Talladega teaser

Cars zoom by the tai-oval during the Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Racing has always been a family business, and nowhere is that more true than at Talladega Superspeedway. In this series leading up to the 1000bulbs.com 500, Anniston Star contributor Mark McCarter takes a look at some of those families.

The place stole one life, and almost took another. It was the scene for the most profound tragedy, greatest fear and most wonderful moments. It was a site where history could be accomplished -- even if not exactly etched in stone.

Talladega Superspeedway was always referred to as the “home track” for the Allison Family, and the extended family of honorary cousins who completed The Alabama Gang roster, considering the 60-mile distance from their base in Hueytown.

You know the tragedy by now. Davey Allison, on the cusp of a career that seemed destined for a pocketful of championships, died after injuries suffered in a helicopter crash in the Talladega infield in July 1993.

The near-tragedy was Bobby Allison’s flight into the catchfence in 1987. It’s not hyperbole to call it miraculous that no fatal injuries were sustained. It’s not hokey to call it a storybook finish. Davey Allison, wracked with worry after seeing the crash’s aftermath -- “the scaredest I’ve been in my life” -- went on to win that race, the first of his three Talladega trophies.

Bobby Allison counted four Talladega wins among his 84 career victories in the Cup series, and his brother Donnie won twice. Among the extended family, Neil Bonnett has one Talladega victory, Hut Stricklin (Donnie’s son-in-law) raced there 19 times; his best finish was in a car owned, naturally, by Bobby Allison. Then there is Red Farmer, the ageless wonder and long-time family friend, who finished fourth in 1972, right behind Bobby.

Donnie Allison stakes the claim as “the first race car driver to ever drive a race car around this track” in a 1969 test session. When he hit the backstretch the first time and looked toward turn 3, he said to himself, “Holy mackerel, I don't know if I'll ever get there.”

Let the record show that backstretch has an official name now.

The Alabama Gang Backstretch.

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