From the book Miracle: Bobby Allison and the Saga of the Alabama Gang by Peter Golenbock. Copyright (c) 2005 by Peter Golenbock. Reprinted with permission of St. Martin's Press, LLC. Now available wherever books are sold.
"You can either be a choirboy or a race car driver." - Neil Bonnett
Before Davey Allison could walk, he wanted to race. His first sounds were engine sounds.
"I remember the first two words out of his mouth when he was nine months old," said Bobby. "Davey stood up in the car seat next to me and said, 'Vraddnnnn! Vraddnnnnn!' "It was the sound a V-8 makes when the driver hits the throttle.
While Davey was growing up, all he thought about was racing.
"I had to stay after school because I was dillydallying, drawing pictures of race cars instead of paying attention," Davey said. "Sometimes they were pictures of my dad's car, but mostly they were what I dreamed mine would look like."
Wanda Lund, Tiny Lund's widow, was a close friend of the Allisons. Wanda recalled one race when Judy asked her to watch Davey, who was six or seven.
"This was before wives and children were allowed in the pits," she said. "The wives all tried to pitch in and watch each other's kids, Davey was a little spitfire who'd dart here and dart there. He was so inquisitive, so nosy, about this racing.
"Davey got away from me and ran in front of a car, and when I caught him, I wanted to shake him. I told him, 'Your momma should tie you to a tree.' He never forgot that."
In high school all Davey thought after was stock car racing. He went out for football in the ninth grade, but the coach told him he would have to gain forty pounds to reach 130 pounds. Davey quit to concentrate on working for his dad.
"Bobby would be working on his Cup car," said Red Farmer, "and Davey would come in, and Bobby would make him sweep the floors, clean up stuff." Bobby paid him fifty cents an hour.
"It used to burn ole Davey," said Farmer, "but he was learning how to do things. Bobby taught him the right way. Davey didn't get nothing handed to him. He had to help Bobby during the day, and then he could work nights on his Sportsman car."
When Davey was sixteen, Bobby was working on his '77 American Motors Matador, and he was having trouble with the car. Bobby was doing all the work himself, and he said, "It was killing me."
Davey volunteered to help, and Bobby was so weary that he agreed. It wasn't long, said Bobby, before Davey could do a complete teardown.
"I mean he could build an engine, put it on the dyno, prep it, test it, tear it down, put it back together, everything needed to get the car ready," said Bobby.
"Davey had a bunch of kids who worked with him, and they worked hard, and they loved to race. Davey was smart enough to know experience would overcome a lot of things if you took time to learn, so he was listening pretty good.
"If you told him something, he would go back and do it, and if it worked good, he'd remember that. He learned good, and that's why he became such a great driver. He had the feel for the car. He was super sharp. You could give him two pieces of angle iron, and he could build you a chassis, build a motor, wire them up, and set the chassis."
"After everyone left the shop, I taught myself how to weld," said Davey. "I would pick up scrap metal and weld it together, practicing every night."
"He wanted to learn all that stuff," said Red Farmer. "He could do anything. There wasn't anything about a race car Davey didn't know about. That's what made him good, because when he came off the racetrack, he could talk to the crew chief. He didn't say, 'The car ain't handling.' He'd come in and say, 'We need to change the springs,' or the shocks or the sway bar, because he understood it. So he could give the crew chief more input than most drivers, and that made a lot of difference."
Davey also drove the truck that carried Bobby's race car to the track. While Bobby was flying to the race in his plane, Davey was logging 150,000 miles staying up all night to get to the races on time.
"Dad would give me a place and a time to be there, and I'd better be there," Davey said.
Judy told Davey he couldn't begin his racing career until he graduated from high school. He had to get his diploma. No GED.