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Davey Allison’s legacy lives on through family and friends

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CHARLOTTE — The four of them sat on a makeshift stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and were ready, if not appearing a bit apprehensive, to turn around.

There was the son who lost his father before the age of 2, Robbie Allison. Next to him sat his grandfather, 1983 Cup champion Bobby Allison. Then came a former crew chief and a close friend of both Allisons, Larry McReynolds. Finally, another friend, and son of a famous car owner, Lorin Ranier.

But the group did turn and watch as a car cover was removed. With it went the butterflies, replaced by broad smiles and a rush of memories at the sight of the No. 28 Ford Thunderbird driven by Davey Allison in his rookie Cup Series season for Ranier-Lundy Racing. The car proudly taking its place with the rest of those deemed iconic enough to be on Glory Road.

“It was just such a great feeling,” Bobby Allison said of seeing the car. “I was really bonded with the car all the way through. I had driven for that team (Ranier Racing) earlier and then (Davey) got in the car, and it was the black-and-white deal and evolved from that into the black Havoline special, the Texaco star. Just so many good things about it. The good wins that he had. Just made me feel great.”

Pride emanated from all four individuals throughout the event. Especially Bobby, who not only raised Davey with his late wife, Judy, but raced against him from 1985-88. Bobby took a few trips up Glory Road to get a good look at the car and shared his favorite memories of Davey with those who asked. Or at least the ones he can remember.

Bobby carries around a picture in his pocket of the 1988 Daytona 500 that he won with Davey finishing second to remind himself that, “Yeah, that did happen.” (Bobby lost his memory of the win in a crash at Pocono Raceway a few months later.)

Robbie Allison has his own brief memories of his father, who won 19 Cup races in 191 starts, including the 1992 Daytona 500, before his untimely passing in a July 1993 helicopter crash. Robbie, like many others, also repeatedly has heard how his father was destined to become a champion.

Davey, Robbie said, “definitely was as good a father as he was a racer.”

With his car now displayed in the Hall of Fame, it provides Robbie and the others a chance to explain why Davey was as good as many say.

“You have to think about how he grew up,” said Ranier, who shared a picture of the two from when they were teenagers. “His father was an iconic driver, and Davey took advantage of his position, meaning he wasn’t just floating around saying, ‘Hey, Bobby Allison’s my dad, and I can do whatever I want.’ He went and worked his ass off and learned and understood why his dad won races.

“He knew why (Bobby) won and then he just kind of adopted that to himself. Also, too, (Davey) kind of saw the mistakes that his dad made, and he tried not to do that. He had a really cool upbringing to become a great driver, and he was talented. So you mix all that together.”

RICHMOND, VA ? March 7, 1993: Bobby Allison (L) joins his son, Davey Allison, in victory lane at Richmond International Raceway after Davey won the Pontiac Excitement 400 NASCAR Cup race. It would be the younger Allison?s final Cup victory. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA March 7, 1993: Bobby Allison (L) joins his son, Davey Allison, in victory lane at Richmond International Raceway after Davey won the Pontiac Excitement 400 NASCAR Cup race. It would be the younger Allison’s final Cup victory. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

McReynolds knew Davey as well as anyone.

The two were friendly long before McReynolds became his crew chief and their relationship went far beyond the NASCAR garage. Davey and his wife, Liz, were close friends with McReynolds and his wife, Linda. Robbie Allison and Larry’s son Brandon were born a few months apart and later baptized together. The Allisons were named Brandon’s godparents and the McReynolds the same for Robbie.

Friday, Larry showed up at the Hall of Fame proudly wearing a leather jacket that had been given to Davey’s team many years ago. McReynolds shared the sentiment that Davey was not only talented but a student of the sport.

“He lived, ate and slept racing,” McReynolds said. “I said it at his funeral that we miss him, we’re grieving, but if there’s anybody that’s left this earth that had his priorities in order, Davey Allison was that guy. He enjoyed getting away and doing a little bit of hunting and fishing, but for the most part, especially during the racing season, he would live, sleep, and eat these race cars pretty much from the beginning of February to the middle of November and even during the offseason. It was never good enough, and that’s rubbed off on me.”

The allure of Davey Allison also came in how he was described as a genuinely kind-hearted person off the track.

“It’s funny because when people think about Bobby back in the day, Bobby was a very popular driver, he won like Most Popular Driver (six) times,” Ranier said. “People liked Bobby, but they loved Davey. You know what I mean? They just loved him.”

As did all those in attendance. The group of four along with those who accompanied them were the last ones to leave the Hall of Fame after taking one last look at the car. They did so sharing a common hope for the future.

To McReynolds, Davey Allison’s car being in the Hall of Fame is hopefully just another rung in the ladder. He deserves Ranier said, to climb that ladder to induction into the Hall of Fame. It would give him a permanent place in the Hall alongside his father Bobby, who continues to wait for that day.

“Oh yes,” Bobby said of wanting Davey in the Hall of Fame. “Yes. There’s so many good guys out there, but Davey accomplished so much in that short period of time. Including the Daytona win, the wins around the other big tracks around the country. I’d love to see him in there.”

NASCAR America: Matt Kenseth unable to realize potential due to team’s mistakes

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Sunday’s pit road mistake — having seven crew members over the wall when only six are allowed — not only knocked Matt Kenseth out of the race, it also knocked him out of advancing in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

As a result, Kenseth lost out on his bid to earn a second Cup championship in what could potentially be his last season in the Cup series.

And it wasn’t the first time Kenseth has suffered through issues not of his making this season and in prior seasons.

On Monday’s edition of NASCAR America, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan all gave their thoughts on what happened to Kenseth — and they didn’t hold back, either.

Click on the above video to hear what they had to say about Kenseth’s misfortune and how it could potentially impact his legacy going forward.

 

NASCAR America: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s picks for Championship 4

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On Monday’s editions of NASCAR America, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave his predictions for which of the eight remaining championship-eligible drivers — including Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott — will make it to the Championship 4 round.

In addition to Johnson and Elliott, Junior also makes it known in the above video that he’s also pulling for Ryan Blaney. He may even throw in a surprise to his picks.

Our NASCAR America team of analysts go over Junior’s picks and give their take, as well.

We don’t want to spill the beans of who Junior is picking here, so click on the video above to find out, as well as what our analysts think about his picks.

 

 

 

Long: Kyle Larson’s playoff exit significant to title contenders

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Lost among questions about rules, confusion on pit road and chaos on the track Sunday was just how significant Kyle Larson’s departure from the playoff is.

The owner of four wins this season, Larson was one of the few drivers who typically could race with Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch on the 1.5-mile tracks and some even considered Larson the championship favorite if he made it to Miami.

“I think Kyle Larson was going to be the car to beat, and still will be the car to beat at Homestead,’’ said Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch. “Now that he’s not in the (playoff) mix anymore, it probably opens it up for the rest of us.’’

Said Kevin Harvick: “I think you eliminated the best car at Homestead. That’s a big deal. For everybody.’’

Larson entered Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway with a 29-point cushion before his title hopes ended when his engine blew with nearly 200 laps left. He finished 39th.

“It’s crazy,’’ Cole Pearn, crew chief for Martin Truex Jr., said of Larson’s playoff exit. “You can’t ever be safe, for sure.’’

Sunday marked the first time since 2013 that Larson failed to finish a race because of an engine failure. His first two career Cup races ended early because of engine issues that season.

Larson’s departure was as shocking as Busch’s exit in 2014 when he entered the elimination race at Talladega second in the standings with a 25-point cushion to advance to the next round.

Now a spot many presumed would be taken by Larson is open for someone else.

WORK REMAINS

Jimmie Johnson overcame two spins to finish 11th and advance to the Round of 8, moving a step closer to an eighth championship.

Crew chief Chad Knaus, though, wasn’t pleased after Sunday’s race.

On the radio afterward, Knaus said: “That was a pitiful performance.’’

Knaus had more to say after the race, telling NBC Sports:

“We ran like (expletive deleted). It was a bad weekend. We managed to capitalize on some other people’s misfortune, which was great for us. We’ve got some work to do. I don’t know what’s going on. We definitely don’t have the speed that we need.

“Good news is we’ve got three really good race tracks coming up for us, at least historically. Very optimistic heading into Martinsville and going to Homestead this week to test, so hopefully we can hit on some stuff there to take to Texas. We obviously have run well there in the past. Phoenix has been a really good race track for us as well. We’ve got three great opportunities. Just got to do the best.’’

Knaus is right to be concerned. The second round was mistake-riddled for the team.

The pit crew failed to tighten all the lug nuts late in the race at Charlotte, forcing Johnson to back up partially into his stall to remedy the issue, costing him time and positions.

An error by the team’s spotter led to the crew working on Johnson’s damaged car before the red flag period had ended, leading to the team being parked. The team had hoped to run one more lap after being collected in a crash to gain at least one more point.

Then came Kansas’ woes with the lack of speed, an ill-handling car and a seven-time champion causing back-to-back cautions.

“It’s no real surprise that mile-and-a-halves have been a little bit of a struggle for us this year,’’ Johnson said. “We’re putting in the effort. These guys are working around the clock. I’m looking under every stone I can to try to find something as well. We just don’t have the speed yet.

“We’ve got a real opportunity at Martinsville. If we’re able to win there … it sets us up for Homestead.’’

COMMUNICATION WOES

The communication issues Matt Kenseth’s team had Sunday wasn’t the first time for that team and crew chief Jason Ratcliff in the playoffs.

In the penultimate race of the 2013 season, Kenseth struggled all weekend and then had a disastrous pit stop when there was confusion on if the team would change two or four tires. After the call was made for four tires, Kenseth had to back up because the car was on the air hose.

The result was a 23rd-place finish that left Kenseth so far behind Johnson needed only to finish 23rd or better in Miami to win the title. Ratcliff apologized to his crew on the radio after the race for the effort.

Sunday’s scenario was different but communication again proved key and a miscue will keep the team from having a chance to race for a title.

“That’s one thing about that pit stall (closest to pit entrance), makes it difficult,’’ Ratcliff said. “You get to pit road really quick. You have a little less time to communicate. Thankfully, we don’t fall under the damaged vehicle policy that much. Other than last week at Talladega we did. We missed a head count there.’’

So what happened?

“Two of them were holding tires (over the wall),’’ Ratcliff said of crew members. “We have a gameplan. We have a gameplan that has worked really good for us all year and … I don’t know if someone missed the call there or I didn’t communicate properly. Typically, it boils down to communication and that’s what happened there.’’

When Kenseth was told on the radio that he was being parked for having too many crew members work on his car while under the five-minute clock for crash damage, the former champion sounded incredulous that his — last? — chance to win a title ended in such a way.

With no plans announced for next year, there’s no guarantee Kenseth will be racing for a championship again. Now the goal becomes a win.

“We’ve had some great runs at Martinsville and there would be nothing greater than going there and finally getting that win with Matt,’’ Ratcliff said. “That would be special. Would it make up for not having a shot at Homestead? No, but it would be sweet to have that happen with just a few races to go in the season.’’

PIT STOPS

The final eight Cup playoff contenders include four former champions — Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. There has been a first-time champion in three of the last five years, which could be a good sign for playoff drivers Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. … With winning the pole at Kansas, Truex Jr.’s team earned the first pick of pit stalls also at Martinsville this weekend because qualifying is on the same day as the race there.

Memorial service to be held Friday for Furniture Row Racing team member Jim Watson

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A memorial service for Furniture Row Racing crew member Jim Watson will be held Friday in Lincolnton, North Carolina, his family announced Monday.

Watson, who served in a number of roles for both the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr. and No. 77 of Erik Jones, passed away Saturday night after suffering a heart attack in Kansas City, Kansas, where the teams were preparing for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race.

Watson was 55.

MORE: Furniture Row Racing crew member dies of heart attack

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The memorial will be from 4-6 p.m. ET Friday at the Warlick Funeral Home, 125 Dave Warlick Drive, in Lincolnton.

Watson’s obituary was included in the announcement of the memorial service:

Watson was born Sept. 27, 1962, in Kenosha, Wis., to Betty Paulus Watson and the late David Harrison Watson. He is survived by his wife, Laurie Ann Watson; a daughter, Brittany May Watson; his mother, Betty L. Watson; brother, Mike Watson; stepchildren, Eric James Conover and fiancé Claudia Rodriguez, and Matthew Sean Conover; Michael Patrick Conover, and wife Michele, and Nicholas Ian Conover; three grandchildren, Patrick Michael Conover, Michael Winston Conover, and Coleton Daniel Conover; nieces, Jennifer Watson and Katie J. Ballou; and many other uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorials be made to hatsalive.org.