Halloween at NASCAR’s freakiest track. How fitting.
Talladega is the fastest track in NASCAR. It’s the largest track in NASCAR. It’s also one of the most polarizing. Some drivers argue luck is more important than skills. Others believe letting things fly full throttle is an art form, just like road-racing or short tracks.
The track is home to NASCAR’s fastest finish. Mark Martin won in 1997 averaging 188.354 mph. A caution flag was never waved.
Talladega has also been host to utter debacles. Last year’s race was marred by NASCAR rule changes on bump drafting the day of the race, single file racing the first 400 miles and a few big wrecks that costs drivers valuable Chase points.
The spring race was actually quite exciting, with Kevin Harvick pulling a last lap pass to edge Jamie McMurray. Neither were huge favorites to win here.
Talladega is a wild card’s wild card. 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.
With so many drivers bunched together, one small mistake can cause a massive accident drivers refer to as “The Big One.”
This is the only restrictor plate race of the Chase. So the cars will be set up differently here than anywhere else than any of the other nine races. Strategies vary. Some want to be in the lead pack to avoid the big wreck. Others want to linger in the back to avoid the carnage.
There are two other tweaks worth noting. Cars have smaller fuel cells. Not only will you see the potential for teams to run out of fuel at the end, but teams will also change two tires instead of four because they’ll be pitting more often.
Now some other facts to impress your friends with, courtesy of the track’s website, while eating nachos and watching ESPN’s broadcast coverage starting at 1 p.m. EDT.
- The banking is 33 degrees in the corners, 16.5 degrees in the frontstretch and 2 degrees in the backstretch.
- The frontstretch is 4,300 feet.
- The backstretch is 4,000 feet.
- Jeff Gordon has six career wins here, the most of any active driver.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five career wins here, half as many as his father, who seemed to own this place.
- Mark Martin is the only other active driver to have won here more than once.
- Jamie McMurray is the defending race champion. Kevin Harvick won here earlier in the year.
- Kurt Busch has the best average finish at the track.
- This surprises me too.
- David Ragan has the second best average finish of any active drive at Talladega.
- This floors me too.
- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart have the third through fifth best average finishes at Talladega.
- The track’s media guide is 134 pages.
- I don’t know how they fill 134 pages of content 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.
- Now I know how they fill 134 pages in the media guide.