The Day Davey and Friends came to Ga. Intl. Speedway

Brandon Reed

Brandon Reed

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Columns 7/16/09

It was 16 years ago this week that the racing world lost one of it’s great drivers.

On July 13, 1993, Davey Allison was injured in a helicopter crash at Talladega Superspeedway. He, along with fellow Alabama Gang member Red Farmer, had planned to watch Neil Bonnett practice for a comeback attempt after his debilitating injuries in a 1991 crash.

Farmer survived with a broken arm. Allison fought through the night, but would pass away sometime the next morning.

Davey Allison, along with the All Pro Bull, talk to the fans at Georgia International Speedway (now Gresham Motorsports Park) in Jefferson, GA prior to a match race in 1991.  Photo by Emory Marlow

Davey Allison, along with the All Pro Bull, talk to the fans at Georgia International Speedway (now Gresham Motorsports Park) in Jefferson, GA prior to a match race in 1991. Photo by Emory Marlow

Remembering all this brought back a very memorable, if not hot, Georgia night that saw four of the era’s best slug it out on Georgia’s fastest paved half mile as a legend looked on.

It was June of 1991. Rob Joyce, promoter and general manager of Georgia International Speedway in Jefferson (now Gresham Motorsports Park) had put together a great event at the venerable old speed plant, with the classic NASCAR All-Pro Late Model series set to do battle on the high banks.

But, as always, the late Joyce put a little something extra together for the fans.

He had arranged for what was billed as the “mother of all match races”. He had wrangled together hometown hero Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt (who still was hearing the boos from his run in with Elliott in the 1987 running of The Winston from the Georgia crowd), Harry Gant and Davey Allison to run in local cars to see who would come out as the winner.

The cherry on top was the inclusion of Winston Cup Champion Bobby Allison as Grand Marshall and honorary flagman for the event.

Bill Elliott got a huge response from his hometown crowd.  Elliott was just months away from announcing that he would drive for Junior Johnson beginning in 1992.  Photo by Emory Marlow

Bill Elliott got a huge response from his hometown crowd. Elliott was just months away from announcing that he would drive for Junior Johnson beginning in 1992. Photo by Emory Marlow

It was also a family affair for me. Georgia International was my home track. I was covering the event for a group of local papers, and my uncle, Emory Marlow, had come on as a stringer photographer for the race.

After an autograph session that seemed to go on forever (or at least the line seemed to), it was time to get down to business.

The five principles met on the front stretch next to the local cars that had been arranged for them. Each driver then took a can of spray paint and “autographed” the inside pit wall. The fans loved it.

When the race finally got underway, it was Earnhardt jumping out to an early lead over Elliott as Gant and Davey fought for third.

This race occurred one week after Davey’s controversial win at Sears Point, California. Davey had made late contact with Ricky Rudd, allowing Rudd to move by and apparently take the win. But NASCAR chose to black flag Rudd instead, giving the win to Davey.

"Handsome" Harry Gant was always a popular draw at the Jefferson speedplant, and would make several apperances there over the years.  Photo by Emory Marlow

"Handsome" Harry Gant was always a popular draw at the Jefferson speedplant, and would make several apperances there over the years. Photo by Emory Marlow

It had caused quite a stir, as several drivers, including veteran Dave Marcis, had said that the run-in was not intentional from their vantage points.

Regardless, Davey was given the win, and took home the trophy.

On the third lap of the event at Georgia International, Davey and Gant made contact as they fought for position coming off the fourth turn.

I remember one veteran reporter near me in the press box suddenly jumping up and yelling, “Somebody hit Davey! Davey wins! Davey wins!” Needless to say, the comments broke up the crowd in the press box.

Davey would recover, and get around Gant in a lap or two.

In the end, it was Earnhardt taking home the win, with Elliott trailing in second. Davey finished third and Gant fourth.

Dale Earnhardt shrugged off the Georgia boo-birds to win the match event over Elliott, Allison and Gant.  Photo by Emory Marlow

Dale Earnhardt shrugged off the Georgia boo-birds to win the match event over Elliott, Allison and Gant. Photo by Emory Marlow

Afterwards, the five great racers posed again on the front stretch for photos and signed autographs. The fans just ate it up.

It’s a scene that I’m sure many modern race fans can’t quite understand. Many drivers today have found far more important things to do than to spend time with their fans, such as sail on their yacht or hang out in New York City.

For those of you who missed that era, I feel for you.

But for those of you who missed Davey Allison, I feel even more.

Davey was a heck of a driver, and combined with Robert Yates and Larry McReynolds, was a force to be reckoned with. He was just 32 years of age when we lost him, but he had amassed 19 Cup wins in the nine years he had been racing at the top tier of NASCAR. He also had just had a near miss on winning the Winston Cup in 1992.

We can only imagine what Davey would have done had he not lost his life on that terrible July day in 1993.

We don’t know what we missed.

Brandon Reed is the webmaster and editor for Georgia Racing History.com.


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