NASCAR’s longest rack, the 2.66-mile tri-oval Talladega Superspeedway, began a lengthy history on 2000 acres with its inaugural race on September 14, 1969. Ever since then, NASCAR drivers have been challenged by the wide surface with 33-degree banking.
Over time, the long track became home to “The Big One”—inevitable multi-car crashes created by high-speeds and competitive moves.
Fans unable to occupy one of the 143,231 seats can catch the action and, perhaps, complex collisions May 5 on Fox at 1 p.m. ET.
Comments from the top five in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points sometimes give a vivid indication of what fans can expect from the next race. Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Clint Bowyer shared their thoughts.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the No. 48 team keep rolling along with a comfortable lead in first place in the NSCS going into race No. 10. This week, both had comments about Talladega.
“Well, it’s nice that we finished a plate race earlier this year (won the Daytona 500),” Johnson said. “Our record last year wasn’t great. We didn’t finish one race, so our luck had to change at some point. Wouldn’t it be great if we did the opposite this year and won every plate race (laughs)? Don’t think that’s going to happen but Chad (Knaus, crew chief) always gives me a great car here, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do in the Lowe’s Chevy this weekend.”
Chad Knaus (No. 48 Chevrolet) (Crew chief for Jimmie Johnson)
Chad Knaus worked for Stanley Smith Motorsports in 1991 as a mechanic and fabricator. He learned about Talladega back then.
“I honestly love going to Talladega,” Knaus said. “It’s a great race track and one I remember from my childhood. I used to come here with Stanley Smith years and years and years ago. And we would focus so much effort into this race track. Superspeedway racing is probably what got me my start in motorsports so I really do look forward to coming back to Talladega.”
Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)
In second place, Carl Edwards is having a much improved season over last year’s disappointing results. He would like to add a Talladega victory to his Phoenix win.
“We’ve got the Fastenal Ford at Talladega and it’s been a track where we’ve had some really good days and some bad days, so I’m hoping for a great day,” Edwards said. “We’d love to get our first superspeedway win as a team. Jimmy Fennig was able to win two of these speedway races with Matt Kenseth last year, so I feel like I have the best guy on the box that I could have. We’ve got a fast race car; our mission is to be there on the last lap in position to win.
The Gen-6 car has provided some serious pack racing at these speedway races so I think it’s going to be tougher than ever. As long as we don’t wreck five cars like we did in Daytona I think it will be a success. We want to come out of there in a good spot in points, second is nice and we don’t want to fall any lower than that.”
Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Chevrolet)
Dedication is part of the reason for Kasey Kahne’s success over the years. Sitting in third place with one win already, Kahne could be a serious Sprint Cup trophy contender. This week, he shared his passion.
“I race,” Kahne said. “That's all I really want to do is race cars. I've been able to my whole life, and I enjoy it. I love every bit of it. To be able to think about racing each week, whether we're doing appearances or testing or whatever it may be during the week and then you get to go and race a Sprint Cup car on Saturday or Sunday from here until the end of November, I'm loving what's going on.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans are pleased with his efforts this year. Back in the top five in fourth place, Earnhardt is prime to add to his five previous victories at TSS.
“Talladega is a lottery because the guy who wins has done something right and earned it,” Earnhardt said. “You just really don’t have quite as much control over your own destiny here as you do at other racetracks. And I think that will always be the case. But some guys are making it work. Somebody’s going to win the race, and I want to be that guy.”
Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Toyota)
Clint Bowyer is often as outspoken as he is skilled. He explained Talladega.
“Talladega is like rolling the dice at a craps table – how do you do it, when you do it – are you going to get on a roll? Bowyer said. “I mean, that’s exactly the way it is. Everybody has a shot at winning. Everybody has the same dice. You just have to have a lucky roll, lucky push and just get up there.
“We’ve been on a roll here recently with our race team and we’re hoping to get through Talladega here with a good finish–if not a win– and keep digging.”
One thing is expected: The winner will likely have to avoid The Big One if that happens once again at Talladega.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.