STATESVILLE, N.C. — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — NASCAR photo —
With an unimaginable amount of grace and poise through the greatest of heartaches, Judy Allison — the wife of 1983 NASCAR premier series champion and 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Allison for 55 years — stood as one of NASCAR’s strongest figures in the garage area for close to five decades.
Now, sadly, her light has been lost to the racing world.
The Allison family announced Friday night that their matriarch has died following complications from surgery, at the age of 74.
“The Allison Family is sad to announce the passing of Judy A. Allison, age 74, after complications from surgery earlier today at Iredell Memorial Hospital in Statesville,” the family said in a statement. “Bobby Allison, NASCAR Hall of Fame driver, and Judy were married for 55 years. She was surrounded by her family, daughters Bonnie Farr and Carrie Hewitt, grandson Robbie Allison, brother-in-law Donnie Allison and his wife, Pat.”
“At this time, funeral and memorial arrangements are pending and will be announced when finalized. The family members ask for privacy during this difficult and sad time.”
Judy Allison was the oft-unseen rock behind the legend that was Bobby Allison as he notched a NASCAR Winston Cup Series title in 1983 and 84 career premier series victories in a nearly 25-year driving career that spanned from 1965 to 1988.
She was also a staunch supporter of those working off the track in NASCAR as well, often inviting members of the media to share in a meal with her during races at the family’s hometrack, Talladega Superspeedway — where Bobby and several of his closest friends built the legend of the ‘Alabama Gang’ — as recalled by numerous local and national outlets in the hours following her passing.
Amidst all the good she did for others, however, Judy Allison suffered extreme heartache at the hands of the sport that she and her family loved so much.
At Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in 1988, on the opening lap of the Miller High Life 500, she watched helplessly as Bobby cut down a tire and spun in turn two (the Tunnel Turn) before being T-boned on the driver’s side by journeyman Jocko Maggiacomo. While he was not expected to last the night despite an emergency tracheotomy — performed at the accident scene — that aided his condition, Bobby fought tooth-and-nail to recover, all the while with Judy at his side.
Then as Bobby was climbing back from his injuries and all seemed to be righting itself in the Allison’s world again, a second blow was dealt on Aug. 13, 1992. This time it was Judy’s younger son Clifford, involved in a NASCAR Busch (now XFINITY) Series practice crash at the Michigan International Speedway. Tragically, he would not walk away, leaving a mother to bury her 28-year-old son.
The devastation was not over, yet, however. On July 12, 1993, in the midst of a season where her eldest son Davey was poised to perhaps capture the NASCAR Winston Cup Series crown, a helicopter carrying Davey and fellow Alabama Gang member Red Farmer crashed in the infield at Talladega and left Davey with head injuries he would succumb to the next day, exactly 11 months after his younger brother’s death.
In a span of just over five years, Judy Allison nearly had to bury her husband and endured the deaths of both her sons. And yet, through it all, she held her family together with unfathomable determination. While she and Bobby separated in 1996, they remarried in 2000 after aiding another legendary NASCAR family, the Pettys, following the death of fourth-generation star Adam in May of that year.
As many who knew her better than I have said of her over the years, that was simply who Judy Allison was. No matter the lot she was cast, she knew there was always someone else suffering as well, and she was there to aid them just as so many were for her and her family during their own time of suffering.
And now, the NASCAR family joins together to grieve with the Allisons during this time of suffering as well. The sanctioning body released a statement late on Friday as the news made waves across the sport.
“NASCAR extends its condolences to the friends and family of Judy Allison, the wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison. Judy, the matriarch of a cornerstone NASCAR family, provided the foundation for the careers of a legendary husband and two sons who both lost their lives entirely too soon. Her love extended well beyond her own family, as many in the NASCAR family leaned upon Judy for support and compassion during many difficult times.”
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of a true friend, and a woman who has given much to our sport.”
Not only did Judy Allison give much to the sport of NASCAR, she also gave much back into the family that loved her. One of the most well-known examples of her love and support in recent years was to grandson Robbie, Davey’s son, who has followed his family’s heritage into the sport of auto racing in recent years.
The 24-year-old had a special message for his grandmother late on Friday.
“Anyone who knows me knows she was my special girl,” the third-generation Allison wrote on Twitter. “I’ll never forget our beautiful moments together.”
And while there may have been just as many tragic moments as beautiful ones across Judy Allison’s noble tenure, one thing is certain, there is simply no one who could have endured and pushed through them with as much composure and grace as she.
And it is those imprints that have left a lasting legacy on all those she touched.
The staff at Race Chaser Online and the Performance Motorsports Network send their heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Judy Allison during this difficult time.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network. Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 21-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for both the United Sprint Car Series and the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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