The Toughest Man Alive.

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The Toughest Man Alive.

 

If you look the word “tough” up in a dictionary here is what you would get.

1:  strong or firm in texture but flexible and not brittle

2:  characterized by severity or uncompromising determination

3:  capable of enduring strain, hardship

4:  very hard to influence

5: difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with

You should also see a picture of Bobby Allison.

 

                One man that truly defines the word tough is Bobby Allison. The leader of the famed Alabama Gang. On the surface, looking at Bobby career, it looks like one of the best ever.  Between 1961 and 1988 Bobby won 84 times, tied for third on the all time wins list with another legend in Darrell Waltrip. One Winston Cup Series Title, three Daytona 500 win, including a 1-2 finish with his son,  Davey. Those stats are as good as anybody’s.  Bobby scored his first win in 1965 at Oxford Plain Speedway, his last came in February 1988 at Daytona.

 

                To truly see what this man has endured you have to go back to lap one of the Miller High Life 500 at Pocono Raceway on June 19th 1988. Bobby had an apparent tire issue causing his Buick to spin, he was hit in the door by a car driven by Jocko Maggiacomo , don’t laugh, that’s his name. The crash nearly killed the NASCAR legend, one of the greatest careers in NASCAR was over. The next few years were a major struggle for the entire Allison family, one bright spot they had was Davey’s budding career.

 

                Davey, driving the Texaco Ford for Robert Yates really came of age in 1991, tying Harry Gant with 5 wins to lead the Cup ranks. Despite winning 5 more races, including the 1992 Daytona 500, 1992 was the most trying season I’ve seen any athlete endure. The up and down season started with the passing of Bobby's father in April. Soon after Davey was injured in a crash at Bristol. Davey came back and won the very next week at North Wilkesboro N.C. In May, 1992 Davey was battling Kyle Petty for the win at The Winston, NASCAR’s all star race. As the drivers came off of turn four to the finish the cars made contact sending Davey hard into the wall driver’s side first. Davey was unconscious when the track rescue workers got to him. Davey made a full recovery just in time to endure another vicious crash. This time Pocono tried to lay claim to another member of the Alabama Gang. Davey was tapped by the Chevrolet of Darrell Waltrip, Davey spun into the infield and flipped several times. Davey was battered and bruised but would again recover.

 

                The next hurdle happened at Michigan International Speedway.  During practice for the Busch Series event the youngest Allison Clifford was killed in a single car accident. Another blow for the gang, Davey, Bobby and the rest of the Hueytown Alabama clan kept pushing forward.  The season would come to a crushing end for the Allisons. Going into the season finale at Atlanta Davey held a 30 point lead over Alan Kulwicki, until Ernie Irvan had a tire failure right in front of Davey’s Ford. Davey watched his dreams of a Winston cup title go out the window along with the smoke that filled his crumpled car.

 

                Then comes 1993. Davey scored one win early in the season at Richmond. Allison would stay near the top of the Winston Cup standing for the first half of the season. Then tragedy called the Allison clan once again.  On Monday July 12th Davey along with fellow Alabama Gang member, Red Farmer boarded Davey’s new toy, a Hughes Helicopter. They were going to watch David Bonnett, another up and coming Alabama driver and son of Alabama Gang charter member Neil, test a Busch Series car. As the helicopter was landing something went wrong, causing the aircraft to crash. Red Farmer was able to make a full recover and still races today. Davey was alive when he was pulled from his chopper, but he was unable to overcome the injuries. Davey passed away the following day. Unbelievably the suffering was not over for Bobby Allison. The next blow came in February 1994 at Daytona when Neil Bonnet,  Allison’s protégé was killed attempting to make his return to NASCAR after a 4 year absence caused by a crash at Darlington in 1990.

 

                In 1997 Bobby was forced to close his race team, Bobby Allison Racing due to lack of sponsor. Everything the family had endured had taken a toll on Bobby marriage to Judy Allison. In the mid 90’s Bobby and Judy divorced. Ironically another NASCAR tragedy helped the Allison reconcile. After the death of Adam Petty in May of 2000, Bobby and Judy made the trip from Alabama to North Carolina together to support the Petty family. Along the way Bobby and Judy were able to talk about what had gone wrong. They remarried soon after.

 

                Even after all of the bad things Bobby Allison endured he kept a since of humor.  After Bobby crash at Pocono in 1988, he had some speech problems. Following Neil Bonnets crash in 1990 he had memory issues. Bobby once said that after Neil’s crash the two could not carry on a conversation because with Bobby’s slow speech and Neil having  memory issues, by the time Bobby was finished with his sentence, Neil forgot what they were talking about. He also said, after the fight between the Allisons and Cale Yarborough in 1979 at Daytona, that Cale started beating ion Bobby fist with his nose. That is still one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

 

                I hope that this time next year, Bobby is getting ready to take his place in NASCAR’ Hall Of Fame, right alongside Richard and Dale. No matter if he gets in or not Bobby Allison will always be the definition of tough. I don’t know many that could endure what this man has. For him to be the man he is and not show any bitterness is amazing. Bobby is also the definition of a legend and hero.

 

 

 

 

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