"We took the green flag, made the first lap at speed and"—Waltrip's eyes suddenly change from fiery to misty—"there he was. Sitting there. Wrecked." Allison's car had spun sideways because of a flat tire and had been T-boned on the driver's side by the car of Jocko Maggiacomo.
Waltrip throws up his hands. "I know how Bobby feels," he says. "Doesn't matter. Bobby Allison is the only man in all of racing I can walk up to and just start crying. It breaks my heart, knowing what's trapped inside that body. A man of tremendous pride. A great competitor. A leader. An innovator. I have a great deal of admiration for him. And a great deal of compassion. My emotions for him run the gamut."
Allison cannot remember his intentions as the Pocono race started, but he doubts he was gunning for Waltrip. "Never in my career did I allow myself to carry a problem from one track to another," he says. "If I didn't take care of the situation then and there, to have waited until the next race to retaliate...would have been wrong."
His most notorious instance of taking care of business on the spot was with Yarborough at Daytona in 79. Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecked while dueling for the lead on the final lap. They got out of their cars and argued but didn't fight. "Then Bobby drove up," Donnie recalls. "It is partly true that Bobby stopped to see if I was O.K. But if you could open up Bobby's head and look inside, you'd see that what was really on his mind was the first wreck that day," a less serious one that had involved all three men.
Moments after the race ended, "I was sitting in my car, strapped in," Bobby says. "Gale came over and hit me in the face with his helmet. I saw blood dripping down on my uniform. And I thought, If I don't take care of this right now, I'll be running from Cale Yarborough the rest of my life."
"How Bobby got out of that car that fast I'll never know," says Donnie. "But I knew what was going to happen. I'd seen that look on Bobby's face before. Bobby beat the s—out of him. Hit him about three good times right in the face. Cale tried to kick him, and Bobby grabbed his foot and turned him upside down." At that point officials broke them up.
"Cale never challenged me again," says Bobby contentedly. But Donnie and Yarborough wrecked again in the next race, at Rockingham. Controversy swirled around Donnie for the rest of the season, and he never got another competitive ride. In 1981, driving a mediocre car at Charlotte, he was broadsided and suffered a life-threatening head injury. "For all practical purposes," Donnie says, "that ended my career."
Bobby didn't stop his car at the wreck scene at Charlotte that day—indeed, he went on to win the race. "If I could have done something constructive, I'd have been there," he says. "But I didn't belong."
At Pocono in '88, Davey followed family tradition, racing on after Bobby's crash even though his father might be dying or already dead. "I had watched how he handled it with Donnie in '81," Davey later recalled.
Davey had absorbed his father's toughness since childhood—at times from a distance. "I coached both of Bobby's boys in little league football," says Donnie. "He didn't. Oh, he might show up for a game once in a while."