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Curator's Corner / Hall of Famers

Five Things to Know About Donnie Allison

From the short tracks of Alabama to the high banks of Daytona, Donnie Allison left his mark on the sport of NASCAR racing.

Veteran racer Donnie Allison is the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024 inductee selected from the Pioneer Ballot, which honors racers whose careers began more than 60 years ago. Allison will be inducted along with former Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus, who were selected for the Modern Era ballot.

Over his long career, Allison was perhaps best-known for his last-lap crash and subsequent brawl with fellow Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough (Class of 2012) in the 1979 Daytona 500, the first 500-mile NASCAR race to be broadcast live with flag-to-flag coverage.

While that was certainly a memorable moment, there was much more to Allison’s career. A native of Miami who later settled in Alabama, Allison was a versatile racer, who was successful in whatever he drove. While the record books credit Allison with 10 victories, 28 poles and 78 top-five finishes in 242 NASCAR Cup Series starts over parts of 21 seasons, there’s not telling how many hundreds of races Allison captured on the short tracks of the Southeast.

Here are five things you might not know about Allison.

In his younger days, Donnie Allison was equally talented with a steering wheel or a pool cue in his hands. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Pool Shark

Short-track racing in the Southeast was not an especially lucrative occupation in the mid-1960s. So during that period, Allison would augment his income by riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to a pool hall near a factory in Hueytown, Alabama. Allison would take $10-$15 with him and over lunch hour he would hustle factory workers in the pool hall. In a good week, he could clear $100-$200, good money in those days.

In 1971, Donnie Allison competed in just 13 of 48 events on the NASCAR schedule. Eleven of his 13 starts that season came behind the wheel of the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Mercury. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

No Full Seasons

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for racers to run only partial schedules in the NASCAR Cup Series and that certainly was the case with Allison. Although his Cup Series career stretched from 1966 to 1988, he never ran more than 21 races in a season, and he only did that many once. That didn’t mean he was taking it easy, however. Even though he didn’t run full Cup Series schedules, Allison kept busy running other NASCAR series and local short-track races.

Donnie Allison drove this 1963 Ford to a third-place finish in the 1970 Permatex 300 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman race at Daytona International Speedway. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Most Popular x 2

In the 1960s and 70s, Most Popular Driver awards were voted by NASCAR license holders – mostly competitors – and not by race fans. A testament to the respect Allison earned from his fellow racers came from the fact that they voted him Most Popular Driver in two different NASCAR divisions, the Grand Touring Division in 1968 and the Late Model Sportsman Division in 1970.

In 1970, A.J. Foyt (right) hired Donnie Allison to drive a second Foyt entry in the Indianapolis 500. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Double Dipper

The 1970 season saw Allison perform one of the most impressive feats of his career. On May 24, Allison won the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he drove a Ford owned and prepared by legendary chassis builder Banjo Matthews. Six days later, Allison made his Champ Car debut when he finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500 in an Eagle/Ford owned by A.J. Foyt. For his efforts, Allison was named Indy 500 Rookie of the Year and to this day he holds the record for best combined finishes in the Indy-Charlotte double.

Brothers Donnie (left) and Bobby Allison were tough to beat on or off the track. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center via Getty Images

Brother Act

In his career, Donnie Allison won 10 Cup Series races. The first came on June 16, 1968, when Allison triumphed in the Carolina 500 at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham. Allison’s next victory came on October 12, 1969, in the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Then in April 1970, Allison won again, this time in the Southeastern 500 at Bristol International Speedway (now Bristol Motor Speedway). The common thread in Allison’s first three career Cup Series race victories? In each of the three races Allison won, the runner-up was his older brother and fellow Hall of Famer Bobby Allison (Class of 2011).

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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