Davey Allison headed to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Sept. 6, 1992, with an opportunity to win the Winston Million bonus.
In 1985, Bill Elliott surprised the motorsports world by claiming the inaugural Winston Million presented by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. for winning three of NASCAR’s biggest events. He won the 1985 Daytona 500, the Winston 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and the Southern 500.
A brake failure during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway kept Elliott from winning all four races in the bonus program.
The 1992 version of the Winston Million saw Allison drive the Robert Yates Racing Ford to victories in the Daytona 500 and the Winston 500 at Talladega, but he failed to win at Charlotte. If he could win the Southern 500 at Darlington, Allison would receive the prestigious $1 million bonus.
As race day dawned at Darlington, a typical southern Labor Day forecast was in the works with a strong chance of thunderstorms. Allison started sixth in the 43-car field and led five times for 75 of 298 laps.
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Larry McReynolds, Allison’s crew chief that day, remembers how strong their Ford was on the track’s narrow, high-banked turns.
“We went to Darlington with a lot of confidence that we could win,” McReynolds said. “Davey had gotten to the point where he could really get around the place very well. It was a car we built during the summer. We put a lot of downforce into it and it ran great everywhere we went.”
As predicted, rain played a huge role in the outcome. McReynolds tells the unique story of how a major miscommunication brought Allison to the pits as inclement weather was fast approaching. With ominous clouds moving in over turns one and two, McReynolds had to make the call and told Allison to pit.
“We didn’t have any weather radar equipment with the team whatsoever at the time,” McReynolds said. “We could only watch the sky or either go by NASCAR’s radar screen at their transporter. There was nothing else to go by in those days.
“We were leading after a long green flag run,” he continued. “Some drivers were starting to hit pit road to change four tires. That meant they were running two or three seconds faster than the old tires we had on our car. We were closing in on our fuel window.”
McReynolds had to decide whether to leave Allison on the track or pit for fresh rubber.