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Day 7: Donnie Allison talks Alabama Gang rebirth

NASCAR.com

NEW ORLEANS -- The Alabama Gang rolls on -- this time with a North Carolina connection.

The latest stock car racer in a long line that began with brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison and the venerable, ageless Red Farmer is Justin Allison, 21-year-old grandson of Donnie Allison.

Justin has been racing since he strapped into a go-kart at the age of 5 and now is showing promise as a part-timer in the Automobile Racing Club of America series. Like numerous Allisons before him, he has racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as a goal.

Donnie Allison and other family members moved from Alabama to Salisbury, North Carolina, in the 1980s and 1990s, and Justin races from there. But, by bloodlines and tradition, he will be a member of the Alabama Gang as his career moves forward.

Donnie Allison, participating in this week's Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, said his grandson has the right stuff. Virtually all grandfathers think that, of course, but Allison says he can step out of the family room and judge without prejudice.

"I'm probably Justin's biggest critic, but he has talent," Allison said. "I hate to compare, but I think he has the most talent of any Allison."

Strong words there. Bobby is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and is universally admired as one of the best stock car drivers ever. Donnie won 10 Sprint Cup races and probably would have a longer list if he had had better rides. Davey, Bobby's son, won 19 Cup races and seemed on target to add to the family's championships when he was killed in a helicopter accident.

"I helped Joey Logano when he was 12 years old," Allison said. "I saw something in Joey you don't see in other people. You can't teach anybody how to drive a race car, but you can help them learn things that will help them during their careers.

"With Joey, if you told him something, you'd see him go out and try to implement it right away. I told Tom Logano (Joey's father) about a month ago that Joey was the best talent I had ever seen until Justin.

"Joey, disposition-wise, is a little different. Justin has a little of his grandpa in him -- maybe a little more temper than I'd like to see, but I made it in racing that way."

Donnie Allison will be forever remembered as one of the participants in the last-lap and post-race calamities that made the 1979 Daytona 500 one of NASCAR's most memorable events. He and Cale Yarborough crashed in the third turn of the final lap racing for the win, opening the door to Richard Petty's victory. Allison, Yarborough and Bobby Allison fought in the infield after the crash.

Serious injuries suffered in a wreck at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1981 put Donnie Allison's career in decline, although he ran a few more races through the 1988 season.

"I don't have any regrets," he said. "If I had one, it would be the fact that I didn't solicit a No. 1 team to run for the championship. I probably would have won it."

Last week, Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama renamed its backstretch the Alabama Gang Superstretch in honor of the Allisons and the extended Alabama Gang.

"It was pretty rewarding Sunday at Talladega," Allison said. "The governor introduced us and said no other state can say they have a gang like we have.

"We were a pretty good gang."

And may be again.

Day 7 recap

Started: New Orleans.
Finished:
Tallahassee, Florida.
Miles traveled:
387.6.

Notes: Heavy rain hammered the ride along coastal Mississippi on Friday morning, marking the first time the riders have dealt with super-slick road conditions. There were no incidents. ? More than a few riders were spotted in the Bourbon Street entertainment district Thursday night in New Orleans, and some seemed a little out of focus at Friday morning's pre-ride meeting. Indications were that the good times, indeed, rolled. ? The ride has received generally excellent escort support from law enforcement agencies in moving a long line of motorcycles and support vehicles in and out of small towns and large cities. Police officers in Austin, Texas, and New Orleans were particularly helpful.

Saturday's route: Tallahassee, Florida, to Keystone Heights, Florida; to Daytona Beach, Florida. End of ride.

Donate: The Kyle Petty Charity Ride raises money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a summer camp for chronically ill children. To donate, victoryjunction.org.

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Day 7 recap

Started: New Orleans.
Finished:
Tallahassee, Florida.
Miles traveled:
387.6.

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