They were called the “Alabama Gang.”
The elder statesman was Red Farmer. Then came Bobby and Donnie Allison. And Neil Bonnett and then Davey Allison joined the mix.
The last one to be a part of this unofficial band of race drivers was Hut Stricklin.
“There wasn’t an initiation or anything,” said Stricklin, 52. “You just had to be from Alabama. People just threw me in with that group.”
As part of the clan, he made seven starts in the Brickyard 400 before hanging up his helmet in 2002.
His venture to the inaugural race at Indianapolis was meaningful.
“I was just basically in awe of the place,” he said of his first trip to Indy. “How big it was, the history, the amount of grandstands. My first lap around the track, I couldn’t believe the number of grandstands. On Race Day, when the stands filled up, I get cold chills just thinking about it.”
He’s retired but still has thoughts of driving.
“All the time,” he said. “I miss the driving part of it. As far as the hustle and bustle and pressures they deal with now, it kind of changes my mind, though.”
His best finish at the Brickyard was 14th in 2000, but he missed only five laps of competition over his last six starts.
“It was a huge step for NASCAR to run Indy,” Stricklin said. “It brought more fans to an already famous sport when we got to Indy. The sport was just about at its peak – then Indy added to that.”
Stricklin had thoughts during his career about running the Indianapolis 500.
“I would always have done that one time,” he said, “but I’m sure my wife would have something to say about it. The speeds are a big thrill for a driver.”
Concentration was the big item for Stricklin when driving a Cup car at Indy.
“It was different with four corners, far different than I ever ran, for sure,” he said. “Every corner seemed like it was different, how you had to enter, how you had to exit. If you did everything perfect, you had a good lap. It’s one of the few places that I came on the radio and told the spotters to hold up giving me lap times because it takes so much concentration.”
Today, Stricklin owns an auto salvage yard in Cleveland, N.C.
“I quit driving in 2002 and opened this in 2004,” he said. “We have an automobile service center inside it. We started out as a salvage yard, then got into scrap metals, and that got us into another automotive thing.”
His only tie with racing today is acting as crew chief for his son, Taylor, who’s running NASCAR late models. He hasn’t been back to Indy.
“We’ve been thinking about going to a race,” he said. “I have friends in Indy – a couple guys with the police. We used to stay with them when we’d come up. We’ve been wanting to come back for the Brickyard.”