With the induction of Donnie Allison into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, it can now be said that the gang’s all here. The Alabama Gang, that is.
Allison’s inclusion in the Class of 2009 places all three of the original members of racing’s Alabama Gang into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. His older brother Bobby Allison was inducted into the hall in 1993 and Charles “Red” Farmer made it in 2004.
“I think this is the ultimate,” Donnie Allison, 69, said of his induction. “It speaks not only for your racing career, but also what people thought about the way you conducted yourself both on and off the race track. Without a doubt, it’s the biggest honor ever bestowed on me.”
Joining Allison in this year’s class are car owner and race promoter J.C. Agajanian, seven-time NASCAR Modifieds champion Jerry Cook, longtime team owner Bud Moore and NASCAR pioneer and car owner Raymond Parks. The induction ceremony will be held Thursday April 23 at the SPEED Dome adjacent to Talladega Superspeedway.
Allison admits that as a teenager, “racing really wasn’t my thing.” But after wrecking his brother’s car in the third race he ever started, Allison was told by Bobby that he would never make it as a driver.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’ll show you,’ ” Allison recalled. “When somebody told me I couldn’t do something, that made me want to show them that I could.”
He did exactly that over the next two decades, first as a member of The Alabama Gang that won short-track races throughout the southeast in the early 1960s, and then as a successful driver on the NASCAR Cup circuit.
Allison was the NASCAR Cup Rookie of the Year in 1967, and he won his first Cup race the following season at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. He went on to record a total of 10 Cup victories and 115 top-10 finishes in only 242 starts.
Two of Allison’s Cup victories took place at Talladega Superspeedway. Even though he and Bobby were born in Miami, they relocated to Hueytown, Ala., in the early 1960s and considered Talladega to be their home track.
“Winning those races at Talladega was very rewarding,” Allison said. “Alabama is my home state and I call Talladega my home track. You want to see a good race, you go to Talladega.”
Allison demonstrated his driving versatility in 1970 by winning the World 600 stock-car race at Charlotte Motor Speedway then finishing fourth in the Indianapolis 500 open-wheel race the same month. He proved that his Indy run was no fluke by returning to the historic track the following year and finishing sixth.
Allison’s final NASCAR Cup victory occurred in 1978 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But perhaps his most famous moment took place a few months later, at the 1979 season-opening Daytona 500, when he was involved in a final-lap accident followed by a three-man brawl in the infield with his brother and Cale Yarborough.
That race was the first live nationally televised broadcast of a NASCAR event shown in its entirety, and the thrilling ending is credited as helping catapult the sport to record growth in the 1980s and ‘90s.
“I think I had a lot to do with (NASCAR’s growth) because of that wreck,” Allison said. “The magnitude that afternoon had on NASCAR races in general is incredible. You can’t put a figure on what that did to the sport, because it was so great.
“It’s funny to be known more for a wreck than a win. But given all the circumstances, I understand it. It’s still talked about in every circle, and I was part of it.”
About the International Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum
Opened in April of 1983, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the history of motorsports. Each year, the annual International Motorsports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is held on the grounds of the museum to honor those men and women chosen for induction from among the greatest names in all of motorsports.
The 2009 ceremony will be held April 23rd, at the SPEED Channel Dome, adjacent to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. Individual tickets for the evening are $125 and a table of eight may be reserved for $1,000. Tickets and tables are available by calling 1-256-362-5002 or logging on to www.racetickets.com.