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Bobby Allison shared in Tony Stewart's post-race anguish

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  February 24, 2013 12:34 PM

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bobby Allison, on hand to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his victory in the 1988 Daytona 500, said Sunday he shared in Tony Stewart's anguish following his victory in Saturday's crash-marred Nationwide Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart escaped the carnage of a 12-car wreck on the last lap of the season-opening Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona, which injured 28 spectators who were hit with flying debris that was sprayed into the grandstands facing the frontstretch tri-oval near the start/finish line.

Stewart, who won the Nationwide opener at Daytona for the seventh time in his career and fifth time in the last six races, was visibly upset afterward in a muted Victory Lane celebration. "As much as we're happy about our win and our accomplishment today, I'm more worried about the people in the stands, the drivers, everybody involved. I want to celebrate this, but I don't want to celebrate until we hear from everybody at the track."

Allison said he shared Stewart's concern when he survived a horrific, high-speed crash in 1987 at Talladega, where his car was launched into the fencing, ripping it apart. Allison's son, Davey Allison, wound up winning the race to record his first career NASCAR victory.

"What happened in my crash, part of that deal was I broke my dry sump oil tank, which put warm dirty oil all over me, in my face, inside my goggles and my eyes," Allison recalled. "When the car stopped I realized I wasnít hurt physically, but I couldnít see. I had both eyes full of motor oil.

"When the safety crew got up there and helped me get out of the car and get wiped off a little bit and brushed off a little bit, they put me in the ambulance, and I asked, 'How many people got hurt?í And they were like 'Nobody got hurt.' So they took the long way around the race track to get back to the infield hospital. I said, 'Did you have to take me this way so I didnít see all those dead bodies laying there?"

While there were no fatalities in the aftermath of that wreck, which brought about the advent off restrictor-plate racing at superspeedway races at Daytona and Talladega, many fans were injured. But Allison had no news of that.

"They had me worried," Allison recalled. "But when we got back to the infield car center [the track physician] came out there and said, 'Shutoff the helicopters, we donít need them.' I said, 'If they donít need the helicopters, that means nobody is hurt bad,' so it gave me some relief.

"So I understand the concern all the drivers have for the spectators and for everybody involved,'' Allison said. "Iím glad it wasnít worse than it was, because it couldíve been really bad.''

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