Bobby Allison Deserves
Credit For 85th Victory
By Rick Houston
Bobby Allison is shown practicing his No. 49 Grand American Ford Mustang at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., in preparation for the track’s Aug. 6, 1971 Winston Cup Grand National event. Allison would go on to win the event, but is not officially credited with the victory by NASCAR. (Steven Cook Collection)
It’s another one of those things in and around the world of NASCAR that just doesn’t make any sense.
Bobby Allison won a Winston Cup Grand National race on Aug. 6, 1971 at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. Allison, however, is for some reason not officially credited with the victory by NASCAR. His career win total is listed at 84, instead of the 85 he should have. It ties him with Darrell Waltrip, of all people, for third on the all-time list. The two developed quite the rivalry as they battled for the championship in the early 1980s.
There were until the last few months 85 victories listed for Allison in the historical database on NASCAR’s media Web site, including the win at Bowman Gray. Both Allison’s win and the event itself have since been deleted from the database. The 1971 season database lists the 33rd race of the season at Atlanta and jumps directly to the 35th in Ona, W. Va. It skips the 34th — Allison’s win at Bowman Gray — altogether. The season is still listed as having 48 races, but results for only 47 are given.
There’s more. In the NASCAR media guide, when all of Allison’s season win totals are tallied, they add up to 85. Yet in the all important “win” column, he’s right there with Waltrip, deadlocked at 84 wins.
Jeff Gordon, winless so far in 2008, stands at 81 victories. Once he breaks into victory lane again, the Allison question takes on no small amount of historical significance. When Gordon reaches 84 career wins, will he be in a three-way tie with Waltrip and Allison for third most in NASCAR history or will he still be chasing Allison?
Unless something changes in the near future, NASCAR will say that Gordon will be tied with Allison and Waltrip. They’ll be wrong.
“I got 85 wins and the record book shows 84,” Allison begins. “Nobody at NASCAR has the authority to (make the correction), I guess. I really wish that I could get that one win, because it’s important to me. It would be important to anybody who won it.
“It’d be really neat to get an answer. How can you have a race and have a second-place finisher and a crowd and a purse and a full event, and you don’t have a winner?”
According to Greg Fielden’s excellent five-volume series Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, the Winston-Salem event was the first in a experimental combination of cars from the Winston Cup Grand National ranks along with smaller sedans from NASCAR’s Grand American tour.
Allison drove a Mustang in the race, and led a Grand American sweep of the first seven spots. Only runnerup Richard Petty’s Winston Cup Grand National Plymouth broke the choke hold.
“On a track like this, we had the decided advantage,” Fielden quoted Allison as saying. “We could get in and out of the corners quicker.”
While the smaller Grand American cars were quick off the turns, there were disadvantages as well. They had to run smaller engines and smaller tires, and pit with only three crew members over the wall, as opposed to the five allowed for Winston Cup Grand National teams. So why not credit Allison with the win? Good question.
“NASCAR said we weren’t a full Grand National car at the time, so we didn’t get credit for the win,” Allison says. “There’s no gospel associated with this comment, but as I remember it, we got credit for a couple of years and then it kinda came out of the record book. Nothing was ever said.
“I always thought they gave my win to Richard Petty, and the Pope’s not gonna take anything away from Richard Petty. So I figured it was lost forever. But if they didn’t give it to anybody, I won the race and I have the trophy and I got the money that day, so why shouldn’t I get credit for the win?”
Kerry Tharp is the director of public relations for NASCAR. When asked about the discrepancy in Allison’s career win totals, Tharp researched the topic and eventually read directly from a Wikipedia entry found at http://thirdturn.wikia.com/wiki/Bobby_Allison.
“’The 1971 Myers Brothers 250 was held Aug. 6, ‘71, Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.,’” Tharp read from the article. “’The first car to cross the finish line after 250 laps was driven by Bobby Allison. No one’s disputing this fact. What is disputed is how and was he a legitimate Grand National driver, and as such, is entitled the winner title?’
“’(In) 1971, the number of cars racing was low and NASCAR had decided to allow entries from what was known as at the time as the Grand American Series. For that race and the race following at West Virginia International Speedway, Allison raced in one of those field fillers, a Ford Mustang. As he was not racing a Grand National car, he never received credit for the win.’”
The entry is evidently confirmation enough for NASCAR.
“That’s what I’ve got to go on, that there was no credit for that victory, that is correct,” Tharp concluded.
Here’s the absolute kicker. Later in the 1971 season, Tiny Lund drove a Grand American Camaro to wins Winston Cup Grand National events at Hickory and North Wilkesboro. Lund is credited with those victories, and count toward his total of five career wins. His wins have not been deleted from the historical database on NASCAR’s media Web site, and neither have the events themselves.
There’s yet another confusing problem. In the race at Ona, W. Va., ran just two days after Bowman Gray, Petty won and Allison finished second in the second straight “combination” race featuring both Winston Cup Grand National and Grand American machines. This time, however, Allison gets credit for the runnerup showing, although he was again in the same No. 49 Grand American Mustang.
NASCAR won’t … NASCAR can’t … delete that race. Take away that race and Petty has 199 wins, not the mythical 200 he’s credited with now. 199 career wins … it just wouldn’t look right.
Asked about the Lund discrepancy, Tharp responded, “I don’t know that. I can’t answer that. I don’t know. I don’t know anything about that. I’m just answering your question about Bobby Allison.”
Next, Tharp was asked if there’s any kind of process to change the record book.
“I doubt it,” Tharp said. “From what I understand, he wasn’t credited with the win because he was not racing as a Grand National driver that day. That’s the information I got. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Go figure. It should be noted here Tharp is merely the messenger here. He’s not the culprit, the one who made the call to erase Allison’s win from the record books.
The bottom line here is that what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong. And this ain’t right. Allison has given more to this sport, both literally and figuratively, than could be expected of any 100 people. For Allison not to be credited with that 85th win is, without reservation and no pun intended, petty and small of somebody, somewhere.