Allison And Yates Built A Winning Team
by Tom Jensen June 14, 2021
A shared belief in each other’s talents helped Robert Yates and Davey Allison build a powerhouse organization.
One of the common themes you’ll find in NASCAR is that successful people are drawn to each other. And when two or more successful people join forces, it often results in a team that reaches collective heights none of the individual participants could have achieved alone.
That’s especially true at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and it’s reflected in our current Great Hall exhibit, “A Legendary Decade: The First 50 Inductees.” In this exhibit each of the first 10 classes—from 2010 to 2019—is represented by a car used in the respective inductee’s original Hall of Honor exhibit.
For the Class of 2019, we chose Davey Allison’s Ford Thunderbird that he campaigned in 1989 for Robert Yates Racing.
Allison spent his first two full-time seasons in the premier series driving for Harry Ranier, winning two races in both 1987 and ’88. But when Ranier and partner J.T. Lundy decided to put his NASCAR team up for sale at the end of the 1988 season, Allison strongly encouraged the team’s engine builder, Hall of Famer Robert Yates (2018), to buy the operation, which he did.
Driving for Robert Yates Racing in 1989, Allison won races at his hometown track, Talladega Superspeedway, and over Fourth of July weekend at Daytona International Speedway. In addition, Allison claimed one pole, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes en route to an 11th-place points finish in the team’s first season of NASCAR premier series competition.
That the combination of Allison and Yates won multiple races in its first season spoke volumes about how well the two worked together and how each pushed the other to achieve greatness.
“Davey had an enormous amount of respect for Robert,” said Liz Allison, Davey’s widow. “And he was very loyal to Robert. I think he felt like Robert had put himself out on the line so much to buy that team, personally and professionally. Davey really recognized that and appreciated that.”
Davey had an enormous amount of respect for Robert. And he was very loyal to Robert.
— Liz Allison
“Davey was like a second son to my dad,” said Doug Yates, Robert’s son, who is now CEO of Roush Yates Engines. “But he was also a huge influence for my dad. When Harry Ranier and J.T. Lundy were going to get out of racing, Davey told my dad, ‘Robert, you can do this. You deserve it. You’re ready for it. And if you buy this team, I will never leave you.’ And Davey shook my dad’s hand, and that’s all it took.”
Like Doug, Davey was the son of a Hall of Famer, in his case Bobby Allison (2011). Growing up in racing families influenced them both.
“The things I remember about Davey: First, he had a great dad, a champion and a competitor,” said Doug Yates. “He always wanted to make his dad proud. Similar to me, he wanted to make sure he took it further than his dad did. He wanted to make the family name proud, so he had that drive and determination. He just had a grit and determination and toughness like I’ve never seen.”
Davey was like a second son to my dad.
— Doug Yates
Although Allison’s promising career was cut short by a fatal helicopter crash in 1993, he already had posted very impressive numbers, winning 19 premier series races at 11 different tracks. Allison won 10 percent of his starts for his career and finished in the top five in more than a third of his starts.
He also won a number of NASCAR majors, including the Daytona 500, Winston 500, Coca-Cola 600 and the NASCAR All-Star Race. Add it all up, and it’s a Hall of Fame career.
“I don't want to be as good as my father,” Davey once said. “I want to be as good as Davey Allison can be. Whether that's better than him or not as good doesn't matter.”