Thursday, September 5, 2013

At HMS, Allio takes his best shot


At HMS, Allio tries to take his best shot

Posted: Thursday, June 13, 2013 2:08 pm | Updated: 2:13 pm, Thu Jun 13, 2013.

BY TOM GILLISPIE Special to the Record

HICKORY, N.C. -- It’s almost ironic.

David Allio has been taking photographs at Hickory Motor Speedway off and on since 1976, but he says he took one of his best-ever HMS photos in 2012.

During a UARA-Stars race last August at Hickory, Jake Morris’s car got jammed between Sean Rayhall on the outside and David Garbo Jr. on the inside. The passenger’s side of Morris’s car rose high in the air, but there was no wreck, and all three drivers kept going and finished. Garbo wound up fifth, Morris eighth and Rayhall 16th.

All three cars were black, making the photo almost black and white in one of the more dramatic photos of Allio’s long career.

Allio’s other most memorable photo at HMS was of the finish between Tommy Houston and Harry Gant in a match race, probably in the ‘70s.

“The match race was so close that they waited a week so I could show who won that heat race,” said Allio, who adds that he doesn’t remember who won it.

“Tommy and Harry agreed to split the money,” Allio recalled. “One front bumper was on the front edge of the start-finish line, and the other bumper was on the back edge. It was one of the coolest photos I’ve taken.”

Allio, who grew up in the town of Wise in southwestern Virginia, says he started taking photos at short tracks for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the Winston Racing Series and NASCAR in the mid-1970s. Reynolds wanted to build its national short-track series, which features a total of 100 short tracks.

Hickory was one of the first tracks he photographed.

“I don’t know what’s so special at that track, but they can really race at that track,” Allio said. “It’s incredible to watch.”

He’s worked with various promoters at Hickory, including Hal Hamrick, the promoter in ‘76. In 2008, promoter Sherry Clifton invited Allio to do a workshop at HMS, and he taught other photographers about the art of stock-car photography.

“It was a good track to teach aspiring photographers,” Allio said. “Hickory has good lighting, and it gave us examples of different kinds of lighting. Sherry Clifton was instrumental in making sure that my East Coast destination for my workshops was at Hickory Speedway.”

As an example, “In May at Hickory the light is just right,” he said. “You could see right into driver’s compartment. You could see (the driver’s) face plain. In October, the light is wrong.”

Allio says he’s photographed racing at 300 tracks, and he is the chief track photographer at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He says he’s trying to put some 430,000 career photos into a database, but he’s had to put that on hold. The 57-year-old is in his first semester while pursuing his master’s of fine arts degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, Vt. He got his bachelor’s degree in English, communications and visual arts from the University of Virginia in 1989; by that time, his children were grown.

Allio has photographed many of the greats at Hickory, and he remembers them fondly. Even if he can’t remember who won.

“At Hickory, I’ve seen a lot of guys race and never touch each other,” he said, clicking off names like Jack Ingram, Bob Pressley, Dennis Setzer, Max Prestwood Jr. and others.

“I’ve seen Modifieds, the Baby Grands (which became the old Goody’s Dash Series), the Hooters Pro Cup and other series run there. I was there when the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman cars ran there.

“I’d go to a drivers’ meeting and take photos of drivers whose reputations were legendary. There were drivers like Jack Ingram, Butch Lindley, Jody Ridley (who later made it to Winston Cup), Gene Glover, the Tommy Houstons, the Bosco Lowes.”

His photo of Jack Ingram’s No. 11 Pontiac Lemans is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He says it wasn’t an easy shot to take.

“For that photo, I remember looking through a hole in the fence, and Jack was coming in the frame with other cars behind him,” Allio recalled.

“I’ve seen a lot of spins, crashes and bumps at Hickory,” he added. “One night, at the end of the feature race, they finished three-wide and one car came in on its roof. I don’t remember who won.”


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