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Davey has shed "Bobby's little boy' tag

Ask a father, and he will tell you he is never prouder of his son than when the boy surpasses him.

Ask the son of a famous father, and he will tell you there is no greater burden than his last name.

For most of his 30 years, Davey Allison lived and drove in Bobby Allison's shadow. Never was that more apparent than in 1988, when the son, try as he might, just couldn't catch the father as they barreled toward the Daytona 500 checkered flag. By the length of his car, the sire held off his scion.

It was Bobby's third Daytona 500 victory. It was his last Winston Cup victory.

And Davey, despite finishing second, said at the time it was his greatest race.

It was only a matter of time before Bobby, no longer a driver but a car owner, would be able to stand out of the spotlight, far from Victory Lane and say, "That's my boy."

On Sunday, the torch was passed.

Time was, Davey was Bobby's little boy.

"Now," Bobby said, "I think more and more people are looking at me and thinking, "There's Davey's dad.'

"I feel like I'm sitting beside the best youngster there is. I keep thinking about all the fathers around the country that would like to be able to feel this way about their son."

On Sunday, they sat side by side, Davey the champion and Bobby basking in the afterglow.

"It's hard to say this is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me 'cause that day was such a special day," Davey said, the futile chase to the checkered flag four years ago as fresh in his memory as Sunday's victory. "But as far as wins go, this is the best I've ever had.

"My dad's name, that's the greatest advantage a kid could ask for _ to learn the things I've learned from him at an early age, and then to race against him and learn from him on the race track."

There always will be comparisons, of course. Davey always will be Bobby's boy, just as Richard Petty always will be Lee's boy and Kyle Petty always will be Richard's.

Can the son ever live up to the image of the father? Does he have to?

"I don't want to be as good as my father; I want to be as good as Davey Allison can be," the son said. "If that's better than him or not as good, that doesn't matter. He doesn't measure himself by other people and I'm not going to measure myself by him."

Bobby's eyes misted over just a bit. Mixed in with the celebration of the present were memories of the past _ one of those The Times of Your Life scrapbook moments.

"I was just thinking about way back there, 30 years ago," Bobby said, "me and Judy going down the road in a little pickup truck with a race car in the trailer, little Davey sitting there in the middle of the seat in the middle of the night, making those race-car noises "And then him talking about wanting to race, and his mother saying he couldn't until he graduated from high school, and him going to summer school after his junior year so he could graduate early, in January "

The images were tumbling from his memory now, and none more vivid than a summer afternoon here in the early '60s.

Bobby, Judy and Davey _ he was about 3 then _ were staying at the Sea Dip Motel. Davey toddled out and proclaimed himself a swimmer. No, you're not, Bobby told him, ordering Davey to the shallow end of the pool. Davey promptly leaped into the deep end and sank to the bottom.

"I jumped in and hauled him out," Bobby said, "and pumped the water out of him and he coughed and sputtered and when he could finally say something, he said, "I can swim.'

" "Davey, you cannot swim.' "Oh, yes, I can.' And back in he went. And I jumped in and got him out again, shook him, threatened to spank him. "Davey, you cannot swim.' "Yes, I can, Daddy ' "

This went on a few more times. And then he didn't sink. He took a couple of strokes, kicked a few times. And swam.

"That boy," Bobby Allison said, "he's been determined all his life. Whatever he sets his mind to, he's going to do it."

Sunday, Davey did it. That determined boy finally caught his daddy at Daytona.