NASCAR's Talladega and the Rest: 10 Reasons It’s the Best Track
After six races, the Chase for the Sprint cup has been boiled down to essentially three drivers: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. After Martinsville, the deficit between first and second is the closest it's been since the implementation of the current Chase format.
With four races remaining, drivers will be visiting Alabama, Arizona, Texas and Florida before the champion is crowned. There has been a lot of discussion around how the schedule is set up for the final 10 races, and whether or not it should be changed.
Talladega hosts race No. 7 of the Chase for the Sprint Cup and deserves a spot in the final 10 races of the season. It is one of the best tracks in the schedule for a number of reasons. Let's take a look at the top 10.
10: Close Racing
One of the biggest complaints about NASCAR racing the past several years is that there is very little passing. That's not something that can be said about 'Dega. Passing is something that happens throughout most races at the track...over and over and over.
10: Close Racing
Talladega has, arguably, the closest racing of any track in the NASCAR schedule. Restrictor plates and three-wide racing combine to keep the 43-car field running side-by-side throughout the course of most races on the 2.66-mile course. Cars drop laps usually only after a major incident or mechanical problems.
9: Pure Speed
Talladega is about the only track on the schedule where handling is not an issue. The crew chief's only challenge is giving his driver enough speed to be competitive. And even that has some "wiggle room," if the driver has someone he can work with to help push him to the front.
8: Pure Drama
Every race weekend starts out with the media naming the favorites and speculating about what is going to happen during the race. The truth of the matter is that a writer would need a crystal ball or psychic abilities to really be able to foresee what will happen during the course of any given race.
In the blink of an eye, things can change at Talladega, with a driver who no one considered finding speed to get to the front. Or an extremely talented driver could suffer a lapse in concentration and disaster results. Or the competition could heat up and...well, you get the picture.
7: The Wrecks
We all know that racing fans are interested in more than wrecks. But admit it, there is a part of everyone that follows NASCAR that has a bit of anticipatory anxiety waiting for that one bobble, or that one rookie mistake, that collects up five, six or even 15 cars at Talladega and Daytona.
6: An Even Playing Field
Ten drivers have posted their first NASCAR victories at Talladega. Brad Keselowski was the last, driving for James Finch, running a limited schedule in 2009. His win came at the expense of Carl Edwards (see reason No. 8).
5: Close Finishes
Close finishes are almost a guaranteed result of racing at Talladega, because of the restrictor plates mandated by NASCAR. In fact, very few cars even get lapped at the track, and if they do, it is usually the result of some calamity that affected the team such as mechanical problems, a wreck, or a pit-road mistake.
The closest finish at Talladega dates back to the 1999 Aaron's 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race when Terry Labonte beat Joe Nemechek by .002 seconds.
4: The Draft
Although handling is not that important at Talladega, it takes a talented driver to be able to drive in the draft. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was said to be able to "see the air" moving around the cars around him and use that to his own advantage. Considering his success at the track, there is no reason to doubt the legend.
Built in 1969, Talladega does not have the longest history in NASCAR. But the track has been host to some of the biggest historical events in the sport's history. The fastest speed ever run at any track on the circuit was recorded by Bill Elliott on April 30, 1987: 212.809 mph.
After a terrifying crash in the 1987 Winston 500 involving Bobby Allison at Talladega, NASCAR mandated the use of the horsepower-sapping restrictor plates. The Allison wreck was historic in the way that the aftermath has influenced the sport since. Some fans would argue that the changes that were necessary to control the speeds at the track have not necessarily been good for the sport.
2: Bigger Is Better
Talladega is the longest non-road course track on the NASCAR circuit at 2.66 miles. It stands sixth in number of seats available. It also has the highest banking in the turns, at 33 degrees.
Some interesting numbers from the track:
- 55,650: the number of square feet in the combined areas of the Nationwide/Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup Series garages.
- 18,698: the number of hot dogs sold during the two racing weekends each year at the track. Laid end-to-end, they would circle the track's 2.66 miles 1.35 times.
- 1,800: The area in square feet of the United States flag that flies above the speedway.
- 212: the area in acres of the track infield.
- 62: the number of drivers who made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Talladega Superspeedway.
- 1: ton of pizza is sold over the two race weekends each season at the track.
1: The Scare Factor
It's appropriate that this year's visit to Talladega Superspeedway falls on Halloween weekend. With the potential for heart-stopping finishes, hair-raising crashes and the appearance of frightening monsters (Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski), you never know where the next chill will come from. The biggest reason it is the best NASCAR track is its entertainment value and its ability to get the adrenaline flowing.