Kelly Crandall / NBC Sports

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.”

Kevin Harvick’s rear tire changer sidelined by cancer treatment

Photo: Dustin Long
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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Daniel Smith, rear tire changer for Kevin Harvick’s team, left a hospital Saturday afternoon after surgery this week as part of his cancer treatment.

Smith, who had the planned surgery Thursday, told NBC Sports through a team spokesperson that he should be back in four to six weeks. The Cup playoffs begin in four weeks at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It was shortly before the Bristol night race last year that doctors discovered Smith had testicular cancer. He spent the day before that race undergoing scans, blood work and other tests to determine if the cancer had spread. Doctors found that the cancer had infected two lymph nodes in his lower abdomen and also saw a spot on his lung that was concerning.

Daniel Smith, rear tire changer for Kevin Harvick’s team, was released from a hospital Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Dustin Long)

Two days after last year’s Bristol night race, Smith had surgery to remove the tumor in his testicle. After a few weeks to heal, he began chemotherapy treatments. Each round consisted of one week in a hospital and two weeks of recovery. He had four rounds (12 weeks) of treatments. Smith returned to the track to watch Harvick compete in the championship race in Miami last year and then was back to changing tires at Daytona in February.

Thursday’s surgery is expected to be the final one Smith needs. Tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) is the first he’s missed this season. He stated through a team spokesperson that he walked a mile in the hospital Friday and again on Saturday before his release.

Harvick, who won last weekend at Michigan, starts eighth in tonight’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Matt DiBenedetto focused on winning as he looks for 2020 ride

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Looking for a ride for next season, Matt DiBenedetto enters tonight’s Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway focused on one goal.

“I want to win in Cup,” says the driver whose family moved from California to North Carolina when he was a teen to help his racing career, who ran start-and-parks at one time in the Xfinity Series to keep in the sport and who has 13 races left in what is the best ride of his five-year Cup career.

DiBenedetto found out this week that he would not return to Leavine Family Racing after this season. DiBenedetto said that “I don’t want to say I was blindsided” but said he held out hope that “my performance behind the wheel (would) do the talking and hope that that would prevail over everything.”

Instead, business matters prevailed. With Erik Jones near an extension to remain at Joe Gibbs Racing — keeping all four driver spots there filled — Toyota and JGR needed a place to move Christopher Bell from the Xfinity Series to Cup. Leavine Family Racing’s alliance with JGR makes it the natural spot for Bell. While Bell said this week nothing is set, all signs point to him driving the No. 95 car next year.

Despite his disappointment, DiBenedetto remains grateful to Leavine Family Racing for the chance to run the No. 95 this year.

“I want everyone to know, fans especially and social media and stuff, is to be easy on our team and Toyota and (Joe) Gibbs and everything because they’re all still great people and they gave me this opportunity,” he said. 

Still, about a year after DiBenedetto left his ride with Go Fas Racing and unsure of where he’d land, he’s again looking for a ride for the upcoming season.

“I don’t want to retire yet because I’m only 28 years old,” said DiBenedetto, who starts seventh in tonight’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “Just getting started, but I want to win in the Cup Series. That’s what I’ve said and that’s my goal. I’m here to keep on climbing the ladder, not go backwards.”

As for what he might do next year, he’s not sure.

“I have no irons in the fire per se, yet, but this all just happened just this week,” he said.

One question is if it might be possible for him to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity program — DiBenedetto made his Xfinity debut with JGR in 2009 as a development driver and he will drive the team’s No. 18 Xfinity car in the upcoming race at Road America.

“I don’t think there is that opportunity or as of now, there’s not,” he said. “Not that I’m aware of. I’ve talked to the Toyota folks and stuff and I don’t foresee any opportunities within the camp, I don’t think. Just going to have to really pursue everything, but the main goal is to keep proving myself behind the wheel, which I’ve shown I’m here to win and run up front.”

Maybe something good will happen to him tonight. Bristol is where he scored his first Cup top 10 in 2016, placing sixth for an underfunded BK Racing team. He and his family celebrated that finish on pit road after the race.

Alex Bowman, who also drove for underfunded teams before working his way up to a ride at Hendrick Motorsports, is rooting for DiBenedetto to remain in Cup next season.

“I think he does a really good job in the race car,” Bowman said. “Obviously, he has shown that he continues to deserve (a Cup ride). He’ll land on his feet. Everything happens for a reason. I was pretty bummed when I lost my gig. It all ended up working out for the better.”

Tonight’s Cup race at Bristol: Start time, lineup and more

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With the playoffs looming in a few weeks, the Cup Series returns its short-track roots tonight for a rumble under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The duo of Kurt and Kyle Busch have won the last four races in “Thunder Valley.” Who can claim the Bristol throne from the brothers?

Here’s all the info you need for tonight’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:41 p.m. by Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops; Richard Childress; Bill Dance, legendary fisherman; Becky Humphries, National Wild Turkey Foundation CEO; Nick Wiley, Director of Conservation Ducks Unlimited; R. Joseph Hamilton, QDMA Founder and Senior Advisor; John Eastman, QDMA Senior Director of Operations. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:46 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 1:30 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 7 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Ronda Paulson, Founder and Executive Director of Isaiah 177 House. MRO Kids will perform the National Anthem at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 500 laps (266.5 miles) around the .533-mile short track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 125. Stage 2 ends on Lap 250.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with NASCAR America. Countdown to Green begins at 7 p.m. The Performance Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 6:30 p.m and also can be heard on goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry PRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts clear skies, a temperature of 86 degrees with no chance of precipitation at the race start time.

LAST TIME: Kurt Busch won this race last year over Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Kyle Busch won in the spring over Kurt Busch.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup

Results, points after Xfinity race at Bristol

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Tyler Reddick capitalized on Justin Allgaier‘s misfortunes and led the final 11 laps to win Friday’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

It is his fourth win of the season.

The top five was completed by Chase Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek, Jeremy Clements and Austin Cindric.

Click here for the results.

Points

Reddick keeps his lead in the standings with a 55-point advantage over Christopher Bell.

The top five is completed by Cole Custer (-139 points), Allgaier (-159) and Cindric (-193).

Click here for the point standings.