comments powered by Disqus
EDITOR’S NOTE: It has been two decades since Davey Allison was killed in a helicopter crash in Talladega, Ala. This is the second of a three-part series about the driver.
For six magical seasons, Larry McReynolds served as crew chief on the No. 28 Ford that Davey Allison drove in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
Together, they racked up 19 wins, 66 top-five and 92 top-10 finishes in 191 races before Allison’s untimely death at age 32 as the result of a helicopter crash. Among their victories was the 1990 Valleydale 500 at Bristol, where Allison beat Mark Martin to the finish line by just a half-car length.
Allison finished third in both the 1991 and ’92 point standings, and won the 1992 Daytona 500. He led the points heading into final race of season at Atlanta before getting caught up in accident with Ernie Irvan, who ironically would wind up in the No. 28 after Allison’s death.
Allison won early in the 1993 season at Richmond and was fifth in standings, 350 points behind eventual season champion Dale Earnhardt, after a strong third-place finish at Loudon. That race came only two days before his death.
In a recent Q&A interview, McReynolds remembers both the good times and the tough times he’s dealt with in the 20 years since his best friend’s death:
When the name Davey Allison is mentioned, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
McReynolds: “Just the friendship that he and I shared. Our relationship went so far beyond he and I at the race track as a driver and a crew chief. He truly was my best friend. Our families still are close. Our sons were born just a few months apart and we had them baptized together. My wife Linda and I are Davey’s son Robbie’s godparents and Davey and Liz are my son Brandon’s godparents. I think about him to some degree every single day because when we lost him July 13, 1993, not only did we lose a great race car driver, I lost my best friend.”
That had to be tough losing Alan Kulwicki and Davey back-to-back in aircraft accidents.
McReynolds: “I tell people every day that God works in mysterious ways. There is a reason for everything and we never question what he does. When we lost the championship at the end of ’92 and Alan won the championship, with what we had been through the ups and the downs, the wreck at Pocono where Davey was injured, Clifford (Davey’s brother) getting killed, it was like how in the world could we lose this championship?
“Sitting in the hotel room on April 1, I was like, I understand now. We have plenty more chances to win championships and Alan obviously doesn’t now. I will say on July 13, I became confused. But to lose two superstars of our sport, the races and championships they were probably going to win, I truly believe people celebrated championships that wouldn’t have if those two hadn’t gotten killed.”
What made Davey Allison so special as a race car driver?
McReynolds: “Davey did everything 100 percent. Even though he’s been gone 20 years, it’s still an inspiration to me today because it didn’t matter if he climbed in the car to do a practice run or after the garage was closed, he went and shot basketball, he gave 100 percent.
“He truly wanted to win everything, so he focused on everything he did. If he tried to eat lunch, I was wasting my time if I asked about the race car because he was focused on lunch. When he finished lunch, we would talk about the race car and he would be the most focused individual, the most determined individual in everything he did.”
It sounds like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, that he had the same traits as Bobby Allison.
McReynolds: “He had that same determination, a way of making things he believed in work. If a caution would come out and I would say, ‘Let’s stay out or let’s get two tires.’ He would come back and say, ‘Give me four, and I will make it work.’ I would and 90 percent of the time he would make it work.
“He truly was a confident individual and it made my life easy. Even though we had that chemistry from the first time we went to the race track together, he knew what that race car was doing and 80-90 percent of the time knew what he wanted to do to fix it and make it better. It came from his upbringing, how Bobby made him work on the race car so he could understand it and not just drive it.”
You talk about chemistry. Even winning the Daytona 500 with Dale Earnhardt and winning other races with Ernie Irvan, you and Davey seemed to have that extra special something.
McReynolds: “I have to believe had Davey Allison not gotten killed, my entire career would have been different. I couldn’t imagine that I wouldn’t be Davey Allison’s crew chief until he hung his helmet up. There’s a good chance I would have never went to Richard Childress Racing. I don’t know how long Davey would have raced, but there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be a Fox broadcaster because I can’t imagine based on our relationship, the chemistry and success that we had together that I wouldn’t have been his crew chief until he hung his helmet up.”
I know it’s unfair to compare drivers. Is it a fair statement to say, however, he was one of those rare talents on the top level?
MeReynolds: “He really was. He could always figure out how to find a little more than the race car had in it. The biggest thing was his understanding of the race car. I can use he and Ernie Irvan as examples, because I worked with those two in the same time frame. Both of them were great race car drivers, but Ernie Irvan had no idea what he was going to do to the car. He could tell you what it was doing and he didn’t care if you put the front springs on the rear, he would go out there drive it 100 percent as fast as it would go.
“Davey would do the same thing, drive it as fast as he could go, but he and I would talk earlier in the week where we were going to start with the race car and our what-if situations. Ernie and I never talked about the race car earlier in the week. All Ernie was going to do was put his uniform on, buckle in and go as fast as he could go. Even though their ability was similar, their approach couldn’t be any more different.”
You started off talking about how close you were off the track. From the way it sounds, you guys did almost everything together.
“Davey didn’t live in Charlotte, but when he would come to race, testing or to hang out, he, Liz and the kids would stay at the house. They would even stay at the house if we weren’t home and they were in Charlotte for something.
“Liz and Linda are very close friends. Our kids were very close. Krista, Davey’s daughter, is close in age to our oldest daughter Brooke. We both practiced the Catholic faith and we would go to church together. It was easier to get in and out of race tracks back in the day and we would stay in hotels. It was very common we would leave the race track on Saturday night and attend Catholic mass. Then, we would go out and have dinner together, whether it was just Davey and I or us with our families.”