Hail, Hail, the gang’s all here!!
The “gang” of course is the legendary group of stock car drivers known as the Alabama Gang, and “here” is the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Alabama.
Their names, Allison, Bonnett and Farmer, are among the most respected and loved in all of motorsports. The fact that two of them are deceased seems only to have increased the depth of feeling for the gang by fans and competitors alike.
Winners all, they now do more reminiscing than racing, but they still have a tremendous following across the country. Their exploits are the stuff of which history is made, and their trophies can and do fill several rooms.
Brothers Bobby and Donnie Allison followed Red Farmer from the Miami area to the racing hotbed of central Alabama in the 1950’s, and the three of them barnstormed a ten-state area night after night. Wherever they went, more often than not one of them would win the race, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to finish 1-2-3. Competitors in other states dubbed them “The Alabama Gang”.
As they moved up to the big leagues, they excelled in all types of stock car racing. Farmer won three NASCAR Late Model Sportsman championships and a Modified title, and has over 700 feature wins. Bobby Allison has a Winston Cup title and three Daytona 500 wins on his resume, and is tied for third on the all-time Winston Cup victory list. Donnie Allison won at Daytona, Charlotte and Talladega, and finished fourth in the 1970 Indianapolis 500 in his first appearance at the brickyard.
Neil Bonnett joined the gang in the late 1970’s, having been taken under Bobby’s wing as a youngster growing up in the Birmingham area, and Davey Allison, Bobby’s son, came along in the 1980’s. They also enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, each winning several major races in their abbreviated careers. Allison came close to a Winston Cup title in 1992, but a wreck in the season’s last race relegated him to third place in the final standings.
Except for some local dirt track races by Farmer, the gang has parked their cars. And many of them are now on display at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame houses four of Davey Allison’s cars, three each of Bobby Allison’s and Neil Bonnett’s cars, and one each of Donnie Allison’s and Red Farmer’s cars.
“We have a dozen cars that were driven by members of the Alabama Gang, by far the most comprehensive collection in the world,” said IMHOF Executive Director Don Naman. “We also have the personal collection of memorabilia of Bobby Allison, donated to us by Bobby and Judy. If you are an Alabama Gang fan, you’ve got to visit the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.”
Davey Allison’s four cars, all Thunderbirds donated by Robert Yates, include his 1987 Rookie of the Year car, the 1988 car that finished second to his father in the Daytona 500, his 1991 car that won at Richmond, and one of the cars he raced in 1993 prior to his death.
The cars driven by Bobby Allison include his 1988 Daytona 500 winning Buick, his 1977 Matador and the Buick in which he won the 1986 Winston 500. The trio of Bonnett-driven cars is the most versatile. They are his 1964 Chevelle Late Model Sportsman (in which he won 80% of the races he entered), his 1974 Grand American Series Camaro and the 1986 Monte Carlo he drove for Junior Johnson.
Donnie Allison’s car is the 1969 Ford Torino in which he won both the World 600 and the Firecracker 400 in 1970. Red Farmer’s car is the familiar #97 Ford Torino in which he took fourth place in the 1972 Talladega 500.
While these 12 cars are among the most popular exhibits at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, they are by no means the whole show. More than 140 vehicles, including Indy cars, drag racers, sports cars, motorcycles, karts and a record-setting offshore power boat are on display at the Hall of Fame. Other memorabilia include trophies, driver suits, helmets, artwork, model cars, old programs and other collectibles.
Another integral part of IMHOF is the area reserved for the 80 inductees into the Hall of Fame. Each of the inductees has his or her own space, bio information and an original Jeanne Barnes portrait, along with a small flag from their native country.
The International Motorsports Hall of Fame is located next to Talladega Superspeedway, and is accessible from exits 168 and 173 off of 1-20 between Atlanta and Birmingham. IMHOF is open daily from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm, Central time.