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Talladega crash a scary echo of Allison's in 1987 race

- The Associated Press
Monday, Apr. 27, 2009

TALLADEGA, Ala. - Bobby Allison left Talladega Superspeedway before Carl Edwards' car hurled into the safety fence and showered the stands with debris.

Allison listened to the scary and spectacular ending on the radio, then caught replays of the crash Monday morning — a scene that looked eerily familiar. It was Allison's twisting, airborne spin in 1987 that led to restrictor plates the following year at Talladega.

The driver responsible for the change, designed to slow down the cars, doesn't agree with Edwards that NASCAR needs to adjust the rules again to prevent a death at that track.

"In modern entertainment there's a risk, but the risk is part of the attraction," Allison said by phone on Monday.

Like Edwards' last-lap accident on Sunday, Allison's car also went airborne, collided into the steel-cable fence and scattered debris into the crowd. Allison was running over 200 mph when his crash happened.

Edwards said he hoped his own accident, which sent his car flying around like the tractor in the movie "Twister," will make NASCAR consider rules to make the racing at Talladega safer.

"We'll race like this until we kill somebody," Edwards said Sunday, "then (NASCAR) will change it."

Allison, who lives in Mooresville, N.C., called that an overstatement.

"Well, it's scary, but it's exciting for the fans. It always has been," Allison said. "Part of the attraction of Talladega is the potential for danger."

Allison should know that as well as any driver. He didn't even have to catch the replay to know what Edwards experienced.

"It was pretty spectacular, but it was nothing compared to what I did," Allison said. "My wreck was way bigger, way more guard rail, way more cars involved."

Allison was running fourth on the 21st lap in 1987 when he sliced a rear tire.

Allison's car slid sideways, became airborne and went tail-first high onto the steel-cable catch-fence at the front of the grandstand near the finish line, tearing a 150-foot hole in it and scattering debris into the crowd.

He was able to walk away and the race was red-flagged while the broken fence and steel cables were replaced. Some fans sustained minor injuries, just like in Edwards' accident.

Allison's son, Davey, won the 1987 race and the two hugged in Victory Lane. Davey Allison died in 1993 when his helicopter crashed into a track infield.

Restrictor plates are used at Daytona and Talladega to combat the high speeds at NASCAR's two fastest tracks. The plates typically keep the field bunched tightly together, and fans usually see cars racing three- or four-wide. All it takes is one mistake to lead to massive pileups dubbed "The Big One."

Allison had no suggestions about how to make Talladega safer for fans and drivers. He said all parties understand the risks at one of the sport's most dangerous tracks.

"It's as safe as we see modern entertainment," Allison said. "If you're at a hockey game and the hockey puck comes into the grandstands and hits you in the head and kills you, it's not safe. If you're at the football game and the football hits you in the head and kills you, you're not safe. If you're at a baseball game and the baseball hits you and kills you, you're not safe."