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Bobby Allison

Full Name:
Robert Arthur Allison
3rd December 1937 (Age 82)
Miami, Florida
Most recent race (in database):

The first of the Allison brothers to race in NASCAR, Bobby Allison’s interest in the sport was sparked by accompanying an uncle to a local modified stock car race. Rather than work weekends at his father’s hydraulic car-lift company, he started competing himself on Florida’s short tracks while still at school.

"The Alabama Gang"

In search of better prize money, Bobby and younger sibling Donnie moved to Hueytown, Alabama in 1959 where they established their base with fellow racer Red Farmer. Known as the "Alabama Gang" during those formative years, Bobby Allison also worked testing engines for Carl Kiekhaefer. That venture almost cost him his life for he was all-but drowned when a boat he was piloting capsized.

NASCAR debut

Bobby Allison’s senior NASCAR debut came in 1961 but it was five years before he was a regular on the circuit. Victory in the 1962 National Modified Championship enhanced his growing reputation and 1966 was his breakthrough NASCAR campaign.

A mid-season switch to J.D.Bracken’s Chevrolet Chevelle was the opportunity he needed, the little car benefiting from NASCAR’s weight to engine capacity rules of the time. Allison won three times during 1966 while showing signs of the feisty and flamboyant character that would enliven the sport for another two decades.

His third victory was a pole-to-chequer success at Beltsville but three days later he and Curtis Turner became embroiled in a panel-bending feud at Winston-Salem. Turner had tapped his car into a spin and Allison sought retribution. Time and again they crashed into each other until NASCAR officials excluded both of them from the race.

Factory Ford driver with Holman-Moody

That aside, Allison had done enough to impress Ford and he was offered a works ride with Holman-Moody. Unfortunately he and Ralph Moody clashed and it would not be the last time that Allison’s strong views and willingness to express them would cause tension with management. Although sponsors such as Coca-Cola and later Miller High Life remained loyal, his list of car owners is a long one.

There is no doubt about his prowess on the race track – winning 85 of the 718 NASCAR races he started. Fourth in the 1967 championship, he was a top-10 championship contender from 1970 to 1984 in all-but-one season.

Title challenger during the 1970s

He was runner-up to Bobby Isaac in 1970 when driving Mario Rossi’s Coca-Cola Dodge Charger and amassed 21 victories over the next two seasons. These included the 1971 World 600 at Charlotte and Darlington’s Southern 500. He repeated the latter victory a year later as he finished as runner-up in the championship once more.

A fierce rival of Richard Petty since 1967, they fought out a bruising conclusion at North Wilkesboro in 1972. After repeated contact during the final five laps, they crashed into each other and the wall in the final corner. Petty’s battered car just beat Allison’s decidedly used Chevrolet to the line and tempers flared after the event.

Allison drove Roger Penske’s AMC Matador during 1975 when finishing second in the Daytona 500 and another Southern 500 victory were among his successes. Two winless seasons followed but Allison ended that unwanted streak in Bud Moore’s Norris Industries Ford Torino – winning the 1978 Daytona 500 after a run of 67 losing races. It was the first of five victories that season as he finished as runner-up for a third time.

He then played his part in one of the most famous fights in NASCAR history. Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough crashed into each other as they disputed the lead on the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. A scuffle subsequently broke out in the infield with Bobby stopping to help his brother.

NASCAR Champion at last

Despite being a contender for so long, NASCAR’s Winston Cup appeared to be an elusive dream as he was second again in 1981 and 1982. However that would change in 1983 in what was Allison’s sophomore season with DiGard Racing. His Miller High Life Chevrolet Monte Carlo and then Buick Regal won six times and entered the final race at Riverside leading Darrell Waltrip. Allison drove a conservative race that day to finish ninth and clinch the Winston Cup on an uncharacteristically damp Californian day.

Talladega accident and retirement

His son Davey won his first NASCAR race in the 1987 Winston 500 at Talladega but Bobby had double reason to be thankful that day. A puncture sent his Buick airborne and into the fencing that separates track from spectators. It tore down a whole section and several fans were injured but thankfully there were no fatalities.

He won the Daytona 500 for a third time in 1988, beating Davey by just a couple of car lengths. That proved to be his final victory for the veteran was seriously injured on the opening lap of that June’s Pocono race. His Stavola Brothers Buick suffered another puncture and was collected by Jocko Maggiacomo’s following Chevy. Allison was airlifted to hospital with serious head injuries.

Personal tragedies

He remained on the critical list for many weeks but was fit enough to return as a team owner in 1990. Youngest son Clifford joined Davey in NASCAR ranks that year but any thought of a potential Allison dynasty were dashed by a double tragedy. Both were killed within a year of each other – Clifford in a 1992 practice crash at Michigan and Davey in a helicopter accident at Talladega 11 months later.

"I’ve been all the way to the top of the mountain and also all the way to the bottom of the valley," Bobby Allison said later, "but all those things were very small compared to losing my two sons." (from American Stock Car Racers (Don Hunter and Ben White, Motorbooks, 1997)

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1988 Winston Cup
Stavola Brothers
1 0 1 1 33rd 1654
1987 Winston Cup
Stavola Brothers
1 0 1 1 9th 3525
1986 Winston Cup
Stavola Brothers
1 0 1 1 7th 3698
1985 Winston Cup Grand National 12th 3312
1984 Winston Cup Grand National
DiGard Racing
2 0 2 2 6th 4094
1983 Winston Cup Grand National
DiGard Racing
6 0 6 6 1st 4667
1982 Winston Cup Grand National
DiGard Racing
8 0 8 8 2nd 4417
1981 Winston Cup Grand National
Ranier Racing
5 0 5 5 2nd 4827
1980 International Race Of Champions 1st -
1980 Winston Cup Grand National
Bud Moore
4 0 4 4 6th 4020
1979 Winston Cup Grand National
Bud Moore
5 0 5 5 3rd 4633
1978 Winston Cup Grand National
Bud Moore
5 0 5 5 2nd 4367
1977 Winston Cup Grand National 8th 3467
1976 Winston Cup Grand National 4th 4097
1975 USAC National Championship
Penske Racing
5 0 0 0
0% win rate
1975 Winston Cup Grand National
Penske Racing
3 0 3 3 22nd 2421
1974 Winston Cup Grand National
Bobby Allison
Penske Racing
2 0 2 2 0
1973 USAC National Championship
Penske Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
1973 Winston Cup Grand National
Bobby Allison
2 0 2 2 0
1972 Winston Cup Grand National
Richard Howard
10 0 10 10 0
1971 Winston Cup Grand National
Holman Moody Racing
Bobby Allison
Melvin Joseph
11 5 11 11 0
1970 NASCAR Grand National
Bobby Allison
Mario Rossi
3 0 3 3 0
1969 NASCAR Grand National
Mario Rossi
Friedkin Enterprises
5 0 5 5 0
1968 NASCAR Grand National
Holman Moody Racing
JD Bracken
2 0 2 2 0
1967 NASCAR Grand National
JD Bracken
Holman Moody Racing
Cotton Owens
6 2 6 6 0
1966 NASCAR Grand National
JD Bracken
3 2 3 3 0