Is Gordon Ahead Of Allison? There Is Evidence He Is Not
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Veteran motorsports writer and motorsportsunplgged.com contributor Ben White is the author of the Bobby Allison biography, “Circle Of Triumph.”)
When Jeff Gordon collected his 85th career victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sept. 4, he reached a huge career milestone.
He is now ranked third on the all-time win list behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). It’s easy to see how the four-time Sprint Cup champion enjoys a resurgence of sorts just as the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicago this weekend.
There’s no disputing Gordon’s place in the NASCAR record book. It is his until the adds 21 wins, reaches the 106 mark and passes Pearson for second. It’s a goal that it is possible to reach.
But in my opinion, Gordon should be tied for third instead of owning the position outright.
Here’s why - and it’s not a mistake. There is a piece of NASCAR history, unknown to many, that gives my opinion validity.
Bobby Allison, NASCAR’s 1983 champion, feels he should have 85 wins instead of the 84 that put him in a tie with Darrell Waltrip. Although humble and a bit reserved when the conversation comes up, Allison offers a legitimate argument that another victory should be his and I wholeheartedly agree.
The elusive 85th win has been hanging out there for many years and it’s time to set the record straight.
The race in question was held on Aug. 6, 1971 on the quarter-mile oval at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, N.C. It was the Myers Brothers Memorial 250, named in honor of deceased drivers Billy and Bobby Myers.
It’s been reported through the years that there weren’t enough cars to make a full field so two divisions of NASCAR were allowed to compete together.
That may have been true, but NASCAR’s intention to join the premier Grand National Chevrolet Monte Carlos, Dodge Chargers and Ford Torinos with the Grand American Ford Mustangs and Chevy Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds was done to generate interest in both divisions, according to an article published in Greg Fielden’s “40 Years of Stock Car Racing” series.
Lin Kuchler, NASCAR’s vice president and competition director, affirmed that.
“We feel it will benefit the sport and the fans to see the smaller cars run against the Grand Nationals on the shorter tracks,” Kuchler said. “The record book shows the Grand American qualifying and race speeds are comparable to the Grand National speeds.”
The Friday night race was standing room only and attracted 14,000 fans. They weren’t disappointed, as the racing was exciting and featured six cautions during the race’s 250-lap distance.
Richard Petty led the first 112 laps before Allison, in a Mustang owned by Mel Joseph, took the lead away and led from lap 113 until the finish.
Petty finished second in a Grand National Plymouth, followed by Jim Paschal in an AMC Javelin, Buck Baker in a Firebird, Dave Marcis in a Camaro and Wayne Anderson in a Mustang.
While in victory lane, Allison said, “On a track like this, we had the decided advantage. We could get in and out of the corners quicker.
Not surprisingly, those in the Grand National cars screamed foul after being outrun by the Grand Americans.
“I figured something like this would happen,” Petty said. “They’ll probably win all these races. They ought to keep the two divisions separate. Grand National racing isn’t supposed to be filled with Mustangs and Camaros.”
Allison received the money for the win and the trophy and everyone went home. Then, sometime around 1973 or 1974, the win mysteriously disappeared from the record book.
Today, however, the highly respected website Racing Reference.com, as well as Fielden, acknowledge the victory but NASCAR’s record book does not.
This particular race has been debated back and forth for decades. Still, again, under NASCAR rules established in 1971, Grand National cars and Grand American cars were not only allowed to race together but also highly encouraged to do so on the short tracks.
At Bowman-Gray there were 29 cars in the field made up of 19 Grand Nationals and 10 Grand Americans. Each one of them went through pre-race inspection, were lined up on the same grid together, started the race and took the same green flag. But Allison, for some reason, didn’t win the race. Neither did Petty.
There is one very important fact to consider. Tiny Lund won Grand National races in August and November of 1971 in a Grand American Camaro owned by Ronnie Hopkins. Interestingly, they count as Grand National wins in NASCAR’s record book.
Allison is listed as winning at Winston Salem that year but carries a asterisk stating he was in a Grand American car and the win didn’t count.
If that’s the logic, there was no winner at Bowman Gray that night. There’s no other way to position it.
Allison didn’t win and Petty finished second. Technically, 29 cars entered the race but no one officially enjoyed tvictory because it didn’t count. Why is Lund twice a winner in a Grand American car that entered Grand National events when Allison is not?
Further, why is the record book wrong and why is the win simply not attainable for Allison? He has a legitimate reason to question why he isn’t currently tied with Gordon instead of being one win behind him.
“If a notation of the win would be given after all these years, it would be very, very special to me,” Allison said. “Having that win to my credit would take me out of a tie with Darrell Waltrip. He had a lot of success in his own right and deserves to have his wins, but I’d like to be able to claim every race that I won.
“As it stands, I’m still looking for the win at Winston Salem in 1971.”
Allison is quite proud of Gordon’s accomplishments and wouldn’t have a problem when he passes him for win No. 86, No.87 and so on.
“I sincerely hope Jeff wins 20 or 30 more races before he stops driving,” Allison said. “He’s an incredible competitor. I believe it’s possible that he could go back into the competitor he once was when he was winning a lot of races each season. I’m happy see him doing so well.”
Allison isn’t the bitter old past champion out for some type of revenge. That’s simply not his style as he approaches his 74th birthday on December 3rd.
He just wants to think back on a very successful career, including what is rightfully his - and no one should take issue with that.
Giving him his 85th Grand National win is simply the right thing to do.