Talladega Superspeedway is a track that can make or break a NASCAR driver. The high speeds and banked turns of the 2.66-mile oval made even the greatest racers question their abilities.
Every driver fears and respects this monstrous heathen located east of Birmingham, Al. No one more than the boys who call this track home, the members of the Alabama Gang.
Originally, Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Red Farmer made up the Alabama Gang, a ragtag bunch out of nearby Hueytown, Al. Over the years, the Gang grew to include Jimmy Means, Neil and David Bonnett, Hut Stricklin who married into the Allison family, and Bobby’s sons Davey and Clifford Allison.
These boys loved to race and knew what it took to win.
The 1987 Winston 500 was a defining moment in the history of the Alabama Gang as well as NASCAR.
Bill Elliott started the weekend by crushing the stock car racing speed record with a blistering 212.809mph qualifying lap. That record still stands today.
Elliott held the lead in the race for the first 18 laps, a mere three laps later chaos erupted.
Bobby Allison cut a tire as he came out of turn four and as his car turned sideways on the track it went airborne and hit the catch fence. The rear end of the car grabbed the fencing and dragged it down onto the track behind his rumpled race car.
Two spectators suffered injuries that required hospitalization and at least three others were treated and released at the race track.
Davey Allison, a 26-year old rookie at the time, watched the horrific wreck involving his father in the rear view mirror of his No. 28 Ford.
“When I looked up in the mirror and saw Dad going into the fence it was the emotional low period of my life,” Davey Allison said, according to Greg Fielden’s Forty Years Of Stock Car Racing. “I saw him head for the grandstand. I thought he was going into it. When I saw him crawl out of the car, it lifted my heart back up to where it’s supposed to be.”
Miraculously, Allison escaped the wreck battered and bruised, but alive.
After a two hour, 38 minute and 14 second red flag period while the track’s crew repaired the fencing, Davey managed to overcome the shock of witnessing his father’s wreck and made his way to victory lane for the first time in his career by 0.78 seconds over Terry Labonte.
The event was an eye-opener for the world of NASCAR.
“Something bounced under the car and cut the tire. Up in the air it went – around backwards. There was nothing I could do,” Bobby Allison said after the wreck, according to Fielden’s book. “I’m thankful to the good Lord that I’m not hurt and I hope nobody else is hurt too bad. No one had any escape.”
Earlier this year, an eerily similar wreck involving Carl Edwards in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega once again made the track and NASCAR rethink the safety of the fans in attendance. Both Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Speedway have since agreed to raise their catch fences by another eight feet to a total height of 22 feet in an attempt to keep spectators as safe as possible.
Talladega’s new fencing is in place for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AMP Energy 500.
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