LONG POND, Pa. -- Davey Allison's championship chase may have come to an abrupt end yesterday when he suffered a broken arm, broken wrist, broken collarbone and other injuries in a terrifying accident with 51 laps to go in the Miller Genuine Draft 500.
The accident also left Allison's car owner, Robert Yates, blasting NASCAR for not controlling the speeds on the Winston Cup circuit.
Allison, the pole-sitter, dominated the first 350 miles of the race, but lost control of his Ford Thunderbird coming out of Turn 2 on Lap 149 at Pocono International Raceway, after making a sudden dive to the bottom of the racetrack to block eventual winner Darrell Waltrip.
Waltrip averaged 134.058 mph, covering the last 45 laps in his Chevrolet Lumina without a fuel stop to beat Harry Gant to the finish line by 1.31 seconds in a fuel-mileage duel. No one else could manage better than 41 laps without a stop. The win is Waltrip's first of the season.
The former three-time Winston Cup champion would have been hard-pressed to pull off this win, however, if Allison had not crashed.
Allison took the lead on the first lap and held a comfortable cushion all day until a slow pit stop during a caution period on Lap 141 put him back in the pack for the restart.
He was trying to battle to the front of the field from sixth place when he cut off Waltrip.
"He had been pushing me lower on the track to keep me behind him, which isn't unusual," Waltrip said. "But there was still enough room, so I went forward. It never occurred to me he'd just drop down there, and when he did, I had no place to go."
Waltrip's front end brushed the rear of Allison's car slightly, causing it to slide onto the grass. The rear end then became airborne, spinning at least five times on its nose, before the front end lifted.
The car then continued its tornado-like roll down the guardrail. It disintegrated, flinging engine parts, sheet metal and dirt.
Finally, the car spun 10 feet into the air and crashed upside-down near the infield in Turn 3.
The crash covered approximately 3,000 feet. It happened in the time it takes to pour a cup of coffee.
A Lehigh Valley Hospital spokesman in Allentown said last night that Allison broke both bones in his right forearm and fractured his right collarbone, and that he underwent surgery to repair a dislocated and fractured right wrist. Doctors inserted pins into Allison's wrist after finding extensive ligament damage. He also has a contusion above the left eye. A CT scan revealed no fluid on the brain. He was in stable condition.
With a broken arm, it is doubtful Allison will be able to get clearance from NASCAR physicians to start next week's race on the 2.5-mile high-banked superspeedway in Talladega, Ala. To earn Winston Cup points, a driver must start a race before giving way to a substitute driver. If Allison cannot start, he will lose up to 185 points in that one race alone.
This is Allison's fourth accident this season, and third serious one. He suffered rib and back injuries at Bristol, Tenn., April 5. Less than a month later, he again ruined his race car, and suffered cuts and bruises at Martinsville, Va., April 28.
Then came The Winston at Charlotte, N.C., in mid May. In that one, he and Kyle Petty got together just across the finish line, and Allison's car tumbled violently down the front stretch. He suffered a neck strain and concussion.
"I said after Charlotte, 'I don't know how much more of this getting beat up in the race car my little driver can take,' " said crew chief Larry McReynolds. "So far, we've killed four good race cars chasing this championship. We'll keep digging, but right now, we only want to be sure Davey is going to be all right."
Yesterday, Bill Elliott, who finished 13th here, took the points lead over Allison, who finished 33rd. Elliott leads, 2,340-2,331.
"I don't care about the championship," said Yates. "I only care about my driver."
Saturday evening, Yates had resumed complaining about the record speeds cars have been reaching at dangerous points on the tracks.
He pointed to the abundance of pole qualifying records [eight] this season. He pointed to Derrike Cope's accident in Dover, Del., in May. In that accident, Cope's car was moving with such force that it cracked the inside retaining wall and could have wound up smashing into pit road. And he pointed to Allison's accident in Bristol, where his car crashed coming out of Turn 4 and rode on top of the wall next to the grandstand before falling away.
His warning cries began after Michael Waltrip suffered a broken nose in an ugly qualifying accident at Michigan four weeks ago.
"I've been a voice in the wilderness," Yates said Saturday. "No one wants to listen to me. I hope it isn't my driver who has to pay the price."
After Allison's crash, coming off the same turn where his father, Bobby Allison, saw his racing career ended by a life-threatening 1988 crash, Yates couldn't hide his anger.
"We ought to be taking 100 horsepower out of these cars," he said. "We're going too damn fast. We're going to wind up in the grandstands, and then we'll all be out of business."
But Yates is still short of sympathizers. The running joke in the garage area is this: "Robert Yates builds a rocket ship and Davey is just brave enough to hold on."
Yesterday, Waltrip and Kyle Petty both saw Allison's accident develop. Waltrip blamed the grass along the backstretch, which caused the car to slide and lift to the point where wind got under it and sent it twirling.
Petty, who finished seventh, called it simply a racing accident.
"You can quote me on this," Petty said. "Robert Yates is full of it. Horsepower didn't cause that car to lift. Hell, we -- none of us out there -- could run with Davey all day long. Now they want to blame horsepower. He was simply hit the wrong way at the wrong place on a fast track. Pure and simple."