A winning short-track racer who took his own path to become the 1983 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Bobby Allison (December 3, 1937) was the head of the “Alabama Gang” of winning racers that congregated at his Hueytown garage. However, the start of his illustrious career actually took place on the Modified short tracks around his birthplace of Miami, Florida.
Allison used a fabricated name when he started racing as a high school senior and that lasted until a photo of him in the winner’s circle turned up in a local newspaper and his father Edmund told him that if he was going to race he should use his own name.
After winning just about everything in Florida, Allison and his brother Donnie headed for Hueytown where they hooked up with Nashville-born and Miami-raised Charles “Red” Farmer – who like Bobby is one of NASCAR’s Top 50 Drivers – and the trio did very well on the Modified and Late Model circuit in the Montgomery-Birmingham area.
Bobby had plenty of victories in his red No. 312 1955 Chevrolet Late Model and he was the only champion in NASCAR’s short-lived Modified Special Division (1962 & 1963) in his fuel-injected Chevy-powered red and gold No. 312 1933 Chevrolet three-window coupe.
The winner of over 600 short-track races, Bobby was also NASCAR’s 1964-1965 National Modified Champion and he eventually became a pilot so that he could fly his own aircraft to the many short-track commitments that he had throughout his racing career.
However, NASCAR’s Cup Series was where he wanted to make his mark and after some 20 Cup races (1961-1966) in a variety of Fords and Chevrolets he really got things going when he built his own No. 2 red and white 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle. With this shoe-string operation Bobby held his own against the factory teams and on July 12, 1966, he won a 300-lapper from the pole at the one-third-mile asphalt Oxford Plains (Maine) Speedway.
Bobby’s challenging presence in that No. 2 Chevelle soon saw him racing for such factory-backed car owners as Cotton Owens (1967), Holman-Moody (1967 & 1971), Bondy Long (1968), Mario Rossi (1969-1970), Junior Johnson (with whom he had 10 wins, 12 seconds and 11 poles in 1972), Roger Penske (1974-1976), Bud Moore (1978-1980), Harry Rainer (1981), DiGard Racing (1982-1985) and the Stavola Brothers (1986-1988). And he raced for himself in Bobby Allison Racing factory-backed rides in 1971, 1973-1974, 1977 and 1985.
The winner of two Permatex Modified 200s on the 3.85-mile infield road course at Daytona International Speedway – in his No. 2 1973 Chevrolet Camaro (1974) and in his No. 12 AMC Hornet from the pole (1976) – and a two-time (1973 & 1975) starter in the Indianapolis 500 for Penske Racing, Bobby competed in 718 NASCAR Cup Series events, claimed 58 poles and won 84 races, including four (1971-1972, 1975 & 1983) Southern 500s at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and three (1978, 1982 & 1988) Daytona 500s. However, his 1988 Daytona 500 win in the gold and white No. 12 Stavola Brothers Miller High Life Buick was the most interesting.
At 50 years old, Bobby became the Daytona 500’s oldest winner and when he led his son Davey – another of NASCAR’s Top 50 Drivers – across the finish line by a car length it was the first father-son 1-2 finish in NASCAR since fellow EMPA Hall of Fame members Lee and Richard Petty did the same thing on July 10, 1960, in a 188-lap race on the half-mile dirt Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway.
On June 19, 1988, things changed greatly for Bobby Allison as he suffered massive head injuries in a violent crash in Pocono (Pa.) Raceway’s tunnel turn during the Miller High Life 500 that nearly killed him and it forced his retirement from racing. Unfortunately, the results of those injuries also wiped away any memory that he had of his Daytona 500 victory earlier that year.