- By Brandon Caldwell
Since the days of running moonshine and bringing the cars to the tracks on open trailers all the way through today, NASCAR has had only one constant.
Since its inception, passed down from generation to generation, NASCAR has been about fathers and sons bonding over a sport in which they could both relate. Whether if it were driver, team owner, etc. That’s what NASCAR has always been about.
From Bill France Sr. to Bill France Jr. to Brian France, or from Lee Petty to Richard Petty to Kyle Petty to Adam Petty, or from Bobby Allison to Davey Allison, the family aspect of the sport of NASCAR has been important since day one.
Going into the 1988 race, no one really knew what to expect. It was a transitional time for NASCAR. The sport’s legends were growing older and new kids were storming in and trying to make the sport their own, and just a look at the starting grid showed the mix of kids and crafty veterans, with a new style of racing, was going to make the 1988 Daytona 500 one for the ages.
Asthe face of NASCAR was changing, so was the face of the Daytona 500, forever.
Following a crash in 1987 when Bobby Allison broke down the catchfence at Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR needed a way to slow the cars down going into the 1988 season, and its best solution was the restrictor plate.
Starting on the pole was Ken Schrader. Although Schrader was 35 years old, he was still relatively new to the NASCAR ranks. On the outside of the front row was one of those young drivers, hotshot Davey Allison, a second-generation driver who was making a name for himself with his quick speed and gutsy demeanor.
In row two were the veterans. The favorite going in, 50-year-old Bobby Allison, who already had two Daytona 500′s on his resume, and three-time Winston Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip, who was still gunning for his first Daytona 500 victory.
The race started off like they all do nowadays. Watching this race in 2014, you’d never know anything was different.
It took the cars the now standard half-lap to get up to speed, but once they did, the race became very competitive.
There was a bunch of lead changes early in the race, as the laps began to tick away.
On lap 49, legend Cale Yarborough, in his final Daytona 500, spun out and hit the outside wall to end his day.
The race restarted without much action, as the race took the crossed flags.
Seven laps later was one of the most memorable moments in Daytona 500 history.
Seven-time Daytona 500 winner, “The King” Richard Petty got loose coming off of turn 4, and driver Phil Barkdoll made contact with the STP Pontiac.
Richard’s car got airborne and crashed into the catch fence, and then barrel-rolled over and over again, before finally landing on its wheels, only to get hit again by Barkdoll’s car, and finally coming to a rest.
It was a crash that looked like it may end Petty’s career. Thankfully, he wasn’t seriously injured, and the rest of the field raced on.
On lap 178, Harry Gant spun on the back straightaway, which brought out the yellow flag and began the last round of pit stops.
On the restart on lap 181, Phil Parsons led the field to the green. Seventeen cars were on the lead lap, and in the new restrictor-plate style of racing, they all had a chance to win it.
Parsons was lined up in front of Davey Allison and Waltrip.
As the green flag dropped, and the cars got up to speed, Allison was pushing Parsons’ back bumper hard going on the backstretch.
Waltrip was the first car out of line. The veteran wanted to win the Daytona 500 more than any race in his career, and he was showing it in the final laps of this race.
Behind him came Bobby Allison. Parsons and Davey Allison were in the high lane, Waltrip and Bobby Allison in the low lane. It was veterans against youngsters, and racing families going at it for bragging rights to this Daytona 500.
As Waltrip and Bobby Allison took the lead from Davey Allison and Parsons, they began to pass on their own. Bobby Allison went low, and Waltrip went high.
Bobby Allison’s car was clearly better in the low lane, and he was using the side draft to keep his car up front and running strong.
Davey Allison managed to get around Parsons, and it was these three cars left to decide the 30th annual Daytona 500.
Davey Allison originally seemed to be working with Waltrip’s car. Then he went low to help his father, in fear of his life.
The younger Allison is able to keep his foot in it and get his father and himself past Waltrip and into the first and second positions.
After the final debris caution, the Alabama Gang, Bobby and Davey Allison, were sitting one-two. They were chomping at the bit to get to the green flag and go racing for the final 10 laps of the 1988 Daytona 500.
Buddy Baker, the 1980 winner, was third, and he wasn’t going to let the Allison family spoil his fun or another shot at a Daytona 500 victory.
The field went green for the final time, and Bobby Allison got out in front. His son caught up to him, and Baker wouldn’t let Davey push Bobby without being glued to the back bumper of Davey Allison’s Texaco/Havoline Ford.
With eight laps to go, it was Baker who got out of line and tried to get past Davey Allison headed into Turn 3.
Davey Allison and Baker, another driver from a racing family, raced side-by-side for second place, knowing that would be the place to be to make the final run at the win.
As Allison got to the outside, the rest of the pack, knowing he had one of the fastest cars of the day, followed him, and Baker became the first NASCAR driver to lose a race by being “hung out to dry” on the inside lane.
For the majority of the final 10 laps, the cars were single file.
Bobby Allison was keeping his car out in front, and Davey Allison was trying to put himself in a position where he could pass his father and get his first win in the Daytona 500.
In the middle of turns 3 and 4 on the final lap, Davey Allison shot low, and tried to pass his father, his hero, for the Daytona 500 win.
Bobby Allison kept it floored off of Turn 4, and Davey Allison could do nothing with his father, who went on to win his third Daytona 500.
“I went down low in 3 and 4, but he was too strong,” Davey Allison said after the race.
A father-son duo had finished one-two in NASCAR’s biggest race of the season.
“Ever since he ran so good last year, it’s been my dream to race him in the Daytona 500,” Bobby Allison said in a postrace interview.
It certainly was a feat, as only Lee and Richard Petty had previously accomplished that milestone.
“As a kid, I always dreamed about finishing one-two with my dad in the Daytona 500, but I wanted him to be second,” Davey Allison said with a big grin on his face, as he came up just short to his father that day.
The 1988 Daytona 500 brought NASCAR into a new era. It showed that racing at Daytona and Talladega with these new restrictor plates was still going to be OK. A 50-year-old legend and his hot-footed young son, finishing one-two showed that no matter what age, even with the plates, it still came down to skill and determination and a good-handling racecar to win the Daytona 500.
This race is etched in the memory of race fans because of what it meant. The beloved Allison family got its time to shine and showed that NASCAR was headed in a new direction that yielded a new group of superstars that was also headed into the right direction into the 1990s.
The 1988 Daytona 500 was the third-best race in Daytona 500 history because it brought to life what racing is all about: Family. The reason why many people got started watching and loving racing was probably because of their dad, and it showed that families could compete and battle and still love each other at the end. We can all relate to that. I could watch that finish over and over again and not get sick of it. That’s why it’s third on this countdown.
With two more races to go on this countdown, the next two races will have that family emphasis because from the beginning that’s what NASCAR has been all about. I sure hope you enjoy the next two, because they are dandies and have even this race beat by a long shot.
Photo credits: Racing Photo Archives/Getty Images, Don Hunter, Racing One/Getty Images, Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR, ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images and RacingOne Multimedia.