Davey’s Reminder

There are times in life that are frozen in your memory forever.

The immensity of the moment etches its every detail, big or small into your mind.

It forever becomes a part of you, woven into your life’s tapestry. It’s a part of what makes you… you.

The crack in Mrs. Greer, our school principal’s voice as she announced President Kennedy had been shot and killed.

How joyful playtime with our fiends stopped and immediately turned to sadness and fear when the news cut in to say Martin Luther King was dead.

Losing my appetite and pushing away my bowl of Cap’n Crunch cereal after spotting the tiny headline in the Sports section that simply said, “Clark Killed” and wondering where in Germany, was Hockenheim.

Stopped in traffic at a changed traffic light, having cars honking at me to move, frozen by the stunning announcement of the Challenger explosion.

Having co-workers report a plane had hit the World Trade Center and blowing it off as a tragic accident. When they came back to report the second hit, telling them, “If one hits the Pentagon or White House we are at war.”

Sitting on the front stretch of the Charlotte Motor Speedway and watching our retaliation unfold live, as it happened on their big screens. My first and hopefully my last “war-delayed” start to a NASCAR race.

Cursing at the radio sports reporter for his sick April Fool’s joke saying that NASCAR Champion Alan Kulwicki had died in a plane crash… then breaking down when the reality set it that it wasn’t a joke.

Sitting in my truck in the parking lot of my little country church, praying as hard as I knew how to pray that Dale Earnhardt would be OK, then the gut punch when I turned on the radio to find that tonight, my prayers wouldn’t be answered in the way I, and untold millions of others had hoped.

Sitting up all night in my wife’s hospital room, one eye making sure she was resting peacefully, the other on the ESPN crawler to see if there was any change to the initial reports of Davey Allison’s helicopter crash. The next day rejoicing that she would be going home, tempered with the early morning news Davey had already gone Home.

Some moments are not as tragic, but still as memorable.

The magic of the 1992 All-Star Race, “One Hot Night”, the first one under the lights. Going from elation of having Davey Allison win it, to the sparks and the sickening sound of him hitting the wall after taking the checkered flag.

The terror seeing Davey viciously and endlessly tumbling down Pocono Tunnel Turn after being clipped by Darrell Waltrip. Thoughts going from “did he survive?” to “how did he survive” to “will he drive again” to “will he make the race next week to keep his Championship hopes alive?”

That first interview after when he removed the sunglasses and there was no doubt just what he was made of. Treated for a broken arm, wrist, collarbone and a concussion, the gritty, black-eyed Allison was determined to start Talladega the next week and keep his Championship hopes alive… to the silent doubts of “there ain’t no way.”

Sitting in the front row at Talladega, torn between seeing him get in the car to get the points he needed to stay in the Points race and get the heck out of it before he got caught up in something that the track is known for that would finish battering what was left from Pocono.

The thankfulness for the stray shower on a sunny Alabama day that brought out a caution that allowed him to pit. The huge sigh of relief when he finally climbed out of the car on his own and Bobby Hillin, Jr. climbed in. It was only then I could breathe once again and sit back and actually enjoy the race, that saw Hillin bring Davey’s Havoline Texaco Ford home in third, elevating Davey back into the points lead.

In his brief time here, Davey Allison provided many memories, good memories that are too many to list today. Sharing the 1988 Daytona 500 Victory Lane with his father Bobby Allison, after their father-son one-two finish is a sticker for sure.

But the one memory that still haunts me, the one that always come first to my mind when I think of Davey is his interview after the 1993 inaugural New Hampshire race. Davey had started that race seventh, behind pole winner Mark Martin, third place rookie sensation Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte. He led four times, passing Sterling Marlin on lap 82 the first time and then Jeff Gordon on lap 244 for his final time leading. He paced the field for the next 26 laps. Rusty Wallace would make his race winning pass, taking the lead from Allison on lap 271 and lead the final 30 laps. In that final run, Martin would slip past Davey to take second.

Photo Credit; Reddit

None of us knew we had seen his final race.

The interview was Davey as we had always seen him, positive, no matter what the circumstances. Yes, he had a car to win, but things just didn’t go his way today. They showed promise, making improvements and leading laps. You could just feel the season turning around.

But ot wasn’t all racing. His shout out to Krista and then Robby and Liz reminded us there is more to life than racing. As important as racing is, there are still things more important. It was a brief reminder we need to take time to remember them and the sacrifices they make.

Davey did.

It was the promise that he’d be home soon. A promise he kept that day. It was the last one he was able to keep.

Finally, his hope for the future. Next year they would do better. They knew what to do. They would bring a new car. They had plans, but he wasn’t going to tell you. You’d have to come back next year and find how they would capture the victory that had eluded them that day…

But, as we all know that never came. Today would be the last time we would see him take his Thunderbird to the limits and beyond. This would be the last time we would see and hear Davey.

The interview always reminds me that we can make plans, have hopes and dreams, but none of it is for certain. There will be a last win, a last pass, a last race, a last interview, a last shout out, a last promise, a last hug, a last kiss, a last story, and a last memory.

February 25, 1961 – July 13, 1993

We just never know when they will be.

This interview always reminds me to cherish life and those in it to the fullest and to hold on tight to them and the memories… till the end.

Davey did.

Thanks for the memories…

For those who would like to remember Davey or learn about one of the toughest drivers to strap into a Cup car, here are two videos –

The Pocono Comeback (Nascarman history) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AfgUKeIPww

Inside Winston Cup’s Tribute (narrated by Ned Jarrett) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNNjgIEZ9Z4

Enjoy the memories.

Thunder on… and Stay Safe


Photo Credit (cover): Previously used here at PTR


  1. I tried so hard when I was helping with editing on this site to contact Robby Allison for an interview on his life and what the legacy of his father meant to him. But I never received a response. This story is perfect. Thanks, David.

  2. Thanks Joshua. The Robby Allison story would have been a classic though! Maybe you can get it next year!

  3. My favorite driver when I first got into being a Cup fan, was David Pearson. Second wasn’t even close. I loved that blue & gold #17. It broke my heart when he and the Wood brothers split. I didn’t have a favorite until Davey came along. I got to see Davey race some late models along the Gulf coast, before he moved to Cup. He was good in the cars he ran on the short tracks then. Plus, he worked on them too. I loved that he was very hands on, with those cars. Most of the tracks then had the pits in the infield, and they usually parked where the fans could see them. When he moved to the Cup cars, I had my long awaited “favorite” driver. I remember some of those horrific crashes he had, leading up to his death. I watched them on TV, and was incredibly grateful when he climbed from most of them. Then were those others that he couldn’t. Then came the chopper crash.
    I hadn’t been in Tucson that long, but I had already from a father/son modified team that I could help out on. I had just got back from their house, doing some maintenance on the car. I flipped on the late local news, just as the sports segment came on. That sports announcer was seen fairly regularly at the track on Saturdays, if the University of AZ was playing a football or basketball game locally. Davey’s crash was the lead story. Not much sleep that night. As there was no internet then, I couldn’t find out anything until I got home from work. Then what I feared was announced, that Davey had passed away. When my wife happened to walk into the living room, she thought that something had happened to a family member. I was standing there, and I couldn’t stop crying. I just kept pointing at the TV. I have no idea as to why I felt so connected to him. I had never met him, but did happen to stand in a group of people near him, in the pits 1 night. I was hurt when Alan Kulwicki was killed, and I’d seen him run a couple of ASA races. But Davey’s death really touched me in a way I didn’t expect.
    David, I like you remember dates like those you described in your story. Some are good memories, but then there are those others. With John Kennedy I was in second grade, and we got sent home from school. The pictures that my grandfather took off the TV screen during his funeral. With MLK, I had just come home from my cousin’s house when the broke in with a news flash. I remember the color leaving my dad’s face. The with Robert Kennedy, I was walking in the hallway at school, and there was a group of teachers crying there in the hallway. The morning of the Challenger disaster, I was at Sheppard Air Force Base for a training class on ejection systems. The instructor said that the space shuttle was going to launch shortly. I said that I didn’t even know that they were launching a mission that week. I said that this space shuttle stuff was getting so routine, that I bet the NASA might be getting complacent. I’d already been to some AF jet crash sites where that ending up being the cause of the accident. He said that he had thought the same thing. When we went to lunch, the crash was on every channel. I felt guilty, like I had jinxed them. That was mission #25.
    On 9/11, I was retired from the AF, and had started my own business. I was at my office, and I was trying to get some work done before we opened (AZ is 3 hours earlier than NY time). I had started my own modified race team, and one of my pit crew guys called, and said that both towers had been struck. He barely finished and I said “You know that means that we are at war now”. He couldn’t understand why I would say that, but he’d never been the military. At that time, my main sponsor on my race car was a collision chain in Tucson. We didn’t race that first Sat after 9/11. The following Sat the track had all the race cars that were there that day, come onto the front stretch, and they did a touching service. All of the drivers & many of the pit crews were there too. My good friend, and fellow mod racer and I were standing next to our cars. My friend was the commander for the 162th Air National Guard operation, stationed at the Tucson. He flew F-16s, and had flown in the first Gulf War. He told me that on 9/12, he flew the hardest mission of his career. He was flying patrol for the southern AZ sector, carrying live munitions, with orders to shoot down any aircraft that he saw airborne. He said he never thought he would ever fly a combat sortie over America. He was in tears telling me that. It was about that time that I turned around to grab a flag that I had in my car. That’s when I realized something. Remember that I said that I had a collision shop chain as my main sponsor? I’m looking at my car, and my friend asked what was wrong? I couldn’t even tell him, I just pointed at my car. My car number was 11. The collision shop’s name was 911 Collision Centers (still is). How I showed them on the car was a small 9 in front of the 11. So it read 911. That was the last time my car came to the track with them as a sponsor. I contacted them, and explained that I could not ever display that again, and I refunded a portion of the money that they had given to me at the start of the season. The A-10 unit that I retired from, had orders to depart for the Middle East a few days later. A decade earlier I went through the deployment real lines for my unit to deploy to Taiff Saudi Arabia, getting all my required shots, filling out my will, all the while my wife is with me crying because she might not have a husband to help raise our 4 year old son, and we’re in a Foreign country.
    My wife hates that I can remember things (me too at this age lol). But my way of remembering say dates/years or something that was important to me, is about remembering things that maybe had nothing to do with what she can’t remember. I remember by association. Fortunately it’s not all bad events that I associate things to. But it works for me.
    As I read you story on Davey, and while I’M typing my reply I’ve been crying for Davey.Thanks to Davey, I to now am an organ donor. As I’ve had over 25 surgeries, with 18 of them being major orthopedic over the last 15 years. I’m not sure much of what they would except from my body still works. But I’m happy to give them anyways, and hope that they can use them..
    David, if my answer to you all’s stories are too long, say so and I will try and make them shorter.

    1. Ron, Thanks for sharing. Love hearing others journey and experiences. I know that wasn’t easy but appreciate it so much you took the time to share. It just shows how we’re connected and interwoven around this thing called racing. Life, with its parallels and intersections is such an amazing thing. Each time someone shares a part of theirs it makes me appreciate it that more.

      Thank you for taking the time to do so.

      Take care and Ron, thank you so very much.

  4. David, this was a great exploration of what race fans deal with as the price we pay for loving this sport. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Frank. There are lots of things new fans will never experience. Losing their driver is one many have never had to experience. I hope they never have to.
      Thanks again Frank!

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