The original Alabama Gang. Justin Allison is now the latest member of the gang, turning his first laps at legendary Talladega Superspeedway during an ARCA test there Tuesday and Wednesday. (Photo courtesy

Alabama Gang rides again with Justin Allison at Talladega

Leave a comment

The latest generation of NASCAR’s fabled Alabama Gang rode again in its debut Tuesday and Wednesday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Justin Allison, grandson of Donnie Allison and grandnephew of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, both original members of the Alabama Gang, took part in a two-day test of ARCA drivers at NASCAR’s largest oval track.

The test on the 2.66-mile track was in preparation for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 at Talladega on Saturday, May 3.

While Justin Allison struggled to find speed Tuesday, he found it Wednesday, recording the second-fastest speed of drivers at 181.257 mph, just a hair under the day’s fastest speed of 181.987 mph by Tim Hessert, who also was fastest in Tuesday’s session.

“It has always been a dream of mine to race at Talladega,” Justin Allison said of his ‘Dega debut in the BCR Ford, which carries the same No. 88 his grandfather drove in the 1970s. “It’s my family’s hometown track and a very special place for all of my family.

“Being on the track for the first time yesterday I saw first-hand that it is a special place. I had a lot of fun the past couple days. We have a good car and we’re capable of winning the race. A victory here would mean a lot to not only me, but to my entire family.”

Winning is in the family genes, for sure. Grand uncle Bobby is a four-time winner there, grandpa Donnie a two-time winner. The late Davey Allison, Bobby’s son, won four ARCA races and three Winston Cup races at Talladega, as well.

“My goal is to win it,” the 21-year-old Justin Allison said of the May 3 event. “We have to run the whole race to accomplish that, and I know I’ve got a lot to learn out there. I’m really looking forward to the experience, but if we’re there at the end, our goal should be nothing short of winning it. That’s why we do this.”

Allison has two ARCA races under his belt. He finished 11th at Kansas last fall, but had an auspicious debut at the beginning of this season at Daytona International Speedway.

Although he qualified 12th, Allison was involved in a multi-car wreck and ultimately finished a disappointing 36th in the season-opening ARCA race at Daytona in February.

He was also slated to compete in the second race of the season at Mobile, Ala., but withdrew from the event.

Grandpa Allision liked what he saw from his grandson.

“He’s got a knack,” said Donnie, who won at Talladega in 1971 and 1977.  “He’s never driven around Talladega in his life.  He went out and ran (Wednesday), came in and I asked him a question about it.

“He told me exactly what he felt. I know he felt it, because I saw him do it. That’s a gift. That’s not taught.”

Here’s Thursday’s ARCA Practice Speeds at Talladega Superspeedway:

1.     Tom Hessert                   181.987

2.     Justin Allison                181.257

3.     Austin Wayne Self        181.213

4.     Kevin Powell                  181.134

5.     Michael Lira                   180.041

6.     Thomas Praytor             176.484

7.     Raul Orlandini               174.299

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Mansell: Button, Alonso must keep faith in McLaren

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 03:  Former F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell of Great Britain talks to the media during previews ahead of the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on July 3, 2014 in Northampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Former Formula 1 and CART champion Nigel Mansell has urged Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso to keep faith in McLaren-Honda while the team goes through the “growing pains” of a new partnership.

Button and Alonso have both won world titles in the past, but neither have been able to even dream of a similar success in 2015 as the new Honda power unit has limited the team to just 17 points in total from the first 14 races.

Both drivers are set to remain with the team for 2016, but speculation about their future has been rife as a result of Honda’s struggles which even prompted Alonso to publicly vent his frustration over the radio in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Mansell urged both drivers to keep faith in the McLaren-Honda project, believing that it could yet make big strides forward ahead of the 2016 season.

“Jenson deserves an opportunity to see if they can compete and win next year,” Mansell said. “I think this winter Honda can make a breakthrough and McLaren will be working so, so hard.

“They are a fantastic team. They’ve won so much in the past and, to use [McLaren Group CEO] Ron Dennis’s words, they will win again in the future. I have no doubt about that.”

Mansell himself walked away from McLaren after just two races in 1995, its first season with Mercedes engines. After winning the CART title in 1993, Mansell enjoyed four races with Williams in F1 the following year before joining McLaren for the 1995 season.

After missing the first two races of the year due to the car being too narrow, Mansell took part in the San Marino and Spanish Grands Prix before walking away from McLaren due to the car’s lack of pace.

The Briton hinted at his own regrets when discussing the matter, and wished McLaren the very best in its bid to get back to the front of the field.

“Between Alonso and Jenson they will be a formidable team, given the car and the engine to do the job,” Mansell said. “When you go through the growing pains, and I’ve been there a few times myself, stay the course because they could have the best team and best engine.

“They’ll have some really serious regrets if Honda get it right after they’ve gone somewhere else. Hopefully within 12 months they’ll be singing the praises of the team and Honda. I sincerely hope they’ll be winning races in a year’s time.”

WRC: Latvala claims third win of 2015 in France

AJACCIO, FRANCE - OCTOBER 04:  Jari Matti Latvala of Finland and Mikka Anttila of Finland celebrate their victory during Day Three of the WRC France on October 4, 2015 in Ajaccio, France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jari-Matti Latvala fought back to claim his third win of the 2015 FIA World Rally Championship season, beating Elfyn Evans after the Briton threatened to claim an unlikely victory in France.

For the first time since 2008, the Rally de France took place on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, but was hit by heavy rain and flooding that caused two of the stages to be cancelled.

Championship winner Sebastien Ogier and former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica shared the early lead of the rally, but both dropped back due to technical problems.

Evans emerged as the leader after stage three on Friday, enjoying an advantage of 22 seconds over Latvala. However, the Volkswagen driver managed to reel the Briton in and take the lead after stage six before keeping his rivals at bay over the remainder of the rally.

Despite only finishing third on the final power stage, Latvala claimed his third win of the season ahead of Evans by 43 seconds.

“We’ve not had to push to the maximum at any point, but it was a faultless drive in difficult conditions,” Latvala said. “After winning last year, I have now done it again in Corsica and it’s important for me to show I can be competitive on all surfaces.”

Evans managed to hold on to second place by 3.2 seconds to record his career-best finish, while Andreas Mikkelsen rounded out the podium in third place.

Although neither Ogier nor Kubica could finish in the points, both salvaged something from the weekend by coming first and second respectively in the power stage.

The WRC returns in three weeks’ time for Rally de Catalunya in Spain, which is the penultimate round of the 2015 season.