May 3 in NASCAR History: The Allison Crash

May 3, 2010

Today is the anniversary of the crash that changed NASCAR. It was 1987, and Bobby Allison was just twenty-two laps into a race at the great Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama when he blew a tire, went airborne at roughly 200 mph, and nearly went through the fence protecting the fans from the track. Several spectators were hurt, and the crash resulted in NASCAR beginning the era of the restrictor plate, slowing the racecars down on the big tracks like Talladega.

• Before the race Bill Elliott ran a qualifying lap at 212.809 mph. It’s still the fastest in NASCAR competition history.

• Cleanup after the crash took 2 hours and 38 minutes, and darkness forced officials to shave ten laps off the usual 188, shortening the race’s overall length from 500 to 473.40 miles.

• Allison had won the same race the year before. He was 49 at the time—the oldest ever to win a NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) race.

• Eventual winner: Rookie Davey Allison—Bobby’s 26-year-old son. “When I looked up in the mirror and saw Dad going into the fence, it was the emotional low period of my life,” the younger Allison, who had watched the crash in his rearview mirror, said after the race. “When I saw him crawl out of the car it lifted my heart back where it was supposed to be.”

• Bobby Allison was bumped and bruised but relatively unhurt, and he was back for the very next race just a week later.

• Stay tuned, NASCAR fans: We’ll have more on the this and other famous NASCAR moments in Uncle John’s Heavy Duty Bathroom Reader, due out in November 2010.