks third on the all-time list behind only Richard Petty and David Pearson.

Gordon’s six Talladega Superspeedway wins in the Cup Series rank second (tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr.) to Dale Earnhardt, who reigns with 10 MENCS triumphs. In 46 starts (first in 1993 at age 21) at Talladega, he had 16 top-five finishes. Gordon’s five pole positions at Talladega rank in a tie for third on the TSS all-time list, and in his final two starts at TSS in 2015, he swept both pole positions. His victory in the 2007 GEICO 500 was his 77th career win, pushing him past Earnhardt for sixth place on the all-time NASCAR list.

Gordon made his Cup debut in the 1992 Cup finale that featured the title battle between Allison, Kulwicki and Bill Elliott, and it was also Richard Petty’s final career race. Gordon would go on to win the Daytona 500 three times as well as the Brickyard 400 on five occasions.

Roger Penske

Penske, known as ‘The Captain,’ has steered one of the most successful motorsports ships in NASCAR history, winning 111 races as a car owner in NASCAR’s premier series, as well as titles with Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Joey Logano last season.

At Talladega, Penske ranks third on the all-time winning car owner list with seven triumphs. Since the spring of 2012, his drivers Keselowski and Logano have won seven times, including six of the last nine. Logano is the defending champion of Talladega’s GEICO 500. Penske owned the Porsche 917-30 that driver Mark Donahue wheeled to a world record speed on a closed course – 221.160 mph – at Talladega Superspeedway in August 1975. The record stood for four years internationally and 11 in the United States.

Jack Roush

Once a Michigan-based drag racing owner and enthusiast, Jack Roush – known as the “Cat in the Hat” – made his best motorsports decision when he turned south in 1988 to start a NASCAR team. Since beginning Roush Racing (now known as Roush Fenway Racing), the graduate-level mathematician turned engineering entrepreneur has won a record 324 races across NASCAR’s three national series –  137 in the MENCS, 137 in the NASCAR Xfinity and 50 in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

As an owner, Roush boasts eight NASCAR national series championships. Roush has displayed a prowess for discovering and developing talent. Eight times, his drivers finished runner-up in the MENCS title chase, with Mark Martin heading the list four times.

At Talladega, Roush has claimed five victories in the MENCS with four different drivers. Martin’s win in 1997 holds the all-time race record speed of 188.354 mph. Roush’s teams also have captured three pole positions at TSS.

Alan Kulwicki

Alan Kulwicki in 1991, the year before his NASCAR championship. (J. Bonvouloir/Wikimedia Commons)

Noted Wisconsin short-track ace Kulwicki moved to Charlotte in 1984 and was determined to make a name for himself with his self-owned racing team. With no sponsor and a limited budget, he won the 1986 NASCAR Rookie of the Year. Throughout his career, Kulwicki received lucrative offers from powerhouse race teams but insisted on racing for himself. He overcame a 278-point deficit with six races remaining to capture the 1992 NASCAR Championship.

In 13 races at Talladega Superspeedway, Kulwicki’s best result was a fourth-place effort in 1990. Named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers, Kulwicki died in a plane crash in March 1993.

Jim Hunter

Hunter, who was an Alabama resident for six years after being named the PR director for Talladega Superspeedway in 1975, left an incredible mark on NASCAR and those associated with the sport. His wit and wisdom helped guide NASCAR’s growth during portions of six decades as a company executive, track president, public relations professional and journalist. Hunter broke into motorsports as a member of the media in the 1950s. He worked as sports editor of the Columbia Record, an award-winning reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a columnist for Stock Car Racing magazine.

He moved to the public relations side of the business with Dodge in the 1960s before serving as public relations director at Darlington Raceway and then Talladega Superspeedway. The track’s press box is named in his honor. In 1993, he became president of Darlington Raceway and corporate vice president of the International Speedway Corporation. He remained at Darlington until 2001, when he accepted an offer from Bill France Jr. to return to NASCAR to lead an expanded public relations effort aimed at responding to the needs of burgeoning media coverage.

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