Going into the Nov. 7 DuraLube 500K at Phoenix International Raceway, Ford has 498 all-time wins in what is known today as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. As the race to 500 continues, today's feature focuses on the man who made the No....
Going into the Nov. 7 DuraLube 500K at Phoenix International Raceway, Ford has 498 all-time wins in what is known today as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. As the race to 500 continues, today's feature focuses on the man who made the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Ford one of the most recognized cars on the track today -- Davey Allison. The Race To 500
FORD'S 400TH WIN CAME COURTESY OF ALLISON
The race for the NASCAR Winston Cup championship was in high gear as the series headed to Phoenix in the next-to-last race of the 1992 season. Bill Elliott led Davey Allison by 70 points while Alan Kulwicki was only 85 points behind. Allison's win at Phoenix in the Pyroil 500 was memorable because it vaulted him back into the championship lead by 30 points over Kulwicki, and also happened to be Ford's 400th all-time NASCAR Winston Cup triumph. Car owner Robert Yates and former crew chief Larry McReynolds recalled the events of that weekend, along with their favorite memories of Allison.
ROBERT YATES, Car Owner --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER FROM THAT RACE IN PHOENIX? "I had gotten a cold that week and I couldn't even talk. I couldn't even speak in victory lane; I remember that one well. That was a great win. We went there with a car and it was so bad. NASCAR won't let you get another car out there. If you don't like your car, you have to wreck it and you can't just knock a fender off, you've gotta wreck it beyond repair in order to get your backup car out. Well, Davey said, 'Man, I'm gonna back this thing in the wall. We've gotta get rid of this car because we're hurtin'.' But we made one adjustment in the front end and it turned that car from the worst car there to the best car there. It's amazing what a quarter-inch change in the steering will do to one of these race cars. It turned our weekend from bad to winning and that race actually put us in the lead for the championship that year with one more race. Of course, everybody knows that story."
WAS DAVEY THE PERFECT DRIVER FOR YOU AT THAT TIME? "It was wonderful for me to build my first full ownership team with a guy who was dedicated and confident...felt like he deserved to be here. He didn't know all the race tracks well. We learned them together, and we built this thing together. I look back at even last year when we struggled with Kenny (IRWIN), we had a lot of those days with Davey. I'm glad people don't remember those, but we had some tough days. We had some places we dreaded going, but we learned and we kept pecking at it. Charlotte, we didn't like Charlotte to start with and finally got that down pat. Then we won back-to-back Coca-Cola races, a 500 there, and Winstons back-to-back. We loved Charlotte because we worked hard at it. We worked hard at Talladega because that was Davey's front yard and Charlotte was my front yard. I think we put a lot of eggs in those baskets and we did well. A lot of people remember that, but they don't remember some of the places we tortured ourselves at."
WHAT WAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH DAVEY? "He was always in a good mood. He cut up a lot, playing games, and was very competitive. It didn't matter if it was chasing you around the garage or putt putt golf or a bicycle race -- he was super competitive at anything anybody wanted to play. He would jump in and was very competitive at it, but if you had a bad day he'd come in and put his arm around you and say, 'Hey, we're in this together. Don't worry about it.' If it came down to five or 10 laps to go, he could get as much out of a race car as anybody out there. I know Larry McReynolds used to get frustrated because he was always cutting up with people and everybody wanted to talk to him, everybody wanted to cut up with him. A lot of times he had to drag him in and say, 'Hey, look, we've gotta sit down and talk about the chassis.' Davey was just a fun person and liked everybody. He never had one of those grumpy bad moods. You could have the worst weekend you've ever had and on Monday morning by 10 o'clock we'd have it where we were going to go out the next week and beat everybody. It was like you just put that behind you and try to learn from what you did wrong. He was a real fun guy, never pointed his finger at other people. He always took most of the responsibility and he was just a great guy."
DO YOU THINK ABOUT HIM A LOT WITH A CLOSE AS YOUR ARE TO THIS CHAMPIONSHIP? "That whole team we had going back then, we had a championship team. We could win and could repeat a championship because we had a lot of confidence and had the right technology for that time. There weren't any places we dreaded going. We had finally gotten road courses down and short tracks down. We were confident that we could go win races. You try not to think about championships so much. If you win races, championships come if you win enough of them and that's what we had going. I think he would have been a superstar for a long time."
LARRY MCREYNOLDS, Former Crew Chief --28-- Texaco Havoline Thunderbird -- WHAT ARE YOUR RECOLLECTIONS OF THAT RACE AT PHOENIX IN '92? "I remember the whole situation distinctly. We were running for the championship against two other Fords in Bill Elliott and Alan Kulwicki and there were actually six contenders for the championship. It's almost like nobody wanted the championship that year. Elliott and us went head-to-head with each other all summer long, early spring, summer, mid-summer, and it seemed like once the second half of the season rolled around neither one of us could find our behind with either hand. We were both running terribly and, all of a sudden, Alan Kulwicki showed up in the picture. "I remember at Dover, Delaware, which is only a handful of races prior to Phoenix, we had almost a 300-point lead on Alan, but Alan stayed focused. It was like the tortoise and the hare. Here was Junior Johnson and Robert Yates' bunch beating themselves every week, and we lost the lead a race or two before going to Phoenix and we were just struggling. "We took a different style of race car to Phoenix that year and we had gone to Richmond, Virginia, and tested for three days. We ran over 600 laps to try to figure out what was going on with our whole program, especially our short-track program, which included Phoenix. He really liked this new style of race car, so we carried it to Phoenix never having run that type of car at Phoenix, but we had to do something. We had run terrible at Martinsville, we had run terrible at North Wilkesboro, and we had to do something leading into the last few races because we had lost the points lead. "We qualified respectably, but we struggled our butt off on Saturday in practice. Donnie Allison was there just trying to be an advisor, supporter, friend, whatever. He was throwing some ideas at us and we finally made a spring and a swaybar change. I'm talkin', we almost didn't even make it back out that late in Happy Hour and he came in and said, 'Larry Mac, I hate to make a call that is a little premature, but I think we just found what this race car has been looking for.' "So we went in Sunday morning and made a few more changes based on what we went over and had learned and the car was very dominant that day. "We took the points lead back when we left Phoenix. We had won four races when '92 started. We won the Daytona 500 and Talladega and Michigan. In the first 12 races or so we had won a third of them, but, again, we hit that summer slump and we couldn't even hardly get a top five out of the situation. "It's like the good Lord teased us hard, but now he's given us a chance back to win this championship and, as bad as we struggled on Saturday...if you'd have told me Saturday night we were gonna win this race on Sunday I probably would have said, 'You want to place a little side bet? If I can't win a race I'm at least gonna make some money on this deal.' But we were good all day. The car progressively got better as the day went on, we made adjustments, and came away from there with a win."
ROBERT SAID YOU SOMETIMES WOULD GET FRUSTRATED WITH DAVEY BECAUSE HE WAS SO POPULAR AND LOVED TALKING TO PEOPLE SO MUCH THAT EVERYONE WANTED HIS TIME. IS THAT TRUE? "Davey was the most focused individual I've ever been around and he was focused on whatever he was doing. If we went up in the lounge of the truck and he was eating lunch, I was wasting my time trying to talk to him while he was eating lunch because his focus at that minute was eating that lunch. If he was talking to a friend about a fishing or hunting trip, I was wasting my time standing there until he got done telling his hunting or fishing tale because that's what he was focused on. "Yeah, I used to get so frustrated because it's like, 'Man, we need to talk about our race car. I don't care about deer or fish or what you're eating for lunch, we need to talk.' But, when he turned his attention to our conversation or driving that race car or working on that race car, you couldn't have asked for a more focused individual, just like all the other things that he did. "Davey was a very positive individual and he was a great role model. I think I still today try to live off of his role model because I know when he got killed, the thing that drove me and that whole race team, and it was a small race team then, was the fact of how strong a person Davey Allison was.
"I'm sure as we were mourning and crying and weeping over him being killed, I'm sure he was pretty ticked off at us about not going and racing Pocono that next week. But we just didn't feel like we could do our team, our sponsor, nobody justice by going to Pocono with tears in our eyes and trying to work on a race car for a guy to go out there and race. We felt like our chance for mistakes were gonna be pretty high. "Davey never got down. I remember going to Bristol and Pop had passed away, his grand dad, who he was as close to as his own dad. He went to Bristol and he drove the wheels off that race car and then he went home and mourned his grand dad's death and buried him the first of that week. "Probably the biggest sense of role model and faith and everything that I saw in him was when Clifford got killed in Brooklyn, Michigan. It was on qualifying day for the Busch cars on Thursday and we didn't check in until Friday. We were planning on leaving mid-afternoon and Davey had already gone up with Liz. We got word about mid-afternoon, an hour or so before we left to go, that it appeared Clifford had been killed. "Robert and mine's first order of business was to track down Davey. We couldn't get in touch with him, but when we got to Michigan we found him that night. Robert and I both were telling him, 'Davey, we'll find somebody to qualify this car. We'll find somebody to race this car. We'll find somebody to do whatever you want.' And he said, 'Guys, let me tell you something. I'm weeping hard inside over my brother's death, but I came up here to do a job and I'm gonna do that job. And when we take that checkered flag on Sunday, whether we win it, whether we lose it, whatever we do, then I'll go home and help bury my brother Clifford.' "Not only did he show that much guts, but he had to drive off in that same corner the next day and qualify that race car and drive through that very corner that his brother had been killed in and he went out there and sat on one of the first two rows. That's the Allison. That's the Bobby, that's the Judy, that's what got them through losing two sons. You just don't get the Allisons down and Davey was one of the best role models that I've ever been around. "Davey had a little saying, and somebody gave me a little book marker with that saying on it and I keep it in my desk drawer today. It's almost crumbled and turned yellow, but it says, 'There's nothing that can come my way today that God and I can't handle together,' and that man lived by that. It wasn't just a saying that he had or he kept in his wallet. He actually lived by that saying. "I don't ever really say I pattern myself after a person because I feel I want to set my own standards and set my own way of doing things, but if there's a person that I've encountered in my life that I would love to role model myself after when it comes to faith, priorities, focus, and dedication, it would certainly be Davey Allison."