"If You're Not First, You're Last" at Talladega

Mary Jo BuchananSenior Writer IOctober 2, 2008

This weekend, NASCAR's finest will take on one of the most feared race tracks in the circuit, Talladega Super Speedway.  This storied track, nestled in the heart of Alabama, has even the heartiest of drivers, including the Chase drivers, shaking in their boots.

What makes this speedway so frightening for the drivers?  Is it the length of the track at 2.66 miles, NASCAR's longest track in the circuit? 

Or is it the banking, since it is the second steepest-banked track in the series?  Or is it the flat-out speed of the track, contributing to the well-known "big one"?

While all of these elements make the drivers nervous, they make for some of the best racing from a fan perspective. 

Over 175,000 people will sit on the edge of their seats along the raceway, and millions more at home, barely breathing as the lead is swapped back and forth, lap by lap.

Talladega Super Speedway is also special as it is the inspiration for one of NASCAR's most popular movies, Talladega Nights.  As I was home sick lying around on the couch today, I decided to get ready for the race weekend by plugging that little DVD in.  

It got me to thinking, especially about what advice Ricky Bobby might give to all these drivers, particularly the Chase crowd, on how to survive 'Dega this weekend. 

Here are just a few pearls of wisdom that I think the great Ricky Bobby would share:

·           If you ain't first, you're last. That might be just fine at Talladega.  In fact, a good strategy for many drivers might be to either get out in front of the pack or hang in the back, both in order to avoid the "big one".

·           If you do happen to find yourself in the "big one," do not strip down to your underwear and run around the track unless you really are on fire.  Even then, it's just not a good idea. Wait for the safety crews, really.

·           Use the cougar in your car as inspiration only during practice sessions and happy hour.  It will only scare the pit crew, reporters and fans if you have it in the car with you on race day.

·           Stick with your teammates in the draft.  It is the only way to win this race.  You may not be able to "shake and bake" it, but that slingshot move might just catapult you to the checkered flag.

·           Pray often to the eight pound, six ounce Baby Jesus (or the grown up Jesus, or the bearded Jesus, or whatever version of Jesus you so choose).  You will need it to make it through the race.

·           Make your reservations early for your post-race celebration at Applebee's.  And then make your reservations for the next place you will go after being thrown out of there.

·           And finally, drive it like you stole it!!!


Happy Talladega to you one and all.  Enjoy the race.