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Talladega Superspeedway Race Car Track

Updated on January 14, 2015

The biggest and baddest and fastest track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit is the Talladega Superspeedway. Located near an old airstrip at the old Anniston Air Force Base near Talladega, Alabama, this racetrack has been exciting fans since the late 1960s.

History of Talladega Superspeedway

The Talladega Superspeedway had its origins in the desire of Big Bill France, the founder of NASCAR, to build a track that was bigger and faster than the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.

The new track, known initially as Alabama International Motor Speedway, had its groundbreaking in May 1968. The track was completed in time for a race in September of 1969. The track cost $4 million to build.

The first race was unique in the fact that most of the top drivers boycotted the race. There was concern over the ability of the tires handle the high speeds at the track. The drivers wanted France to postpone the race, but he would not. The drivers staged a boycott, and France allowed replacement drivers to drive in the first Alabama 500.

That first race experienced a three-wide finish, with Richard Brickhouse taking his only career checkered flag in a career that spanned 39 races. First-time winners have been quite common over the 40+ years of racing at Talladega. First-time winners include 2012 champion Brad Keselowski. In March 1970, Buddy Baker became the first driver ever to turn a 200-mph lap on a closed course at Talladega.

The track became the reason for restrictor plate racing after Bobby Allison cut a tire after a blown engine and went airborne into the catch fence on the front stretch. The crash occurred at over 200 miles per hour and tore out much of the catch fencing.

The use of restrictor plates has bunched up cars into one large pack for many of these races, and has led to "The Big One" in more races than not. The Big One refers to the big race that people expect to happen at any time. It usually does and can take out 10 or more cars with one crash. On the last lap of the October race in 2012, 25 cars were involved in one of the biggest wrecks at the track.

The Big One in October 2012 as Seen from the Infield at Talladega

Drivers racing through the tri-oval area of Talladega Superspeedway in 2008.
Drivers racing through the tri-oval area of Talladega Superspeedway in 2008. | Source

Talladega Layout

The track at Talladega is the biggest on the NASCAR circuit, and it measures at 2.66-miles. The track is configured as a tri-oval, but it is unique among tri-ovals because the start finish line is not at the middle of the dog leg. It is actually located near Turn 1.

The track has a high banking. The turns are banked at 33 degrees. The banking is 16 degrees in the tri-oval area. The backstretch has a banking of 3 degrees. Tickets for 2013 races range from $45 to $149.

Talladega Superspeedway from the air. Note the crossing runways that make up part of the infield. The track was built on the site of an old Air Force Base in Alabama.
Talladega Superspeedway from the air. Note the crossing runways that make up part of the infield. The track was built on the site of an old Air Force Base in Alabama. | Source

Talladega Records

Talladega has a few speed records in term of NASCAR racing in addition to Buddy Baker's lap noted above. The Winston 500 in May 1984 had 75 lead changes in 188 laps, which set a NASCAR record. This record was broken by the 88 lead changes in the April 2010 race. This race had 29 different leaders, which was also an all-time NASCAR record.

In April 1987, Bill Elliott set the all-time qualifying record for a NASCAR race with a lap that averaged just under 213 mph. In 1998, Mark Martin set a record for the fastest race in NASCAR history, completing the race at an average speed of 188.354 miles per hour.

Dale Earnhardt has won the most races in Talladega history, and his 10th win at the track in October 2000 was his last NASCAR win before his 2001 death. Earnhardt came from 17th position in the final four laps to win. Earnhardt's son, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., won four straight races at Talladega between 2001 and 2003. Dave Marcis has the record for most starts at the track with 61.

Talladega Schedule

Talladega has hosted two Sprint Cup (formerly Grand National and Winston Cup) races each year since 1970. The races used to be held in April/May and July/August. Today, the races at Talladega are held in April/May and October. The last race is the only restrictor plate race in the 10-race Chase for the Championship.

The two races are 500-mile events, but one has been called the Aaron's 499 in recent years. The races are 188 laps around the track to make up just over 500 miles.

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