Five-hundred of the most intense miles of racing all year are right around the corner. The engines have fired at Talladega Superspeedway, and the Aaron's 499 will be starting in a matter of moments.
The two-car tandem racing has ramped up the tension at a track that already provided drivers with their most white-knuckle moments of the year. Now, one driver is being pushed, trying to hold his car straight, while the driver behind him is effectively running blind, unable to see through the spoiler of the car in front.
All of that could be a recipe for disaster at the place where disaster already lurks around every turn.
Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson share the front row, while Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. hold row two. Rick Hendrick hasn't won at Talladega since Gordon swept both races in 2007, but from 2004-2007, his cars won five of the eight races. Earnhardt, who was with DEI at the time, won five times from 2001-04, but hasn't won since and is riding a 100-race winless streak.
Talladega is reknowned for first-time winners. There have been ten at the 2.66-mile behemoth, and seven of them never won again. Can a driver record his first victory in about three hours? If so, time will tell whether it is also his last, but the euphoria of conquering NASCAR's best drivers and it's most unpredictable track will be long in fading away before he worries about that.
Tighten up your belts and strap down your computer as SB Nation Atlanta follows all the action. As it says right on the walls, this is Talladega.