Alabama Gang remembered at Talladega
Amanda Vincent is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
With NASCAR in town for Nationwide and Sprint Cup series this weekend, Talladega (Ala.) Speedway is honoring the Alabama Gang, a group of NASCAR drivers from years gone by that made Hueytown, Ala., their home base. That group included, most notably, members of the Allison family -- Bobby, Donnie, Davey and Clifford -- Red Farmer, and Neil Bonnett and also included satellite members Hut Stricklin (an Allison in-law), Jimmy Means and David Bonnett (son of Neil Bonnett).
What some people may not realize is that the Alabama Gang’s roots actually go back to Florida. Sure, the group didn’t become known as the Alabama Gang until the move to Hueytown to race the Alabama short tracks, but original members, Bobby and Donnie Allison and Red Farmer, actually hailed from the Miami, Fla., area. Bobby and Donnie grew up there, and Farmer moved to the area and began his racing career in Miami. Farmer was actually born in Nashville, Ten.
Anyway, on Wednesday, the Alabama Gang was honored with an official naming of the Talladega backstretch -- “The Alabama Gang Superstretch.” Original and living Alabama Gang members Bobby and Donnie Allison and Red Farmer were on-hand for the renaming ceremony and related festivities.
“Being from Alabama, our world was all about racing, and of course there is the Crimson Tide football, too,” NASCAR crew chief-turned TV broadcaster and Alabama native Larry McReynolds said. “I can remember going to BIR when I wasn’t even hardly in grammar school and to watch these three guys race at BIR, and I mean race and race hard. It didn’t matter who came to try to outrun them, you had your work cut out for you if you were going to outrun any of these three guys.”
By the way, Farmer, well into his 80s, still races at the nearby Talladega Short Track. And Donnie Allison’s grandson, Justin Allison, plans to make his Talladega Superspeedway debut in the ARCA Racing Series race at the track on Saturday. It just so happens that Justin Allison’s grandfather, Donnie Allison, was the first driver to make a lap at Talladega.
“I was in awe,” Allison said. “I couldn’t believe how wide it was, how much room I had. It’s only 12 feet wider than Daytona, but it looks like it’s probably 40 or 50 feet wider. The bank is only one degree more or whatever it is but it felt like it was 10 or 15 degrees more. The other thing that I was really shocked about was the bad side of it was how rough it was. I couldn’t believe a race track was already that rough.”
Not all memories of Talladega are good ones, though. It was while attampting to land a helicopter near the superspeedway that Davey Allison lost his life. Farmer was also on the helicopter and suffered a broken collarbone and fractured ribs.
Still, the Allisons have fond memories of their home track at Talladega. Bobby Allison won four NASCAR Cup-level races at the track, while brother Donnie Allison won two. Farmer has a couple of ARCA wins at Talladega to his credit.
“We had some great times here, and this is home,” Bobby Allison said.
If you have any fond memories of the Alabama Gang, do share. You can follow us on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner