DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — On Valentine's Day, it would be difficult to know who got the nicest present, Judy Allison or Lynda Petty.
Judy watched her husband, Bobby, and son, Davey, finish nose-to-tail in the most competitive Daytona 500 in history Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, climaxing a week in which 50-year-old Bobby won three races and $249,250. Davey won $113,760.
Lynda watched her husband, Richard, another 50-year-old, walk out of a hospital without injury an hour after a frightening accident in which his car spun violently six times along the wall and then was T-boned by another car as it sat in the middle of the front straightaway.
"Richard's fine," Lynda said from the hospital before the race was over. "We're going home tonight, like always. I know the good Lord sometimes just looks out for you."
The Bobby-Davey show was the first time a father and son ever finished one-two in a major 500-mile race and the first time since 1960 when father Lee Petty beat son Richard at Pittsburgh that it had happened in a NASCAR Winston Cup-type race.
"As long as Bobby was ahead, I was rooting for him," Judy said. "If Davey had been leading, maybe it would have been the other way around. It was a wonderful feeling, though, to watch the finish."
Bobby was driving a Buick Regal owned by the Stavola brothers, Bill and Mickey, of Kingston, N. J. Davey was in a Ford owned by Harry Rainier of Charlotte, N.C., and J.T. Lundy of Lexington, Ky., owner of the Calumet Farms thoroughbred stable.
It was Allison's third Daytona 500 win. He also won in 1978 and 1981. Earlier in the week, Bobby won a Twin 125-mile qualifying heat race on Thursday and the Goody's 300 for Grand National cars on Saturday to become the first driver to win all three races in the same year.
The three wins in four days gave Allison 16 at Daytona, more than any other driver in history. He shared the record at 15 for a day with Cale Yarborough.
After the Allisons came Phil Parsons in third place in an Oldsmobile for the highest finish of his Winston Cup career. The Alabama Gang, as Bobby Allison calls his group from Hueytown, made it three out of the top four when Neil Bonnett finished fourth. Bonnett was making his first start since breaking his leg last October at Charlotte.
Davey, 26, last year's Winston Cup rookie of the year, came close to missing the race after a late practice crash Saturday afternoon. The Rainier-Lundy crew worked all night repairing damage to the frame, suspension and right-side sheet metal.
"I had total confidence in my crew and right up to the last few hundred yards I felt I could win the race," Davey said. "I had always dreamed, ever since I was a little kid, of getting into a situation like this with my dad, but in the dreams I always won and my dad was always second."
Father took the lead with 18 laps remaining, followed by Davey, Buddy Baker, Phil Parsons and Labonte in a five-car train. After a caution flag on lap 188, the freight train grew to 13 cars, all chasing the elder Allison. Baker made the first challenge, passing Davey and taking a shot at Bobby. This proved fatal for big Buddy, as no one moved out to help him with the draft and before he realized his mistake, he was back in eighth place.
The Baker lesson was not lost on the challengers. No one tried to pass Allison's gold colored Buick until son Davey pulled alongside him on the final turn of the race.
"I knew he was strongest up high, so I knew my only chance was to try to pull up with him on the low side and try to beat him to the finish line by a couple of inches," Davey said. "But he was just too tough. I couldn't move any sooner because I had to protect second place. I saw what happened to Baker."
Bobby, listening as his son described the final lap, asked, "Would you have really passed me if you could?"
Davey didn't hesitate: "Without a doubt."
"It was a really good feeling being in front and looking back and seeing my own son, thinking he's the best young driver I know coming up," Bobby said. "It was just a very special feeling, something that's hard to put into words."
On a cool, cloudy Sunday, an estimated 140,000 spectators watched a remarkable display of driving talent as 12 drivers swapped the lead 26 times in 200 laps and completely dispelled the fear that NASCAR's one-inch carburetor restrictor plate had made passing nearly impossible. A record 17 cars were on the same lap when Allison took the checkered flag and there were 31 of the 42 starters still running.
From the moment at the start when Bobby Allison, Davey Allison and Darrell Waltrip charged past pole-sitter Ken Schrader, until the moment 3 hours 38 minutes later when Bobby Allison withstood a last turn challenge from his son, the 500 miles was a series of side-by-side challenges. Statistics do not do justice to the tightness of the race as cars often changed positions three or four times a lap.