“Back in the late 60’s, '67 and '68, they used to have dirt track racing in Kansas City. And the Allisons and the Yarboroughs would come to Kansas City and race. And my aunt and uncle had a race car," she told me as we sat on the couch.
“Wait a minute!” I said, my fingers flying over the keyboard as I tried to consume every word. “Your aunt owned a race car?”
“Oh yeah, Jen,” my mom said. “And a pink one at that! So, Friday nights, we would go to the dirt track and I played with Davey Allison.”
“What?!” I said astonished. “You really knew Davey?”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “And you know, when you’re kids… you never think when you’re playing in the dirt with someone 20‘oh, they’re going to grow up and be famous.”
“Yeah”, I thought as I continued typing. “And you never think you’re going to lose them, either.”
David “Davey” Allison was introduced as the newest Alabama Gang member on February 25, 1961. A stick and ball athlete growing up, Davey was destined to follow in the footsteps of his legendary father, Bobby Allison, and his uncle, Bobby’s brother Donnie.
The younger Allison began his racing career in Birmingham, before making his ARCA Series debut in 1983. He won the Rookie of the Year award the following year. He would win eight races the year after that.
His storybook career in the Winston Cup Series began at his beloved track of Talladega Superspeedway, filling in for Neil Bonnett. He finished seventh that day, and Allison never looked back.
Davey’s Winston Cup Rookie of the Year campaign began in 1987, when the 26 year old impressed with two victories in Harry Rainer's No. 28 Havoline Ford.
Allison also became the first rookie to ever sit on the front row of the Daytona 500.
Allison stayed with team in '88, winning two more races. However, the most memorable moment came not with Allison's victory, but with a second place finish to his father, Bobby in just his second 500.
Havoline and their star driver began their tenure with Robert Yates Racing in 1989, and the kid raised in Hueytown, Alabama continued his storybook career.
The pair won thirteen races together; two in their rookie reason as owner and driver and, after adding Larry McReynolds in 1991, won five races in '91 and '92.
Four years after Allison finished runner up to his father, McReynolds helped Allison win the 1992 Daytona 500 in dominating fashion, leading 127 laps on his way to Victory Lane.
Oh, and did I mention Allison and McReynolds won The Winston (now NASCAR Sprint All Star race) in those years as well?
They were a tandem to be reckoned with, and after finishing third in the championship both years, were poised for a title run in 1993.
By July 12 of the next year, Allison had become an avid pilot, and was flying to his beloved home track of Talladega Superspeedway, where his racing career began just ten years earlier. The helicopter he was flying crashed in the infield.
Neil Bonnett, who Davey and family friend Red Farmer were flying to Talladega to see, freed Farmer from the aircraft. He could not reach Allison, who was suffering from serious head injuries.
Davey Allison died the next morning, July 13, 1993 at a local hospital, just thirteen weeks after his 19th and final career win in Richmond. His daughter, Krista, was three, and his son Robbie was just one year old.
My life was torn into a million pieces," Liz said recalling those days. "It was like somebody threw it out with the 50 mile-an-hour wind and said, 'Here, here's your life. Do something with it. I didn't know what to do. I think the natural thing for me was get grounded in a home somewhere, get planted and make it home for the children."
Davey Allison raced in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series for nine years. He won 19 races, 14 poles and lead over 56,000 laps. He was soft spoken, and warm hearted. Allison loved his family, his friends, and the sport that brought them all together.
Allison's career hit its stride in the late 80s and early 90s, but thanks to his upbringing Allison was an old school racer all the way. "I liked his style of racing," my mom told me. "I liked that he was a family man. He was just so great to his fans."
Even though my mom stopped watching racing with the passion she did when Davey was alive, his image still remained in our house—pictures, books, shirts, and even a can of Chili with his picture on it.
In 1994, another piece, and arguably the most important, of the Allison collection was added to the Preston family—my brother, Davey Allen.
Sixteen years after his death, race fans young and old can still tell you Davey Allison stories—whether you were lucky enough to witness him, revisit them on ESPN Classic or hear the stories his former crew chief and friend, Larry Mac, tells during broadcasts. Sixteen years ago, NASCAR lost one of its brightest stars.