NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Bobby Allison
May 23, 2011
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
KERRY THARP: Last but not least is Bobby Allison. Bobby, congratulations. How does it feel to be in the NASCAR Hall of Fame?
BOBBY ALLISON: I'm going to tell you what, it just really is okay. When they announced that I was selected for this year, it just gave me a great feeling. The whole buildup has been good. And today has been just a really fun day. Yesterday was pretty good, too, but today was a really good day.
Tonight, you know, to be able to get up there and have your brother, we've had such a great relationship, we're brothers, every once in a while we had to test each other, but to have your brother induct you into the NASCAR Hall of Fame is just out of sight.
KERRY THARP: We'll take a few questions for Bobby.
Q. Bobby, I think a lot of people were moved when you talked about Clifford and Davey, the loss you and your family suffered. Is that difficult for you to talk about? Is it difficult for Judy to hear about?
BOBBY ALLISON: It really is every time, every day, yes, for both of us.
You know, we watched the special last Saturday night. We watched it together. We really needed to because we really had to hang onto each other. We really appreciate how well it was done. Really did enjoy the professionalism of the entire makeup of the story. But it still was so hard to go through that part of it.
But we made it. She supported me, and I hope I supported her a little bit. I don't know that it will ever ease up, that it will be easier any day, less painful. It's what happened. It's our duty to go on.
Q. It sounded like you were surprised at some of the things that Donnie said. Was there anything that you weren't expecting from him?
BOBBY ALLISON: Well, I said many times before, Donnie and I had a great relationship 98% of the time. The other 2%, we were testing each other's knuckles and those kind of things. Maybe not quite that bad, but pretty tough sometimes.
I didn't see what Donnie's speech was going to be. We were going to rehearse, then we didn't do that. I didn't get myself together like I wanted it. I kept redoing it. Finally Judy said, Look, just go do it.
She encourages me. With her blessing, I decided I'd just go ahead and take it from the heart. I had some notes, I had covered some things to begin with from my notes. I had listened to Donnie's comments. I got to agree with an awful lot of them. Maybe he didn't have to give me a little barb here or there, but maybe I did deserve it.
The bottom line was, it was part of a great evening. Made people enjoy it even better.
Q. Do you have any idea how your career might have been different if you had not made that move to Alabama, if you stayed in Florida and raced there?
BOBBY ALLISON: Yeah, I'd probably be a fisherman (smiling).
No, you know, in South Florida, there were racetracks. I loved it. I went to the racetracks. In fact, there was a track in Key West called Stock Island Speedway. They raced on Sunday nights. At the time the highway to Key West had two one-lane bridges. One of them was seven miles long, the other one was only about a mile long. They had traffic lights. If you got the red light, you had quite a wait until you got a green light.
Took all that to get down there. I hadn't won a feature yet. I won a heat race now and then. I could win a couple bucks in the heat races around Hollywood, those tracks.
Go to Stock Island Speedway, they might give you 50 cents. Gas was 19.9 cents a gallon. I didn't have enough money to buy a tank of gas to get back home. Borrow some money to get some gas, drive all night to get home. In fact, I even drug Judy on that trip a few times before we got married just to see how tough she was (laughter).
We survived it. We did it because I wanted to get to that next event, I wanted to get that next piece of experience, whenever it was.
Q. Donnie said that you went to Yankee Land, you were with the Alabama Gang. You said the sport was a little redneck in the beginning. You were going to places like New York, New Jersey, Maine. Talk about the reception you got up North being the Alabama Gang.
BOBBY ALLISON: Well, you know, a lot of places around the country, the fans really picked up on the Alabama Gang idea. I thought it just sounded so neat. By that time we decided that Miami had been our home, but Alabama was our new home. Talks a little bit when we first got there. He didn't have the story exactly correct. I certainly didn't want to get up there and say that, you know, out there in the arena.
What happened, we went to the first track we got to there. It was a Friday night. We went to the old Dixie Speedway right there in Birmingham. I ran fifth in the heat race and fifth in the semi and fifth in the feature. Now, to get the money to go to Alabama, I had run a hundred-lap special event at West Palm Beach and ran second. I had gotten $95 for that second place.
We go to Alabama and find this little track, cute little quarter-mile track. Fifth, fifth, fifth. I go to the pay window, they gave me $135. I said, Donnie, look at all that money. We have died and gone to heaven.
But we really were there. The people were good and friendly to us. The country was very beautiful, in my eyes, lakes and rivers, mountains, lower into the Appalachian Mountains there. Really nice racetracks. I wanted to run pavement because I thought pavement was going to lead to NASCAR. The big tracks were going to have to be paved. Dirt style was different. The driving was really quite different.
Some guys really went back and forth real well. Richard Petty was the second best at going between dirt and pavement that I ever knew. But the best was Red Farmer. Red Farmer could win on a Friday night on pavement, put dirt tires on his asphalt car and win Saturday night. Richard Petty did that kind of stuff, too, back in the early days. He ran really good wherever he went.
But I still felt that our racing, NASCAR Cup racing was going to go to paved speedways because the big speedways had to be paved.
I felt like I had a really good touch for pavement. I could go to a place I'd never seen before, maybe win the race. You know, I felt good about that, so...
That's kind of how my attitude was.
Q. Looking at all the races that you won, even before you went to Grand National or Winston Cup, is there one race that you worked the hardest for and you came out a winner?
BOBBY ALLISON: The hardest that I worked for and didn't win?
Q. That you did win.
BOBBY ALLISON: Yeah. That's Martinsville, Virginia. I won a modified race at Martinsville one day, but I never won a Cup race. I led that race as late as the 495th lap, and my darn little engine blew up. I finished second there, back in the pack, second, third, fourth, everything but first place at Martinsville, Virginia. It was a track that was most like my original home track, Hialeah Speedway. It was always so perfectly groomed. It was my favorite place. I still hadn't won a Cup race there.
Q. Is there one that you did win that you worked hard for?
BOBBY ALLISON: Well, yeah, I mean, Darlington fit that bill. I won a lot at Charlotte Saturday, Sunday, 600s, 400s, 500s. Charlotte, I won several times. I only won four times in Atlanta. Atlanta was a special track for me. I really wanted to have won more than that there.
You know, the other tracks, I was pretty pleased with whatever went on. I had some good runs and got some wins on every one, every NASCAR track, except Martinsville.
Q. Who would you like to see joining you next year in the Hall?
BOBBY ALLISON: Donnie Allison (smiling). Maybe Red Farmer. You know, that's a difficult question. There's so many, so many great competitors. I worked for (indiscernible) in 1956, Buck Baker was the number one driver on the team at the time. Really liked Buck. Won a lot of races. Was a great contributor to the growth of NASCAR.
I liked Herb Thomas. Herb Thomas was really the old school. He ran a car for a one-car team. He won a lot of races, won a couple championships. There are a lot more people that fit in that category.
I haven't really looked at that from that standpoint. But I'll look a little bit. Maybe I'll give you a better answer somewhere along. But Donnie will be on my list regardless of whoever else gets on there.
KERRY THARP: Bobby, thank you so much. Congratulations on being elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
BOBBY ALLISON: Thank you.
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