The segment that TNT did last Sunday on Davey Allison brought some memories flooding back.
I met Davey’s dad while flagging for ARCA and then ASA and, just like everybody else, I really liked Bobby.
I recall his description of the high-banked half-mile at Winchester, Ind. the first time he ran there. He had run Salem before, but Winchester is a little narrower, with maybe a bit sharper radius to the turns.
“This place is like going down an alley at 120 miles an hour and turning left by going up on the side of a building,” he said.
Another time at Milwaukee, Bobby’s short-track roots showed through when everybody tried to jump a start in a qualifying race. I didn’t go green because there was a staggered front row of five cars, then a staggered second row of about four when they got to the line where I would usually let ’em go.
I walked over in the pit area, and Bobby laughed and said, “Hey, Potts, what was wrong with that? That would have been a great start at Hialeah.”
Then there was the time I was chauffeuring him around before a Busch race at IRP (now O’Reilly Raceway Park) and he let it slip that I was the guy that had blackflagged him for throwing water at Louisville while he was leading about five years earlier. He asked how bad it was, and I said when I had to clean my glasses off after every lap, I’d had enough.
Last Sunday, it was great to see and hear Bobby and Judy commenting on Davey, as well as Red Farmer, Robert Yates and Larry McReynolds.
We’ve all heard the stories about how Bobby had him cleaning the garage, making him work on other cars and wait until quitting time for everybody else before he could work on his own vehicles. I respected Bobby for that, and Davey for understanding why he did it.
Davey was running some ARCA races when I met him, and he ran our Busch race a couple of times. The second time, during the autograph session he was sitting next to Dale Sr. when Red came up and told me Davey had drawn a 3 in the qualifying order. I asked about Dale, and Red told me what he had drawn.
I said, “Davey, you better head for the car, you drew a 3 for qualifying.” When Dale got up with him, I said, “Sit back down, Earnhardt, you got a 27.”
I don’t know how to explain the look I got from Dale, but let’s just say I was glad I was not driving in that race.
I was also glad that we had become friends before that.
The last time I saw Davey was when Bobby was driving in that FastMasters series we had with the Jaguars. Davey flew in and got there just before the heat race Bobby was in. They were introducing drivers when one of our crew sent him through the pedestrian tunnel and told him to look for me at the other end.
“Hey, Potts, where’s Dad?”
I told him Bobby was over at the start/finish line talking to Paul Newman.
That was the same year Davey had the accident with the helicopter that took his life.
We had a sprint car or midget race, one of those “Thunder” races, scheduled on ESPN that week. Somebody on our Event Services team said it would be fitting to do something for everyone to remember Davey.
I went back to the office and made up a couple of sheets of 28s on label paper. Fitting two 28s on a label I got four dozen to a page. Then I went around to all of our people – ticket sellers, ticket takers, parkers, everybody.
We had these hard-card style employee badges, and EVERYBODY wanted one to put on their badge. The black 28 on white paper really stood out.
I had to go back and print another sheet.
Then somebody from Lingner Group Productions, the people who handled the TV work in Indianapolis for ESPN, saw mine and wanted to know where I got it. I told him I made it. He said he wanted one, and the three guys with him wanted one, too.
“I think everybody we’ve got is gonna want one of those, John.”
Back to the office, I fired up the printer.
I used a whole pack of label paper, and before it was over even the on-air talent had stuck one of those things on their blazers. They mentioned it in their pre-race standup, saying everybody was wearing 28 stickers in memory of Davey Allison.
When I went down to the top of the hill outside of the first turn for the start of the racing, I had two complete sheets and one partial left on the golf cart with me.
The people in the crowd down there had seen that even the cameramen were wearing them, and one of those guys had informed them who they got them from. And most of the people in that crowd knew who I was.
More than 100 of those stickers lasted about three minutes.
The whole thing may have made me proud if it hadn’t been for the reason for those stickers.