The two were inducted into the 2018 National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame along with legendary crew chiefs Buddy Parrott and “Suitcase” Jake Elder in a Sunday night ceremony.
Labonte, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, was nicknamed the “Iceman” for his cool demeanor on the track. He is best known for the two most famous finishes in Bristol Motor Speedway history.
In the 1995 August Night Race, Labonte’s No. 5 Chevrolet crossed the finish line first with his crashed race car after getting hit from behind by Dale Earnhardt’s black No. 3 Chevy. Four years later, Earnhardt crashed Labonte on the last lap, and drove on to win the race.
“People don’t remember this, but Dale also spun me out in 1984 in the middle of the race,” said Labonte, now 61. “I was passing him for the lead and he spun me out. We came back and won the race anyway. But, those two races, I won one and he won one. That was just Bristol, just fun, cool racing, although I was pretty mad at him that one race.”
Earnhardt and Labonte had a hunting trip scheduled, but Labonte said that was called off.
Overall, the Texas native was a 22-time winner on the Cup Series with his last victory coming in the 2003 Southern 500 at Darlington. He also shared a most celebrated family victory in 1996 at Atlanta when his younger brother, Bobby, won the race on the same day Terry clinched the championship.
The 12 years between his Cup Series championships driving for Louisiana oilman Billy Hagan in 1984 and North Carolina car dealer Rick Hendrick in 1996 remain a NASCAR record.
Allison was part of the legendary “Alabama Gang” with his older brother Bobby, Red Farmer and Neil Bonnett.
Donnie Allison won 10 races during his NASCAR Cup Series career, but is most famous for a race he didn’t win, with his and Cale Yarborough’s crash battling for the lead on the final lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. The race, which was won by Richard Petty, and the fight between the Allison brothers and Yarborough afterward, is often credited for NASCAR’s explosion in popularity over the next 30 years.
“I sat Friday night at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and I heard Ken Squier talking,” Donnie Allison said. “I thought, ‘If I hadn’t got wrecked out of the Daytona 500, you wouldn’t be up there now.’ ”
Allison won the 1970 Southeastern 500 at Bristol, his only win in 11 starts on the high-banked track. Driving the No. 27 Ford for car owner Banjo Matthews, he took the lead from Yarborough on lap 457 and finished three laps ahead of Bobby Allison’s Plymouth for the win.
“What I remember the most is we took a ’70 Ford Galaxie and everybody laughed, like ‘Why are you bringing this brick to the track?’ ” Donnie Allison said. “That car was lighter, lower and faster than anything around there. You can talk about the Harry Hyde, Ray Evernham, Chad Knaus or whoever, but Banjo Matthews was the smartest race mechanic ever and right behind him is Leonard Wood.”
Bristol was one of four tracks, along with Charlotte, Daytona and Talladega, where both Allison brothers and Donnie’s nephew Davey won.
Donnie Allison also won a NASCAR Grand Touring Series race at Bristol in 1968. The race featured sports cars, like Allison in a Ford Mustang, and even noted road racer Peter Gregg in a Porsche.
Allison also finished fourth in the 1970 Indianapolis 500, winning Rookie of the Year honors for the race.
Parrott, worked for the legendary Hyde, who was loosely portrayed by Robert Duvall in “Days of Thunder,” and later served as crew chief for such drivers as Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace. He was also crew chief for Richard Petty’s historic 200th win at the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona and for Derrike Cope’s upset win in the 1990 Daytona 500. His sons, Todd and Brad, have also been NASCAR crew chiefs.
Elder, who died in 2010, had 43 Cup Series wins as a crew chief. He was the crew chief for David Pearson’s 1968 championship season, was on the pit box for Waltrip’s first and last career wins, and was an early crew chief for Dale Earnhardt.
Heartbeat of America
Chevrolet hosted a luncheon Sunday afternoon where the new Monster Cup Series Camaro ZL1 race car was displayed. The car was tested recently at Texas Motor Speedway, where it got good reviews from driver Chase Elliott. Rookie William Byron, who won the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship last year, has done extensive testing for the brand in a simulation program.