Fifteen years ago today, NASCAR racing lost one of its most promising stars, his name was Davey Allison. He was an up and coming driver about to hit his prime in the Winston Cup Series. He was a man carrying on a family legacy.
He was looked up to by many and was hero to NASCAR fans everywhere. Unfortunately on July 13, 1993, Allison died after sustaining injuries in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway.
On July 12, 1993, fresh off a third place finish at New Hampshire the day before, Davey Allison boarded his new helicopter with family friend, Red Farmer. The two left Hueytown, Alabama, home to the "Alabama Gang," for a day at the Talladega Superspeedway to watch friends David and Neil Bonnet test a car for David's Busch Series debut.
When Allison arrived at the track, he was attempting to land the helicopter in a fenced in area on the track's infield. Just about a foot from the ground, the helicopter suddenly spun out of control and crashed. Red Farmer suffered minor injuries while Allison suffered serious head injuries from the crash and died the next day.
Allison was coming off his best year in NASCAR. In 1992, he won the Daytona 500, joining his father, Bobby Allison, as a Daytona 500 Champion. He won the first Winston All-Star Race under the lights at Charlotte.
On the last lap of the race, Dale Earnhardt and Kyle Petty were battling for the lead. Earnhardt blocked down the backstretch and ended up getting turned by Petty in turn four. Allison snuck up behind Petty's Pontiac and made a move for the win. Petty then hooked Allison's quarter panel and turned him driver side into the wall. Davey won the race but was injured in the crash and suffered a concussion and a bruised lung.
Davey continued to knock off top tens to hold his point lead through the summer months. When the Cup Series arrived at Pocono, Allison yet again survived a horrifying crash. Darrell Waltrip and Allison made contact coming through the tunnel turn sending his Ford flipping through the infield. He again suffered a severe concussion, broken wrist, and collar bone.
A couple weeks later, the Havoline Team returned to Michigan where they had dominated earlier in the year. Tragedy struck Davey and his family that weekend. Davey's younger brother Clifford was practicing for the Busch Series' race and crashed between turns three and four killing him instantly.
Driving with a heavy heart, Allison soldiered on to Darlington in attempt to become the second man to win the "Winston Million." After winning the Daytona 500 and Winston 500, Davey needed a win on the egg shaped oval to claim the million dollars. After leading 72 laps in the event, the race was called due to rain with Allison finishing fifth, which kept him third in the standings.
Heading into the final race of the season, Davey Allison had the point lead for the first time since his accident at Pocono. The race was Richard Petty's last and newcomer, Jeff Gordon's first. The title would be decided mainly between Allison, Alan Kulwicki, and Bill Elliott. It was the closet championship race in NASCAR's history.
All was good for Allison in the race until Ernie Irvan lost control of his car on the front stretch and collected Allison ending his championship run. Allison finished third in the standings along with five wins for the season. The late Alan Kulwicki would go on to win the championship.
Allison returned in 1993 focused and determined to capture his first championship. He never got that chance again. Three months after defending champion Alan Kulwicki's death, Allison lost his life.
Allison's death was a shock to the NASCAR world. Two of the three championship contenders from the 1992 season both died due to aviation accidents.
Allison ended his career with 19 wins, 66 top fives, and 92 top tens along with 14 poles. He had plenty more ahead of him and most likely a couple of Winston Cups. He was named one of NASCAR's Fifty Greatest Drivers. There is a park in Talladega called "The Texaco Walk of Fame" made in honor for him.
He was also inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Usually every couple of years his sponsor, Texaco, honors Davey with a throwback paint scheme on the Texaco car in the Fall race at Talladega.
How would NASCAR be today if Davey Allison was still around? Would Earnhardt or Gordon have as many championships? Probably not. Too bad we won't ever find out, but Allison's legacy is still remembered today.