Visit with Bobby Allison helps Bonnett cope with his grief AUTO RACING

July 17, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

LONG POND, Pa. -- Neil Bonnett wasn't going to come to this weekend's Miller Genuine Draft 500 at Pocono.

He didn't want to do anything but sit in his back yard by his swimming pool -- a pool he had seen all of two hours in the 10 years he had owned it -- until Tuesday. Suddenly he couldn't seem to leave it.

Bonnett is the man who tried to rescue Davey Allison from his crashed helicopter on Monday. Yesterday, he said it was the worst experience of his life.

"I almost couldn't cope with it," said Bonnett, who has not driven a race car since 1990, but will next week at Talladega, Ala. "It really knocked me for a loop because I couldn't do anything. I couldn't help him and I felt so helpless."

Bonnett was the one who called Bobby Allison to tell him his son was critically injured in the crash; Davey Allison had been flying to Talladega to watch Bonnett's son test a car.

"I apologized to Bobby and Judy for not being able to do more," said Bonnett. "And then I went home and sat beside the pool and tried to understand what had happened."

Wednesday evening, Bobby Allison invited Bonnett to his house.

"He told me he knew I had a lot of business deals coming up . . . and he told me not to cancel any of them.

"I was totally amazed. There he was, in more pain than any of us can imagine, and he took time to worry about me and give me peace of mind.

"He told me he knew I was suffering, too, but that the only way to get over it was to go on and live my life."

Bonnett talked about the 1988 accident that left Bobby Allison with long-term memory and equilibrium problems.

"A lot of people need to be in the shape Bobby is in," said Bonnett. "Few people have his strength or his compassion."

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