He hates to think about it, but the memory won't leave him. Race legend Red Farmer, his 86th birthday soon to come, his 71st year in racing still going strong, just can't shake it. It was 25 years ago this Friday (July 13th, 1993) when Red lost the young man he considered his son.
Red Farmer didn't like helicopters - they made him nervous. But July 12th, 1993, his good friend Davey Allison urged him to join a flight over to the Talladega Superspeedway to watch some testing. Red was still wary as he and Davey finished lunch at the Iceberg Restaurant in Hueytown, but Davey's wry smile, his confidence, his persistence led Red into the helicopter.
The landing area was plenty big enough - in fact, there was enough to land two choppers just outside the media center at the Talladega Superspeedway infield. But just as the chopper was feet from touch down, something popped. The chopper whirled sideways and Red hung on tight. Davey did his best to control an out-of-control helicopter. A nightmare was about to come true. The helicopter crashed onto its side, the motor running at full throttle. Davey and Red were taken to Birmingham. The next day, July 13, 1993, Davey was gone.
Red Farmer was 61 the day he lost his good friend. Today he's 86 and living alone, three years after his wife Joan passed. Red is as busy as ever these days and he likes it that way. It keeps him young. It keeps his mind off his hardships. When he shows you around his Hueytown house (which is basically a racing museum what with hundreds of racing trophies), Red is quick with a story about Davey. Or Bobby. Or Ralph Earnhardt. Yet his mind drifts back to Davey, a young man who he insists would have challenged the win totals of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson if he had lived.
Red doesn't talk much about July 13, 1993, and while he did open up in my interview, I'm making a call out of respect for Davey. Rather than editing a dramatic, gloomy piece on a crash that took our friend's life, I've instead edited Red's comments about what made Davey different, special, and talented.
I remember July 13, 1993. I walked into my news director's office and sat on the floor, my head buried. She asked me if I was up for continuing to report the news about Davey's death. I said "yes", took a deep breath and tried my best to move on. What I reported was a blur - what I felt was not enjoyable. While I can't reach deep into Red's heart to describe exactly how he feels 25 years later, I can relate, if for a bit. Like Red and like you, I miss Davey. It just hurts a bit more this week.