From the Stock Car Hall of Fame
An original member of the "Alabama
Gang" along with
his great friends Bobby, Donnie and Davey Allison and Red
Neil Bonnett logged over 360 starts in NASCAR Winston Cup Series races
enjoying 18 victories, 83 Top 5 finishes, and 156 top 10 finishes.
Among Neil Bonnett's greatest
victories were wins at the 1979 Daytona Firecracker 400, the 1980
Talladega 500, and the 1981 Southern 500. Bonnett also celebrated many
Winston Cup victories at Atlanta, Pocono, Charlotte, Richmond and others.
After a career postponing crash,
Bonnett launched a highly successful broadcasting career from 1990
through 1994 as an analyst and as host of his own very successful weekly
show about auto racing entitled, "Winners."
Bonnet drove for such legendary
teams and car owners as Junior Johnson, the Wood's Brothers,
Hyde, Richard Childress, Jim Stacy, and Rah Moc in everything from
Fords and Mercurys to Chevrolets and Pontiacs earning over $3.3 million
dollars in prize money.
Bonnet enjoyed his family, racing,
and hunting and fishing. Neil Bonnett has been sorely missed by his
family, friends, and fans since a fatal testing crash at Daytona in
Neil Bonnett, NASCAR legend and
original member of the storied "Alabama Gang" joins the Oceanside Rotary
Club Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame February 14, 2005.
does a racer manage to combine aggressive driving and genuine popularity
the way Neil Bonnett did. Neil enjoyed being referred to as "a charger",
but even more than that, he enjoyed the friendship and respect that he
was accorded in every garage or pit area he ever went into.
Neil Bonnett's career began as a
Hueytown teenager who was considered a protégé to Bobby Allison, and
grew until he was an accepted member of the famed "Alabama Gang" of auto
Bonnett began his move to the big
time in 1973 at Daytona, in the Sportsman 300. He ran his first Daytona
500 in 1976, starting 13th and finishing fifth. In 13 Winston Cup races
that season, Bonnett had that top-five finish and four more top-ten
finishes, winning some $31,000. The 1977 season began a string of 13
consecutive years in which Bonnett would run no fewer than 21 races,
with 18 wins, 83 top-five and 156 top-ten finishes.
His first Winston Cup victory came in 1977, at the Capital City 400 in
Richmond, Virginia. His last was perhaps the most remarkable, when he
returned from a devastating crash in 1987 to win two of the first three
races of 1988. Bonnett finished fourth in the Daytona 500, then won at
Richmond and Rockingham. He also went to Australia and edged Bobby
Allison for the checkered flag in the Goodyear 500 K exhibition race in
It was a remarkable comeback of a
career over following the 1987 crash that eventually led to major hip
surgery. Doctors said Bonnett would miss a year, but Neil was back in
twelve weeks. Bonnett resumed racing full time in 1989.
raced five times in 1990 before suffering the crash at Darlington, South
Carolina, which left him with amnesia and dizziness. At that point
Bonnett turned his energies to other activities, from trying to field
his own NASCAR team to hosting a television show for TNN called
"Winners". Finally, in 1992, Bonnett began testing cars for good friend
and fellow NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, which led to a ride in
Earnhardt's second car for the 1993 DieHard 500. Neil crashed hard, but
escaped injury. However, the bug had bitten again, and Bonnett secured a
ride for six races in the 1994 season.
A crash at Daytona in the very
first practice session claimed his life, and the motorsports world again
mourned the loss of one of their favorites. He is survived by his wife,
Susan, and two children, David and Kristen.
Neil Bonnett, A Member Of The
Alabama Gang...and the first Class of Inductees into the
Talladega-Texaco Walk Of Fame.