Aaron’s 499

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Talladega. Like Charo, Cher and Tiger, Talladega is one word with instant connotation.

Whether that connotation is good or bad depends greatly on who you talk to. Talladega is the fastest track in NASCAR. It’s the largest track in NASCAR. Most years, it was the most polarizing track in NASCAR. Some drivers argue luck is more important than skill. Others believe letting things fly full throttle is an art form, just like road-racing or short tracks.

At its best, the track is home to NASCAR’s fastest finish. Mark Martin won in 1997 averaging 188.354 mph. There wasn’t a single caution all day.

At its worst, there was 2008. The Spring race featured Brad Keselowski’s first win, which came at the expense of Carl Edwards. Fortunately nobody died.

For those new to the sport, cars routinely run together in one or two giant lines because of the draft. If you get out of the draft, it’s not a matter of if you lose spots, but rather how many. This even applies on pit road. Drivers have to stay in the pack if they have any chance of contending.

Two years ago, NASCAR created tandem drafting. Fans hated it, and NASCAR is back to the pack. With so many drivers bunched together, one small mistake can cause a massive accident drivers refer to as “The Big One.”

Cars will bring their Daytona setup here. The smaller fuel cells could lead to fuel issues at the end, especially is we see a green or white checker because it would probably lead to a wreck and another gree and white checker. 

This race makes roulette look scientific. Expect surprises. Prepare for anything. Now some random facts to impress your friends when the race coverage begins at 1:00 EDT on ESPN.

    •   Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski  won the races at Talladega last year.
    •   Jeff Gordon has six career wins at Talladega, but that is only tenth among active drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five career wins here, half as many as his father, who seemed to own this place.
    •    Brad Keselowski has the highest average finish among active drivers here. 
    •    Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Aric Almirola have the other five best average finishes.
    •    The track’s media guide is 134 pages.
    •    The track has 33 degrees of banking in the corners, 16.5 degrees of baking in the frontstretch and two degrees of banking in the backstretch
    •    The frontstretch is 4,300 feet. The measily backstretch is just 4,000 feet long. Pathetic.
    •    The grandstand seats 143,231.
    •    The track won’t let you bring in fireworks, flag poles and rollerblades.
    •    You can bring children to the race, just not strollers.
    •    If you get busted bringing fireworks to the tracks, the fan guide threatens you with prosecution.
    •    I wouldn’t want to mess with southern justice either.
    •    The 1984 Aaron’s 499 had 75 official lead changes.
    •    In 1986, 26 of the 40 drivers who started the AMP Energy 500 led at least one lap.
    •    In 1993, the AMP Energy 500 became the first 500-mile race to produce 1,000 official lead changes over the years.
    •    The infield is 212 acres.
    •    There are 7,440 light bulbs used the scoring display.