30/7/1946 - 11/2/1994
NASCAR driver who compiled 18 victories and 20 poles over his 18-year career. Neil Bonnett began his NASCAR career as a protÃ©gÃ© of the great Bobby Allison, working on the team's cars. He later became part of the famous "Alabama Gang" that included himself, Red Farmer and the Allison family: father Bobby, brother Donnie and son Davey. He began driving in NASCAR in 1974 and earned his first victory in 1977 at the Capital City 400 in Richmond, Virginia. He later successfully won back-to-back World 600s (NASCAR's longest race, now the Coca-Cola 600) and back-to-back Busch Clash (now Bud Shootout) victories. In 1984, Bonnett joined the powerful Junior Johnson team, becoming teammates with Darrell Waltrip, second among active drivers in career wins. In 1985, Bonnett had one of his best seasons, finishing fourth in the points standings while Waltrip went on win the championship. On September 2, 1990, Neil Bonnett suffered a life-threatening crash during the Southern 500 at Darlington, South Carolina. Left with amnesia and dizziness, Bonnett retired from racing and turned to television, becoming a race commentator for TNN and hosting the TV show Winners for TNN. However, Bonnett still desired to continue racing. In 1992, he began testing cars for a good friend, Dale Earnhardt and Bonnett eventually ran for Earnhardt's team in the 1993 DieHard 500. Bonnett secured a ride for six races in the 1994 season, but never raced one of them. On February 11, 1994, during the first practice session of the 1994 Daytona 500, he died in a crash. The crash ocurred when Bonnett dropped below the apron of the track and lost control, veering to the right causing almost a head-on hit. In an eerie twist of fate, Dale Earnhardt would die in an identical accident, in the same place on the track. Since then, NASCAR has mandated that no car may drop below the apron at Daytona, and at Talladega Superspeedway.