A Fan's Guide: Talladega History

Clint Bowyer, driver of the #33 Chevy 100 Years Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 23, 2011 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

I helped a friend out this morning making a Nascar podcast for his blog site, and he did a small segment on the history of the Talladega Super Speedway. I love stories about older Nascar times, and decided to browse the Internet to see if I could collaborate what he was telling me. So to prepare you for this weeks race at the giant super speedway,  I decided to share it with you. I got most of the  facts at wikipedia and a few other sites, and unfortunately, I remember some of the events, but you can Google Talladega and get more info if you wish to do further research. Just in case you were wondering, I did see some references to Ricky Bobby.

Turns out, in 1968,  Nascar founder, Big Bill France was having some problems with the local city government in Daytona and was afraid that because of tax considerations, he might have to find a different place to run his super speedway program. France had been the head of Alabama Governor George Wallace’s Florida Presidential campaign, and asked the Governor for a political favor to repay him for his help.

Wallace responded by selling the land previously occupied by Anniston Air Force Base, located near the small town of Lincoln, in Nothern Alabama, at a rock bottom price. The Governor threw in a deal to build the access road to the facility at no cost to France. Construction was began by International Speedway Corporation in May of 1968 and opened in September of 1969.  The original name was The Alabama International Motor Speedway.

Talladega is a 2.66 mile tri-oval with 32 degree banking in the corners, 16.5 degrees in the tri-oval and 3 degrees on the back stretch. It is just a smidgen longer and wider than The Daytona International Speedway. Rusty Wallace set the speed record in 2004 clocking a whopping 216.309 MPH. Because the speed was set on a lap used for a radio test, and not a sanctioned event, Bill Elliott still holds the official event speed of 212.809 set in his Million Dollar Bill year of 1987.

If memory serves, Buddy Baker was the first to actually break the 200 MPH speed and the late Benny Parsons made the first qualifying run in excess of 200 mph. In May of 1987, Bobby Allison cut a tire down and hit the catch fence on the front stretch causing Nascar to rethink the speed thing. Later that year they instituted the restrictor plate rule for super speedways.

The large pack racing created by the size of the track and the use of the restrictor plate  has in the past, created huge wrecks that are refferred to as “The Big One”. This usually happens late in the race when the drivers are tired, their patience is at a minimum and tires start to wear out.

The race track at Talladega is said to have a Jinx, or some call it a curse. The bad luck started at the first race in 1969. The drivers were somewhat spooked about the speed and banking, along with the state of tire development, decided to strike and not run the first race. Nascar had ran a test event the day before the event to  ease the drivers minds, but it didn’t work. The drivers refused to drive and an angry Bill France decided to use replacement drivers. So the the first winner at Talladega was an unknown driver by the name of Richard Brickhouse. This was his only Nascar win. His car owner was a fellow by the name of Richard Childress.

Old timers say that the track was built on the site of an old Native American horse racing track, where one of the tribal chiefs was killed in a horse race. Others say the track is built on an Indian burial ground, some even say it is haunted because the Creek Nation was driven off the land for collaborating with Andrew Jackson.

Bobby Issacs left a race in 1973 on lap 90 because he claimed to hear voices inside the car telling him to park the car and get out of it. A young driver by the name of Larry Smith had died after what was deemed to be a minor wreck on lap 14 of the same race. Then in 1993 Davey Allison was killed in a helicopter crash while trying to land on the infield.

The king of this track is without a doubt, the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. He holds the records for most wins, most top 5’s, most top 10’s and most laps led. Bill Elliott had the most poles with 8 and Dave Marcus  had a record 61 starts and total of 9777 laps.  Dale Earnhardt had 10 wins and led 1377 laps. That’s more than a career for some drivers.

Sorry this article was so long, but the old track had a lot of history. If however, you stuck around to read it, I hope you got some information and maybe it will make watching the race on Sunday a little more exciting. Enjoy the race, and be sure to watch for the Big One.


Tags: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Richard Childress Racing Talladega

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