NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Bobby Allison
May 23, 2011
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
MIKE JOY: Stock car racing has gifted Bobby Allison with the highest of highs and dealt him the lowest of lows. The journey that is Bobby Allison's life is a story of tremendous courage, incredible perseverance and unwavering faith.
MIKE JOY: Continuing with tonight's family theme. When you sit down to dinner with the Allison brothers you very quickly realize they are and always have been the fiercest of rivals and yet the best of friends.
Our next presenter is fellow Alabama Gang member, winner of 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races, the 1967 Rookie of the Year, please welcome Bobby's brother Donnie Allison.
DONNIE ALLISON: Wow. First of all, I want to thank the France family for giving us this. Is this not nice or what? Thank you.
Second of all, I'd like to congratulate all the other inductees, last year's along with this year's. That's you, too, David (laughter).
Again, I could stand up here and talk probably for four days and not tell you the stories you heard about Bobby, but I won't do that. Back in the day in the 1950s, Bobby was in school. He wasn't very big in stature. He was kind of short, a little skinny fellow. You saw the picture of his son up there. He mirrored that pretty good. He more or less did everything his own way. He didn't hang around as much with me or Tommy, my younger brother. He more or less did things his own way.
He hunted some. He liked fishing. He didn't work with our dad as much as Eddie and I did. Eddie first, then me along. Bobby, he kind of dodged that a little bit. He don't think that, but I think that.
He started racing in the late '50s. He started in the amateur division in South Florida, Hollywood, West Palm Beach. He built a modified. 1959, he and I went to Alabama the first time. He thought he died and went to heaven. This is the greatest place you could have been because he could race three, four nights a week, whatever it might be, and make some money at it.
First weekend we went, he ran third at Montgomery Motor Speedway. He come to me and said, Donnie, we don't have to eat any more peaches, we can get some fried chicken, I just made $275.
Anyway, so the second week we go back to Montgomery, he wins his first modified race. It's well-documented, because that was the very first night I drove a modified racecar, so my little deal started. Anyway, Bobby won races at Montgomery that first time. At the end of the season, we go back to Florida and race all winter long.
Then in 1963, he moved to Alabama for good. Well, Bobby married a cute little girl, Judy Bjorkman, in 1960. They went on to have four very nice children: Davey, Bonnie, Clifford and Carrie. Pretty evenly matched, two boys, two girls. They bought a house, and Bobby put a little garage in the back which he decided that's what he was going to race out of. He built a '66 Chevelle, okay? Actually, first time was a '64.
He goes with that little homegrown car the fifth time out and wins a race at Oxford Planes in Oxford, Maine. Richard remembers. Two nights later they went to New York, and he wrecked the car pretty bad. They hauled it up to my cousin Dave's, which lived up there in the Yankee land at that time, and fixed it.
Then he went the next race and won it. That was at Islip, Long Island. It started Bobby's career off in the right way, but it also embedded racing in Bobby.
He's a very good family man as documented a while ago. But I'll tell you something, nothing paralleled racing. I mean, he loved it. He loved his wife. He loved his kids. He never neglected any of them. I always said his first love was racing.
At the end of '67, he drove a Ford Fairlane and won his first 500-mile race at Rockingham. In '68 he started driving for Bondy Long. Sure enough, at the end of the year, he goes back to his little Chevelle, his own car.
At the end of the year he drove for Bill Ellis. Bobby, he was drove a Dodge for Mario Rossi in '69 and '70. In '71, you guessed it, he went back to his Chevelle. In May of that year he started in the Holman-Moody car again and raced that until the end of the year.
In 1972, saw him get a ride with the legendary Junior Johnson, which I always felt was the most premiere ride you could ever have in your life. I don't know what he thought because at the end of the year he left. Sure enough, back to his little Chevelle.
In '74 and '75, he raced the, what they called, the "Matagator' for Penske. That it was a Matador. That was the nickname it got because nobody believed you could race an AMC, but they did, and they did it pretty successfully.
He also raced in the Indy 500 in Penske's car. Then in '76, they went to a Mercury. Then again in '77, you guessed it again, back to his own car.
I mean, this time he had a Matador, so it was a little bit different scenario. Bobby had the privilege of driving with one of tonight's inductees, Bud Moore. They did very well. Won the Daytona 500 and everything. Sure enough at the end of the year he went to drive for somebody else.
DiGard was one of the teams he drove for in the '80s. In '83, he won the only Grand National Winston Cup championship that he won, which was the ultimate goal of his. There were celebrations all over Alabama, everywhere, because he won that. Probably one of the most memorable races you saw a picture of a little bit ago was the '88 Daytona 500 when he won and Davey run second.
A lot of people ask Bobby, Why didn't you let Davey win, he's your son? Well, I'm here to tell you, he wouldn't have let his mother win (laughter).
You know, he doesn't remember that. His famous saying is, along with his fist to my face is, I got hit on the head.
Injuries Bobby suffered in Pocono in '88 ended his racing career and almost ended his life. It was as devastating to him as anything because he didn't have any control over the rest of his future. The wreck happened just a few months after the historic Daytona win. That was the only beginning of seemingly a never-ending wave of tragedy for Bobby and Judy and the Allison family.
They lost their son Clifford in a race accident and practice at Michigan in 1992. Then 11 months to the day they lost Davey at Talladega in a helicopter crash. I don't know how standing here he took it, or Judy.
It put a lot of pressure on Bobby and Judy, and they were apart for a while. The way racing families are, we're all a family. You come to the races any weekend, you'll see the families that make up NASCAR racing. There's still the Pettys, Allisons, Pearsons, everybody like that. But now we have another group of youngsters coming on that have family.
Another tragedy when Kyle Petty lost his son Adam at a race in New Hampshire. Bobby and Judy were in Nashville, Tennessee, for the wedding of Liz, their daughter-in-law. They went there independently, but they left together. They said, We need to go to the Pettys and give them support.
So that's what they did. That was the starting of them getting back together, which is a great, great story in my book. Glad for the Pettys, and glad for Bobby and Judy.
Through all the good times and all the personal tragedies, Bobby Allison has persevered. He's alive, going to many races, making a lot of appearances, helping other people, and being with his family. He is, indeed, one of the fans most beloved drives.
With that said, it's a great honor and privilege to welcome to the stage the best driver I know, Bobby Allison.
On this, the 23rd day of May, 2011, it's my honor to formally induct my brother Bobby Allison into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and present this Hall of Fame ring. Congratulations.
BOBBY ALLISON: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And thank God.
What a great country we have. We get to do these things that we want to do and have a situation like this. I just want to say what an honor it is to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and especially with the group of gentlemen I'm included with. Bud Moore, David Pearson, Lee Petty, that is really special to me.
I'd like to acknowledge some of the special people in my life who have helped make this possible. My lovely wife Judy. A lot of my family is here. I would like for them to stand up, please.
I need to acknowledge my grandma and grandpa for what they had to go through as I decided I wanted to do this, convincing them I could do it and it was worth doing. My dad was pretty easy to convince, but my mom really, she wanted me to go to college, be a doctor or some kind of professional character from that degree. I said, Mom, this is going to be good, this is going to be good.
Finally she was really against giving me written permission because I was just 17 that first time. I had to have written permission of a parent. She was really shying away from that.
I said, "Mom, if you'll give me that written permission, I will improve my grades." Done deal. But she thought she was giving me permission for one week, and I thought it was for a hundred years, and I won (laughter).
But got an early start in that. Did a lot of really neat things with that. That brings me to the family deal that went on. I had three brothers, but I also had six sisters. We had a big family. Eddie really helped me. Donnie helped me along the way. My youngest brother Tommy was always there by my side early. I really have to give them some special thanks for supporting me like they did, encouraging me to go on, being part of what was going on.
Eddie was a really good mechanic. He got his early experience working for a local race shop there in Miami, the Wilcox Garage. He had a little of that racing experience. That certainly helped. Donnie came along, started doing a little bit of driving, got an opportunity to get moved up in the cars, and became a really good deal for us.
But we really got to acknowledge Bill France, Sr. and Bill France, Jr. in making this situation for us. You know, Bill France started the NASCAR thing, started into the big speedways and all. He really had to ramrod it. So he deserves so much credit for bringing this to us.
Bill, Jr. came along, honed it, dressed it, made it attractive to all the people out there. Early on, it was kind of a redneck sport, whatever you call it. The men liked it, and the women stayed home. But Bill, Jr. and his wife Betty Jane made it attractive to the women, the children, the old folks, everybody. So I really have to give them a real big thank you.
I had some interesting things happen along the way. Got started in this. Donnie made a few comments that I had to really enjoy. I hadn't really heard his remarks before he made 'em up here, so I got to hear some things that were pretty cute, think about that.
But I really wanted to do this. I done good with modifieds, won two modified special championships in a row, then two national NASCAR modified championships. I really wanted to move out with the rest of them big guys, David Pearson, some of his other buddies. This Richard Petty. I'd seen Richard Petty race in South Florida years before. I knew this guy was my own age. Here he was doing all these good things, involved in that. I really wanted to go.
I gave it a try. But I found out that there was a real separation between the guys who were winning. There were a few factory cars, then there were all these other guys trying to get by with year-old equipment, two-year-old equipment, stuff like that, making the next show.
I decided, according to the rules, the weight of the car was determined by the cubic inch displacement of the engine. I said, I'll just build a Chevelle, put a little engine in it, I'll be able to run light, I'll go to some of these short tracks, maybe I can have some success.
I got that thing together. The fifth time out with that, I won my first Cup event. I won at Oxford, Maine, Oxford Plains, New York, and really was a shot in the arm. Like Donnie said earlier, two nights later I shortened the car up 41 inches on the right side over in New York on the dirt.
I'll even mention this. I really struggled on dirt. I really was comfortable on pavement, but, boy, I struggled on dirt. That guy over there was so good on dirt and pavement. That guy right there was so good on dirt and pavement. I knew several others that were. But I struggled on dirt.
We go to this dirt track in New York. I shortened that car up 41 inches. I called my cousin up, I said, Boy, this thing is really wrecked. We have to get it good enough for Islip for Saturday night.
Got it to his place. Worked through the night the last night. Left at the last minute. I won my second Cup race of my career.
Now, that thing wasn't near as pretty, but it was in Victory Lane, so that was okay with me.
Went on from there. I bounced around. I was just really determined to give it a hundred percent. I kept running into people. Some of them weren't the key people, but at least some people in any one of these situations, and I know it's out there in the other businesses and professions in the world, but some of the people just weren't as committed. You know, if they didn't want to do it a hundred percent, I went down the road.
I think about it. I did win 85 times. Scout's honor, 85 times. But just to try to put that into perspective a little bit, that was in nine different brands the cars for 14 different race teams. Now, the way I look at it now, I did drive pretty good most of the time. But, boy, I couldn't keep a job (laughter).
Had great times. As the career wound down, I got some really good wins. They tell me I won Daytona in '88. They tell me that I won Thursday and Saturday and Sunday that year at Daytona. What I remember about Daytona '88 is I did win the fishing contest in the infield. I still have the boat, motor and trailer that was the prize for winning that fishing contest.
But went through a lot of things. Got involved with a lot of people along the way. I won some races. Struggled, got better, did poorly, got better and everything. But the bottom line, it was just an incredible career. This involved so many people.
I did drive for Junior Johnson for a year. Really, really should have stayed there. But I had some guy come along and tell me he really knew where a brighter moon was or a bigger pot of gold or something like that. Down the road I went.
Junior, I apologize.
But still lots and lots of good times. Davey came along. He was such a delight. Davey was a delight to me when he was a little bitty guy, to me and Judy. All four of our kids were just really, really special kids. I just enjoyed all four of them. We lost Clifford, we lost Davey. That was just so hard on me and Judy.
You know, the world I hope never is that cruel to any other family again. But it happened. We survived it. People helped us and supported us. I just really appreciate that.
All I can say is this is a special honor for me and for us. Here we are. Thank God. God bless America.
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