Whenever NASCAR fans think of the sport's fastest race tracks, two stand out in almost everyone's mind: Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.
The reason for that mindset is pretty simple: back in the mid-to-late 1980s, those tracks produced speeds that were so fast that NASCAR was forced to put so-called "restrictor plates" on carburetors to rein in some of those speeds.
For example, the fastest single lap ever run in NASCAR history was in 1987 at Talladega, when Bill "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville (Ga.)" covered 'Dega's 2.66-mile racing surface at 212.809 mph (he actually exceed 214 mph during a practice session, as well).
Elliott also holds the fastest single lap speed at Daytona, also pre-plate era, with a top end of 210.364 mph, also in 1987.
NASCAR was forced to act because if it had let those kinds of speeds continue unabated, it was likely that a car could eventually get airborne and potentially wind up in the grandstands.
But here's a surprise of sorts: ever since plates were placed on race cars at 'Dega and DIS, both tracks have ceded their reputations as the fastest tracks on the Sprint Cup circuit.
Even one of the fastest open-wheel tracks in the world, the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, host of the nearly 20-year-old Brickyard 400, isn't even in the top 10 fastest NASCAR tracks in the Sprint Cup series.
So we thought we'd look at the five fastest tracks out there today – since 1988, that is, when restrictor plates were enacted – as we prepare for the 2013 season. All speeds were set during qualifying sessions.
In an interesting irony, three of the top five tracks saw new single-lap speed records set in 2012.
Could that mean even faster speeds in 2013 with the advent of the new Generation 6 car that will make its official race debut during Speedweeks at Daytona next month? With less aero push, that certainly is possible, particularly since Trevor Bayne hit a mighty stout 199.850 mph during last week's test at Daytona.
We wouldn't be surprised to see a 200 mph qualifying effort at all in a few weeks at DIS.
So, the next time somebody is willing to bet you that Daytona and Talladega are still the fastest tracks around, take that bet because you'll cash in handsomely.
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