Bobby Allison’s Unknown Record
by Tom Jensen January 16, 2021
In the 72 years of the premier series, no one has started his seasons stronger than the legendary leader of the “Alabama Gang” of racers.
There’s no question that Bobby Allison’s superlative record speaks for itself, which is a big reason that he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.
Allison’s NASCAR accomplishments were legendary: He won 84 races, including six at Daytona International Speedway, where he captured the Daytona 500 and the Firecracker 400 three times each, the same number of times he won the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In 1983, Allison won the premier series championship; he finished second in points on five other occasions.
The leader of the “Alabama Gang” of racers, which included his sons Davey (2019) and Clifford, Bobby’s brother Donnie and Red Farmer (2021), Bobby was also a skilled mechanic who was brilliant at setting up race cars for competition.
Bobby was also a skilled mechanic who was brilliant at setting up race cars for competition.
— Tom Jensen
Also noteworthy is the fact that Allison was strong at virtually every type of track, winning regularly on superspeedways, intermediate tracks, short tracks and road courses. Allison won at least four races at 11 different NASCAR tracks, which shows his versatility behind the wheel.
And that also plays into a little-known record in NASCAR history: In the 72 years of premier series competition since 1949, no one has won more season-opening races than Allison. Darrell Waltrip (2012), Dale Jarrett (2014) and Jeff Gordon (2019) won the first race of the season three times, while Richard Petty (2010) and Cale Yarborough (2012) did it four times.
But Allison is the only driver in premier series history to win the first race of the season five times. What might be even more impressive is that Allison posted those five season-opening victories with five different teams and four brands of cars at three completely different types of tracks over a 20-year period.
Here’s where Allison won season-opening races:
1968 Middle Georgia 500
Driving a Ford for Holman-Moody Racing, Allison lapped the field at Middle Georgia Raceway, a 0.534-mile short track in Macon. Allison led 271 of 500 laps, including the last 49 to defeat Richard Petty (2010), Tiny Lund and Red Farmer (2021). The victory was worth $3,300 to Allison and the team.
1975 Winston Western 500
Talk about a drubbing: Allison piloted Roger Penske’s (2019) AMC Matador to an easy victory on the 2.62-mile Riverside International Raceway road course in Southern California. Allison qualified on the pole, leading 173 of 191 laps to claim the $14,735 first-place purse. David Pearson (2011) was the only other driver to finish on the lead lap, with third-place Cecil Gordon seven laps back.
1981 Winston Western 500
Once again, Allison was victorious at Riverside International Raceway, this time driving for Harry Ranier in the No. 28 Ranier Racing Chevrolet. Allison earned $24,600 by leading 37 laps and defeating an all-Hall of Fame top five, with Terry Labonte (2016) second, followed by Dale Earnhardt (2010), Richard Childress (2017) and Richard Petty (2010).
1982 Daytona 500
In 1982, NASCAR made the Daytona 500 the season-opening race for the first time since the track opened in 1959. Allison scored another dominating triumph, leading 147 of 200 laps in the No. 88 DiGard Racing Buick. He finished 22.87 seconds ahead of Cale Yarborough (2012), with Joe Ruttman third ahead of Terry Labonte (2016) and Bill Elliott (2015).
1988 Daytona 500
This one was at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. Allison defeated his son Davey (2019) by 2 car lengths in an emotional 1-2 finish for the leaders of the Alabama Gang. Bobby earned $202,940 for winning his third Daytona 500, this time piloting a Buick fielded by Stavola Brothers Racing.
Sadly, it would prove to be Bobby’s last victory, as he suffered a career-ending injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway later that year. The wreck left the elder Allison with no memory of his historic father-son 1-2 victory at Daytona.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To purchase tickets, go to nascarhall.com/tickets. Among the many Bobby Allison artifacts on display at the Hall of Fame is his championship car from 1983, which can be found in the “Dale Jr.: Glory Road Champions” exhibit.