Talladega Superspeedway

Talladega Superspeedway is a motorsports complex located in Talladega, Alabama, United States. It was constructed in the 1960s in place of abandoned airport runways by International Speedway Corporation, a business controlled by NASCAR's founding France family along with Daytona International Speedway and several other racetracks. At 2.66 miles (4.28 km) long, Talladega is the largest (and second most steeply banked) oval track in the Sprint Cup Series and has seating provisions for over 175,000 patrons.

The start/finish line is placed after the pit exit because Bill France wanted to have higher ticket sales towards that side, as well as centered with pit road. The unusual placement has affected the outcome of several races (the start/finish line is normally placed across from the center of pit road). The track is adjacent to and visible from Interstate 20.

The International Motorsports Hall of Fame is adjacent to the Talladega Superspeedway.


In the early days of NASCAR, a one-mile, oval track was originally planned to be built in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Local religious leaders opposed the construction of such a large track, and NASCAR founder Bill France decided to instead build the track in Alabama at Talladega.

Talladega got off to a controversial start when the Professional Drivers Association, a union of drivers led by Richard Petty, went on strike the night before the inaugural Talladega 500. The union was concerned with the speed which could be attained due to the track's length and steep banking, and the perceived threat to driver safety that this posed. Bill France took to the track himself in a car and drove around it at high speeds. NASCAR also ran a successful support race, but it was not enough, and the PDA drivers went on strike. Replacement drivers from the previous day's race were asked to race, and tickets were good for future races. The race was the only win for Richard Brickhouse and was the debut race for six-time championship team owner Richard Childress.

Since 1970, the year after the track opened, Talladega has held two Sprint Cup races. Traditionally the first race was in the spring (April/May) and the second was at the end of July. In 1997, the track moved the summer race back to October, responding to the requests of fans because of the uncomfortably hot summer temperatures at the track and the unpredictability of summer thundershowers in the area. Since then, the fall race has become a part of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Restrictor Plates and "The Big One"

Speeds well in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h) were commonplace at Talladega. Talladega Superspeedway has the record for the fastest recorded time by a NASCAR stock car in a closed oval course, with the record of 216.309 mph set by Rusty Wallace on June 9, 2004.. Wallace circled the 2.66-mile (4.28-km) trioval in 44.270 seconds, which surpassed the previous record held by Bill Elliott (212.809 mph) set in 1987, but doesn't replace the record due to the fact it was practice. Buddy Baker was the first driver to qualify at a speed over 200 mph, with a 200.447 mph lap during testing on March 24, 1970. Bakers record was set while driving the #88 Chrysler Engineering Charger Daytona, which is currently undergoing restoration in Detroit, after being found in the late 1990s in Iowa.

In 1987 Bobby Allison experienced a tire failure while going through the trioval portion of the track, which sent his car airborne. His car tore out a portion of the frontstretch catch fence, nearly entering the crowd.(Bobby's son Davey's earned his first win in this race after pole-sitter Bill Elliott blew an engine). NASCAR imposed rule changes to slow the cars after the incident, with a 1988 rule requiring cars running there and at Daytona to use restrictor plates. The most often cited reason is a fear that the increasing speeds were exceeding the capabilities of the tires available at the time, as high-speed tire failure had led to some gruesome crashes at slightly lower speeds. The plates limit the amount of air and fuel entering the intake manifolds of the car, greatly reducing the power of the cars and hence their speed. This has led to the style of racing held at Talladega and Daytona to be somewhat different from that at other superspeedways and to be referred to by NASCAR fans as "restrictor-plate racing".

The reduced power affects not only the maximum speed reached by the cars but the time it takes them to achieve their full speed as well, which can be nearly one full circuit of the track. The racing seen at Talladega today is extremely tight; often in rows of three or four cars, and sometimes even 5 wide on the straightaways throughout most of the field, as the track is wide enough to permit such racing.

Such close quarters due to the cars being so close to each other, however, makes it extremely difficult for a driver to avoid an incident as it is unfolding in front of him, and the slightest mistake often leads to massive (and often frightening) multi-car accidents – dubbed "the Big One" by fans and drivers – and Talladega is notorious for such, and always has been. It is not uncommon to see 20 or more cars collected in them. Such huge crashes are less frequent at Daytona, which is a more handling oriented track.

The danger of "The Big One" not only can cause extensive damage to cars during a race, but it can affect points standings overall, especially since the second race was moved from July to October because of the Alabama heat, and the development of NASCAR's playoff system that incorporates the second race, currently the AMP Energy 500, although such big wrecks occasionally occurred even before the restrictor plates were introduced as well.

Talladega facelift

Talladega Superspeedway went under heavy re-construction on the pavement of the racing surface and down on the apron (trouble lane). Construction began on May 1, 2006 and ended September 18, 2006. The first NASCAR race after the face-lift was the John Deere 250, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on October 7th. Mark Martin qualified on the pole for the race, and turned out to be the winner in the end after the hard crash on the last lap in turn 3 involving Mike Wallace in the GEICO Chevrolet and Derrike Cope in the Key Motorsports Chevrolet.

Scheduled races

Talladega hosts two Sprint Cup Series races and one Nationwide Series race annually. Both of the Sprint Cup Series races are 500.08 miles (188 laps) (800 km) in length. The names by which the races are called now vary due to the purchase of naming rights, with the spring Sprint Cup Series race since spring 2002 (2002) being referred to as the Aaron's 499 after the Atlanta-based rent-to-own chain. The Nationwide Series race has historically been a 500 kilometer race (117 laps) since its 1992 inception, but was cut to 300 miles (483 km – 113 laps) in 1998 because of a spectator's letter questioning the metric distance, but restored to 500 kilometers by its current sponsor. The Craftsman Truck Series race is 250 miles (94 laps) and the ARCA race, once a 500 kilometer affair, was shortened to 300 miles in 1998, and to 250 miles in 2006 when it was moved to Friday.

The Aaron's 499, then sponsored by Winston, was known as one of the sport's four legs of the traditional "Winston Million", with the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, and the Southern 500 being the other three. With the demise of the Southern 500 by a lawsuit, there are only three majors remaining. (From 1985 until 1997, a driver who won three of the four majors won a one million dollar bonus.)

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Stats

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Records

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race Winners

Season Date Winning Driver Car # Sponsor Make Avg Speed Margin of Victory
1969 September 14 Richard Brickhouse 99 Nichels Engineering ’69 Dodge 7 sec
1970 April 12 Pete Hamilton 40 Petty Enterprises ’70 Plymouth 44 sec
1970 August 23rd Pete Hamilton 40 Petty Enterprises ’70 Plymouth 10 sec
1971 May 16 Donnie Allison 21 Wood Brothers ’69 Mercury 6 cl
1971 August 22 Bobby Allison 12 Holman-Moody ’69 Mercury 2.1sec
1972 May 7 David Pearson 21 Wood Brothers ’71 Mercury 4.9 sec
1972 August 6 James Hylton 48 Hylton Engineering ’71 Mercury 1 cl
1973 May 6 David Pearson 21 Purolator ’71 Mercury 1 lap
1973 August 12 Dick Brooks 22 Eastern Airlines ’72 Plymouth 7.2 sec
1974 May 5 David Pearson 21 Purolator ’73 Mercury 0.17 sec
1974 August 11 Richard Petty 43 STP ’74 Mercury UC
1975 May 4 Buddy Baker 15 Sunny King ’75 Ford 1 cl
1975 August 17 Buddy Baker 15 Sunny King ’75 Ford 5 feet
1976 May 2 Buddy Baker 15 Norris Industries Ford 35 sec
1976 August 8 Dave Marcis 71 K&K Insurance Dodge 29.5 sec
1977 May 1 Darrell Waltrip 88 Gatorade Chevrolet 0.29 sec
1977 August 7 Donnie Allison 1 Hawaiian Tropic Chevrolet UC
1978 May 14 Cale Yarborough 11 First National City Oldsmobile 2 cl
1978 August 6 Lennie Pond 54 W.I.N. Oldsmobile 2 cl
1979 May 6 Bobby Allison 15 Hodgdon/Moore Ford 1 lap + 50 sec
1979 August 5 Darrell Waltrip 88 Gatorade Oldsmobile 62 sec
1980 May 4 Buddy Baker 28 NAPA Oldsmobile 3 feet
1980 August 3 Neil Bonnett 21 Purolator Mercury 6 cl
1981 May 3 Bobby Allison 28 The 5 Racers Buick 0.1 sec
1981 August 2 Ron Bouchard 47 Race Hill Farm Buick 2 feet
1982 May 2 Darrell Waltrip 11 Mountain Dew Buick 3 cl
1982 August 1 Darrell Waltrip 11 Mountain Dew Buick 1 cl
1983 May 1 Richard Petty 43 STP Pontiac 2 cl
1983 July 31 Dale Earnhardt 15 Wrangler Ford 4 cl
1984 May 6 Cale Yarborough 28 Hardee’s Chevrolet 2 cl
1984 July 29 Dale Earnhardt 3 Wrangler Chevrolet 1.66 sec
1985 May 5 Bill Elliott 9 Coors Ford Thunderbird 1.72 sec
1985 July 28 Cale Yarborough 28 Hardee’s Ford Thunderbird 0.66 sec
1986 May 4 Bobby Allison 22 Miller American Buick Regal 0.19 sec
1986 July 27 Bobby Hillin Jr 8 Miller American Buick Regal 3 cl
1987 May 3 Davey Allison 28 Texaco Havoline Ford Thunderbird 0.78 sec
1987 July 26 Bill Elliott 9 Coors Ford Thunderbird 0.15 sec
1988 May 1 Phil Parsons 55 Crown Petroleum / Skoal Classic Oldsmobile Cutlass 0.21 sec
1988 July 31 Ken Schrader 25 Folgers Chevrolet Monte Carlo 2 cl
1989 May 7 Davey Allison 28 Texaco Havoline Ford Thunderbird 2 cl
1989 July 30 Terry Labonte 11 Budweiser Ford Thunderbird 0.2 sec
1990 May 6 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Lumina 2 cl
1990 July 29 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Lumina 0.26 sec
1991 May 6 Harry Gant 33 Skoal Bandit Oldsmobile Cutlass 11 sec
1991 July 28 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Lumina 1.5 cl
1992 May 3 Davey Allison 28 Texaco Havoline Ford Thunderbird 2 cl
1992 July 26 Ernie Irvan 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet Lumina 0.19 sec
1993 May 2 Ernie Irvan 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet Lumina 2 cl
1993 July 25 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Lumina 0.005 sec
1994 May 1 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Lumina 0.06 sec
1994 July 24 Jimmy Spencer 27 McDonald’s Ford Thunderbird 0.025 sec
1995 April 30 Mark Martin 6 Valvoline Ford Thunderbird 0.18 sec
1995 July 23 Sterling Marlin 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.05 sec
1996 April 28 Sterling Marlin 4 Kodak Film Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.22 sec
1996 July 28 Jeff Gordon 24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.146 sec
1997 May 10 Mark Martin 6 Valvoline Ford Thunderbird 0.146 sec
1997 October 12 Terry Labonte 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.146 sec
1998 April 26 Bobby Labonte 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix 0.167 sec
1998 October 11 Dale Jarrett 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford Taurus 0.14 sec
1999 April 25 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.137 sec
1999 October 17 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.114 sec
2000 April 16 Jeff Gordon 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.189 sec
2000 October 15 Dale Earnhardt 3 Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.119 sec
2001 April 22 Bobby Hamilton 55 Square D Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.163 sec
2001 October 21 Dale Earnhardt Jr 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.388 sec
2002 April 21 Dale Earnhardt Jr 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.060 sec
2002 October 6 Dale Earnhardt Jr 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.118 sec
2003 April 6 Dale Earnhardt Jr 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.125 sec
2003 September 28 Michael Waltrip 15 NAPA Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.095 sec
2004 April 25 Jeff Gordon 24 DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet Monte Carlo UC
2004 October 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.117 sec
2005 May 1 Jeff Gordon 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.193 sec/GWC
2005 October 2 Dale Jarrett 88 UPS Ford Taurus UC/GWC
2006 May 1 Jimmie Johnson 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo 0.120 sec
2006 October 8 Brian Vickers 25 GMAC Chevrolet Monte Carlo UC
2007 April 29 Jeff Gordon 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo UC/GWC
2007 October 07 Jeff Gordon 24 Pepsi Chevrolet Impala SS 0.066
2008 April 27 Kyle Busch 18 M&M's Toyota Camry 157.409 mph UC
2008 October 5 Tony Stewart 20 Subway Toyota Camry GWC
UC = Race finished under caution GWC = Race extended by green-white-checkered finish. Starting in 1993, timing has been scored by electronic means.

Current races

The circuit's infield also hosts the Birmingham Ultimate Disc Association Mud Bowl tournament in the winter.



  • March 24, 1970: Buddy Baker, driving the Chrysler Engineering #88 Dodge Charger Daytona, officially becomes the first driver in NASCAR history to break the 200 mph barrier by turning a lap of 200.447 mph (322.588 km/h). This was also a World Record at the time for any vehicle on a closed course. It was achieved using official Nascar Scoring and Timing equipment.
  • August 20, 1971: Paula Murphy, "Miss STP" made a record closed course run for a female at 171.499 mph (276.001 km/h).
  • August, 1974: A.J. Foyt tests an Indy car at a speed of 217.854 mph (350.602 km/h).
  • August 9, 1975: Mark Donohue sets a closed-course world record in a Porsche 917-30 at 221.160 mph. It would stand as a world record for four years, and as a United States record until 1986.
  • 1984: The Winston 500 set a still standing NASCAR record with 75 lead changes in a single race.
  • May 5, 1985: Bill Elliott sets a 500-mile race record, winning the Winston 500 at an average speed of 186.288 mph. Elliott won the race despite losing nearly two laps during a lengthy early pit stop to fix a broken oil line, and despite the race only having two caution flags. Elliott made up the entire distance he lost under one lengthy, green-flag period. The record stood as the fastest 500-mile race of any kind until 1990, when Al Unser, Jr. broke it by winning the CART Michigan 500 at Michigan International Speedway at an average speed of 189.727 mph (305.336 km/h). Mark Martin later broke the record for fastest 500-mile NASCAR race (see below).
  • November 26, 1985: Lyn St. James sets a record closed course run for a female, at over 200 mph (320 km/h).
  • March 24, 1986: Bobby Unser sets a closed-course speed record for four-wheel drive vehicles with an Audi 5000CS Turbo Quattro at 206.825 mph (332.853 km/h).
  • 1986: The Saab Long Run – set of 2 world and 21 international records with three series SAAB 9000 Turbo – 100,000 km with an average speed of 213.299 km/h and 50,000 miles with an average speed of 213.686 km/h.
  • May 1, 1987: Bill Elliott sets the all-time NASCAR qualifying record, winning the pole for the Winston 500 at a speed of 212.809 mph (342.483 km/h) (44.998 seconds). The record still stands due strictly to the use of the carburetor restrictor plate, mandated after the 1987 season.
  • October 11, 1988: Lyn St. James sets a record closed course run for a female at 212.577 mph (342.110 km/h), driving a Ford Thunderbird.
  • December 14, 1989: Patty Moise sets a record closed course run for a female at 216.607 mph (348.595 km/h), driving a Buick.
  • January 23, 1990: Patty Moise sets a record closed course run for a female at 217.498 mph (350.029 km/h), driving a Buick.
  • 1996 Saab set endurance and speed record-breaking runs in their 900.
  • May 10, 1997: Mark Martin wins the Winston Select 500, a race which had no caution flags, at a NASCAR 500-mile record speed of 188.354 mph (303.126 km/h), nearly ten years after the introduction of restrictor plates.
  • June 10, 2004: Rusty Wallace tests a stock car without a restrictor plate for series sponsor Nextel to test communication capabilities, and hits a speed over 228 mph (367 km/h) on the straights (some reports say the speeds were close to 235 mph / 378 km/h), and 221 mph (356 km/h) average speed for the lap.

Memorable races at Talladega

  • 2007: Kyle Busch goes for a terrifying tumble into the 3rd turn during the spring Busch Series race, after making contact with Tony Stewart. Numerous other cars are involved in other small wrecks during the race that whittled the field down. Jeff Gordon wins the spring Cup race the next day, and, like the 2004 race, a few fans litter the track in debris (especially beer cans) in protest of Gordon passing Dale Earnhardt in career wins. Gordon won the fall race in the same year in the first ever COT restrictor plate race by passing teammate Jimmie Johnson and fellow competitor Tony stewart to lead from the entrance of turn 3 to the finish line on the last lap with Johnson coming up short on a late pass attempt. This also marked a milestone as it was Gordon's 80th career win and a personal achievement.
  • 2007 (Fall): Jeff Gordon had a pit-road penalty for taking pit equipment from his stall earlier in the race, went to the back, but made a charge to the front late in the race and on the final lap, he was running second behind teammate Jimmie Johnson until Tony Stewart led a group of cars on the outside, heading down the backstretch, Gordon went up in front of Stewart which gave him a draft push by Johnson and into the lead and held him, Stewart and Dave Blaney off for the win. This was Gordon's 80th career win, 6th at Talladega and 12th restrictor-plate win, passing Dale Earnhardt for the most restrictor-plate wins, he also sweeps the races at Talladega for 2007, becoming the 6th person to sweeps both races at Talladega on the same year and wins the first Car of Tomorrow race on a Superspeedway. Gordon won the race with a special Pepsi paint scheme designed by a fan, quoting after he won that "they should do this again next year.", this is Gordon's 3rd win at Talladega with a Pepsi paint scheme. Toyota was the spotlight of the weekend, celebrating its first pole on a Superspeedway courtesy of Michael Waltrip, five Toyotas in the top 6 starting spots, and drivers in outside the Top 35 in owners points qualifying unusually well. The Big One also happened in the race, involving 11 cars. Also the first appearance in victory lane by his new daughter Ella.

Racing Schools

See also

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby


  • Bolton, Mike and Jim Nunn (October 7, 2006) "Talladega doesn't measure up." Birmingham News. – Updates previously published track dimensions with new measurements taken during 2006 repaving.
  • Fielden, Greg. NASCAR Chronicle. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd., 2004.

External links

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