Lawrence Neil Bonnett (July 30, 1946 – February 11, 1994), known professionally as Neil Bonnett, was a NASCAR driver who compiled 18 victories and 20 poles over his 18-year career. The Alabama native currently ranks 45th in all-time NASCAR Cup victories. He appeared in the 1983 film Stroker Ace and the 1990 film Days of Thunder. Bonnett hosted the TV show Winners for TNN from 1991 to 1994. He was a color commentator for CBS, TBS, and TNN in the years until his death.
Despite the setbacks, Bonnett was encouraged because he had secured a ride and sponsorship for at least six races in the 1994 season with car owner James Finch, including the season opening race, the Daytona 500, for Phoenix Racing. But on February 11, 1994, during the first practice session for the 1994 Daytona 500, according to witnesses, he lost control of his Chevrolet on the track's high-banked fourth turn, swerved onto the track apron, and then up the steep bank before crashing into the wall nearly head on. He did not survive the accident; he was 47 years old.
That weekend another racing death occurred, as 1993 Goody's Dash (four-cylinder) champion Rodney Orr was also killed in a racing crash during the practices surrounding the first weekend. In the middle of the second Goodyear-Hoosier tire war, Hoosier withdrew from the race immediately.
Bonnett is buried in Pleasant Grove's cemetery, Forest Grove Memorial Gardens. A road called "Allison-Bonnett Memorial Drive" in his hometown honors him, along with fellow native Davey Allison, who died seven months earlier.