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ALLISON’S DEATH MARKS END OF RACING’S ALABAMA GANG

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It won't seem right: a NASCAR race without an Allison on the track.

The death of Davey Allison completed the reign of one of racing's great families, and snuffed out the last remaining star of the Alabama Gang that once was a dominant force on the Winston Cup circuit."It's the end of a great era of Allison race drivers and a terribly tragic end," H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president of Charlotte Motor Speedway and a longtime family friend, said Tuesday after Allison died at a Birmingham hospital. One day earlier, his helicopter crashed while he was trying to land at Talladega Superspeedway.

Allison, 32, was a second-generation member of the Alabama Gang, an earthy group which posted hundreds of victories but never seemed to forget its roots in Hueytown, Ala. There was Bobby Allison, who ranks third all-time on the Winston Cup list with 84 victories; Donnie Allison, who won 10 races; veteran racer Red Farmer, who won his first race in 1949 and has more than 700 victories on various circuits; and Neil Bonnett from nearby Bessemer, who joined later and went on to win 18 races.

"It's just amazing that all of them gathered there in Hueytown," said Bill Lumpkin, longtime sports editor of the Birmingham Post-Herald. "Everybody knew 'em. You never thought about them being superstars because they were so down to earth."

Davey was a worthy successor to the Allison legacy, winning 19 races and more than $6 million including three of Winston Cup's "Big Four" - the Daytona 500, Winston 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

But for all their success of the track, the fates kept finding a way to even things out. Serious wrecks forced Donnie and Bobby to retire from Winston Cup racing. Bonnett hasn't competed since a 1990 wreck at Darlington, though he is planning a comeback July 25 in the Die-Hard 500 at Talladega. Farmer was a passenger in Davey's helicopter and lays in a Birmingham hospital with serious injuries.

Bobby nearly died in a 1988 wreck at Long Pond, Pa., and has endured a long, painful recovery that still is not complete. His 27-year-old son Clifford was killed in a practice wreck at Michigan last year. And now there's another son to bury on Thursday.