In the 75 years of the NASCAR Cup Series, there is just one race without an official winner.
Bobby Allison took the checkered flag first in the 1971 Myers Brothers 250 at Bowman Gray Stadium on Aug. 6, 1971. But the NASCAR Hall of Famer was never credited with the win.
If you look at Racing Reference’s page on Allison, he is credited with 84 career Cup wins. It says he had 10 wins in the 1971 season. But if you open up the page on that season, you can count 11 times he finished first that year.
So why doesn’t NASCAR count the race as a win for Allison? There was no scoring dispute despite them being quite common at the time. Allison was not black flagged, and his Ford Mustang passed post-race inspection. There have been cars that won races in way shadier conditions where the team got to keep the race win.
The problem started because NASCAR fielded a Grand American series from 1968-71, which was a circuit just for pony cars such as Allison’s Mustang. When the Cup field was on the light side, NASCAR would fill the field by having a combination race.
So while the Mustang usually wouldn’t be allowed in a Cup race, it was in these combination races, and this Bowman Gray race was one of them. Petty’s Plymouth was the first finisher of the Cup-allowed cars, so it would make sense to give him credit for the victory and set his career total at 201 wins. But that never happened either.
Plus giving Petty that win would open a whole other can of worms because of Tiny Lund. Lund won two of those combination races in a Chevrolet Camaro, another car used in the Grand American tour and not Cup. So if Petty were credited with the Bowman Gray win, two of Lund’s five career Cup wins should be taken away and given to the second-place finisher in those two combination races: Elmo Langley in a Ford at Hickory Speedway and Charlie Glotzbach in a Chevy at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
I can’t imagine NASCAR taking the wins away from Lund, and it quite honestly wouldn’t be right to do so more than 50 years after the wins and after his passing in 1975.
But why do those wins in Grand American cars count for Lund but not for Allison? I could understand if they happened in different years and the rules were different then, but they literally happened the same season.
I get it, the debate to give Allison his 85th win has been ongoing ever since the race happened 52 years ago. But the issue was brought to light again when the X (formerly Twitter) account @BobbyWon85 posted on Nov. 4 that they asked NASCAR President Steve Phelps and COO Steve O’Donnell about crediting Allison with the Bowman Gray win.
“Tonight I talked to both Steve O’Donnell and @stevephelps from @NASCAR about recognizing Bobby Allison’s 85th win,” @BobbyWon85 wrote. “O’Donnell sent himself an email and said they would discuss in the offseason. Phelps was less committed, and said, ‘That happened a long time ago.’”
You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, especially on X. And we don’t even know who runs that account, so we don’t even know if those conversations actually took place. Those responses feel real to me, though, so let’s continue as if they’re accurate.
O’Donnell’s response was the correct one, and I hope he and his team really do look into it over the offseason.
Phelps’ response, on the other hand, is wrong on so many levels.
Saying “that happened a long time ago” is the response you’d expect from a frat bro as an excuse not to learn in his history class, not the president of the biggest motorsports brand in the country.
I can’t find Phelps’ exact age, but according to ESPN, he is 60 or 61 years old. So his birth took place more than eight years before the Myers Brothers 250, so I guess that makes him something “that happened a long time ago” too and should likewise be ignored.
Who cares that the race took place 52 years ago? As the @BobbyWon85 account said in the replies, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.”
Plus, if I were president of a sports league, I certainly would want to do the best of my abilities to make sure that all of the records were complete. As long as one Cup race doesn’t have a winner, NASCAR’s record book is incomplete.
Giving Allison an 85th career win would break his tie for fourth on the all-time Cup wins list with Darrell Waltrip. It’s a huge deal to be in the top 10 on the all-time wins list, and we’ve seen legends like Rusty Wallace and Lee Petty fall out of that list in recent years. As active drivers like Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson as well as those who come after them move up the all-time wins list, Allison’s spot would be that much safer with an 85th win and sole possession of his spot.
NASCAR can’t forget about its history and its legends, especially one like Allison who poured everything he had into the sport. Aside from his Hall of Fame driving career, he owned a team, won the Most Popular Driver award seven times, lost a part of his memory and nearly died in a career-ending crash and lost two sons who were competing in NASCAR. Despite the tragedies and despite being 85 years old and barely being able to walk, Allison still comes to several NASCAR races and is a great spokesman for the series.
Just four years ago, I saw Allison at the now-defunct Southside Speedway near Richmond, Va. He came all that way to a tiny, struggling short track just to meet fans, take pictures with them and sign autographs. What a great ambassador and legend.
If not for Allison’s fight with Cale Yarborough after the 1979 Daytona 500, the first Daytona 500 that was televised flag-to-flag, NASCAR may never have experienced the boom in popularity that followed. He was a star in NASCAR when it mattered the most, and he sure deserves that 85th win.
So do the right thing, NASCAR. Myself and many others demand justice for Allison. We don’t know how much longer he’ll be around, so can you please do it while we still have him? Give him his 85th career win.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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