AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Many of NASCAR’s best drivers got their start on dirt tracks before moving on to the big leagues.
Not Bobby Allison. His first race was on asphalt in the car he drove to school and always felt more comfortable on firmer ground than in the dirt.
“I was keen to the pavement,” Allison said Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. “I went off racing on pavement and had incredible success early on in short track. I struggled on dirt. I could go somewhere around here, go to a track in a strange car and feel comfortable, but dirt kept me at bay.”
Allison’s aversion to dirt didn’t derail his career.
He’s considered one of the best drivers in the history of stock-car racing, winning 84 career races, fourth behind Richard Petty, David Pearson and Jeff Gordon.
Stopping by the media center before Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at PIR, the 76-year-old told stories about his past, from racing in Phoenix, where he won in the K&N West Series in 1982, to the early days when he had to work other jobs just to get by.
Allison also talked about his battles with Petty, some of which were epic.
“I raced him hard and he resented that a little bit; I found that out when the checkered flag came down,” Allison said. “I was the little guy and he was the guy who was on his way to being The King and he didn’t appreciate me interfering with his success at the time, but I thought it was great.”
Allison also touched on the wreck that nearly killed him at Pocono in 1988 and the deaths of his sons in 1993 _ Clifford in a racing accident, Davey in a helicopter crash.
“A good friend of mine says this about Davey: `We really, really enjoyed Davey and God let us have him for a little,'” Allison said. “That’s just the greatest thing for me and Clifford fits right in there, too.”
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