Officials at Talladega Superspeedway, one of NASCAR’s biggest, baddest and most competitive tracks, announced that the back straightaway will forever be known as “The Alabama Gang Superstretch”, paying tribute to the original members—racing legends Bobby and Donnie Allison, and Red Farmer, all of whom have played a significant role in the track’s history and are today huge supporters of the 2.66-mile venue.
For this weekend’s Aaron’s Dream Weekend at Talladega, The Alabama Gang Superstretch name will be displayed in huge, block lettering midway down the outside retaining wall of the backstretch, which measures over 4000 feet. The monumental, new addition to the track will “stretch” more than 200 feet.
The trio will serve in “official” capacities during what will be a busy and exciting Saturday at the track. The Allisons will serve as the Grand Marshal’s for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 ARCA race, while Farmer will be the Honorary Starter from atop the flag stand. The ARCA race kicks off a full day of activity which also includes the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all-new Coors Light “Knockout” group qualifying for the Aaron’s 499, plus the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series event.
“No honor is too big for The Alabama Gang,” says Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. “What we are doing in naming The Alabama Gang Superstretch is unprecedented in our sport. During our events, from TV cameras and still photography, fans will be able to see this accolade for some of our favorite people in the world. The gang has meant so much to NASCAR, Talladega Superspeedway and the state of Alabama, and this is just a small token of our appreciation.”
“This place is special,” said Bobby of the speedway. “We (The Alabama Gang) have always felt like we were a part of it.”
“When you won Talladega, there was something extra special about it,” added Donnie. “It was a huge deal to us, our family and friends.”
“We made each other the best we could be since we raced against each other in the early years,” quipped Farmer of he and the Allisons. “We liked racing against each other, and Talladega was the ultimate place to race.”
Hailing from Florida, Farmer and the Allison brothers saw opportunities in Alabama, so they settled in Hueytown, Alabama. In the early 1960s, they gained notoriety through success on short tracks in cities like Huntsville, Birmingham and Montgomery. Naturally, when William H.G. France built the biggest and fastest speedway in the country in nearby Talladega, the hometown boys were going to take to the track. And as a result, devoted local fans turned out.
The legendary trio galvanized the local race fans in the 1960s and 70s, giving many a primary reason to devotedly attend races at Talladega—just to lend their cheers of support for their hometown heroes as they defended their turf. Their world eventually grew to include another Alabama racer Neil Bonnett, and years later, Bobby’s sons Davey and Clifford.
Hearing loud cheers from the stands, The Alabama Gang didn’t disappoint. While having success in NASCAR’s top division with 10 career triumphs, Donnie collected two victories at Talladega. Bobby, the 1983 Sprint Cup Series Champion and winner of 84 career races, would visit Talladega’s Victory Lane on four occasions. Bonnett, an 18-time Cup winner, was a one-time victor at Talladega. Farmer, a mainstay in the ARCA Series, claimed two wins at Talladega. Clifford posted a top-10 ARCA finish in 1992, and Davey ranks second only to Dale Earnhardt Sr. in total Talladega wins with eight. They include three NASCAR Sprint Cup (of his career total 19 Cup wins), four ARCA and one IROC triumph. Davey is one of only eight drivers to post their first career Sprint Cup win at Talladega.
The Alabama Gang is also represented atop The Alabama Gang Superstretch. From the exit of turn two to the entrance of turn three, fans now have additional RV options from which to view all races at Talladega Superspeedway. They include Allison Motorhome Ridge, Farmer Motorhome Overlook and Bonnett Corporate Motorhome Summit. For information on options, fans can call the Talladega Superspeedway ticket office at 1-877-Go2-Dega.
The Alabama Gang continues to live on today with a new generation of racers. The torch of the Allison legacy is passed from Donnie and Bobby to their grandsons Justin and Robbie. Justin Allison, with the help from his grandfather Donnie, has recently emerged on the racing scene in the ARCA Racing Series. Justin competed in the season-opening event at Daytona and was in the top-10 before being involved in an accident that broke out in front of him. He will compete in this weekend’s International Motorsports Hall of Fame ARCA race at Talladega. Robbie Allison, grandson of Bobby and son of Davey, now lives in Mooresville, NC and is competing in Legends and Late Model cars, as well as Pro Champion Karts. Both Justin and Robbie have high aspirations.
Another Alabama native, Grant Enfinger from Fairhope, has dominated the ARCA Series thus far in 2014, becoming only the second driver in series history to capture the checkered flag in the first three races of the season.
Interestingly enough, since Talladega Superspeedway opened in 1969, there have been more than 50 drivers from the state of Alabama to compete at the most competitive facility in the world, and all can say they are a part of “The Alabama Gang.”
Some of the Alabama drivers that tasted success in either ARCA or NASCAR include: Darrell Wallace Jr. (first African-American driver to win a race in one of NASCAR’s premier divisions); Steve Grissom (1993 NASCAR Nationwide Series Champ and winner of 11 NNS races), Rick Crawford (5-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner), Cale Gale (1-time NCWTS/1-time ARCA winner), Gary Bradberry (3-time ARCA winner), Mickey Gibbs (3-time ARCA winner), Billy Thomas (5-time ARCA winner) and Dave Mader III (1-time ARCA winner). Hut Stricklin, Donnie Allison’s son-in-law, enjoyed success as well with a career best runner up finish in Darlington Raceway’s 1996 Southern 500. Johnny Ray, who lives down the street from the track, competed in three ARCA races and one Cup race at Talladega, but is best known for giving Dale Earnhardt Sr. one of his early rides in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The track was also excited to have former crew chief Larry McReynolds, a Birmingham native, who helped Davey Allison to several wins, on hand at today’s event. Bonnett’s widow Susan Bonnett Northcutt and Liz Allison Hackett and Krista Allison, widow and daughter of Davey Allison, respectively, joined in on Wednesday’s ceremonies, as well. The Gang is all here…..and lives on through the drivers of today and The Alabama Gang Superstretch at Talladega Superspeedway!
For a variety of ticket packages for the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA. NASCAR returns to Talladega Superspeedway in 2014 with the Aaron’s Dream Weekend, which is set for May 2-4. The NASCAR Nationwide Series and ARCA Racing Series will take to the track on Saturday, May 3 while NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series machines take the green flag on Sunday, May 4.