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
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