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NASCAR at Talladega Superspeedway: Restrictor Plates, First-Time Winners, The World's Fastest Stock Car, And Other Notes

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the Talladega Superspeedway for this weekend's Aaron's 499. Talladega is a favorite among race fans, both for the on-track action that features tightly-packed cars and frequent multi-car accidents and for the atmosphere in the infield, which can best be summed up by the phrase "Redneck Mardi Gras." If you have leftover beads, you know where to take them.

Some notes of (possible) interest on this weekend's activities:

  • This marks the 84th Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Unknown Richard Brickhouse won the inaugural event on September 14, 1969. Most of the regular drivers and teams pulled out of the race, citing safety concerns over tire wear. The boycott marked the first - and only - NASCAR walkout, but an entire field of cars, filled mostly by drivers and teams that had run the support race the day before, competed the 500-miler. Of the superstar drivers, only Bobby Issac remained, but he lost to Brickhouse after wearing his tires in the race's late stages.
  • At the completion of Sunday's race, exactly half of the races at Talladega will have been run with carburetor restrictor plates. The plates were implemented for the 1988 season, after Bobby Allison's horrific crash at Talladega the previous May. 
  • In qualifying for the race in which Allison crashed, Bill Elliott turned the fastest official lap ever by a NASCAR stock car: 212.809 MPH. Georgia's greatest sporting hero also holds the record for the fastest qualifying lap with restrictor plates, 199.388 MPH which was set in May 1990. Elliott leads all drivers with eight poles at Talladega.
  • The late Dale Earnhardt recorded a track-record 10 victories at Talladega, including his 76th and final win in October 2000.
  • Mark Martin's May 1997 victory at Talladega set the all-time average speed record for a 500-mile race. The race - the first of only three Talladega races to be run without a caution flag - was completed with a speed of 188.354. The event, ironically, had been delayed two weeks by rain. 
  • The April 2010 race set the record for lead changes in a NASCAR event, with 88. The previous record of 75, also at Talladega, was set in 1984. The event last October included 87 lead changes, shattering the record for combined lead changes at a single track in one season.
  • There have been ten first-time winners at the Talladega Superspeedway: Brickhouse (1969), Dick Brooks (August 1973), Lennie Pond (August 1978), Ron Bouchard (August 1981), Bobby Hillin (July 1986), Davey Allison (May 1987), Phil Parsons (May 1988), Ken Schrader (July 1988), Brian Vickers (October 2006), and Brad Keselowski (April 2009). Only Allison, Schrader, and Vickers ever won a race again, and only Vickers and Keselowski are still regularly active.
  • In addition to Dale Earnhardt and the seven drivers mentioned above, James Hylton, Jimmy Spencer, Bobby Hamilton, Michael Waltrip, and Dale Jarrett scored their last - or most recent - victory at Talladega.
  • Davey Allison, a native of Hueytown, AL, won three times at Talladega. In addition to his first win - in the race where his father crashed into the fence - he took the checkered flag in May 1989 and May 1992. Allison died July 13, 1993, of injuries sustained the day before in a helicopter crash in the track's infield.
  • Richard Childress Racing leads all teams with 11 wins at Talladega, after sweeping both events in 2010. Kevin Harvick won in April, while Clint Bowyer edged Harvick to win in October. Harvick's win marked the first for RCR at Talladega since Dale Earnhardt's last win in 2000.
  • Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports leads active drivers with six wins at Talladega, most recently a season-sweep in 2007. Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks second with five, but each of his wins came from 2001-2004 while he was racing for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.