Fans attending the NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fests have much to look forward to, including a sneak peek at the upcoming NASCAR season, the 52nd Daytona 500 and the Speedweeks 2010. During this time visitors can enjoy interactive fan forums, autograph sessions, displays, music, the Richard Petty Driving Experience and meet SPEED Channel personalities.
Date: 15 – 16 January 2010
Venue: Daytona International Speedway
City: Daytona Beach, FL
Country: United States of America
It took two men of vision (William “Bill” France along with Bill Ward) to look beyond the bare dirt expanse and abandoned buildings that stood before them, to see the potential for what would ultimately become the biggest, fastest and most competitive super-speedway in the world – Talladega Speedway.
There were several possible sites in the Southeastern United States for the proposed speedway. Talladega, Alabama emerged as the top choice thanks to it’s accessibility to the interstate, and being in the middle of a population base of at least 20 million people within 300 miles. Over 20,000 acres of available land to construct on didn’t hurt either!
Back in 1969, the Super Speedway was called the Alabama International Motor Speedway, and in 1989 the name changed. But long before then, the track had surpassed every initial expectation in terms of sheer size, speed and competition.
With Bill France as the guiding force, construction began on the site on May 23, 1968, with the first race being the ‘Bama 400 Grand Touring race several months later on Saturday, September 13, 1969. Ken Rush drove his Camaro to Victory Lane in that event. The next day, Richard Brickhouse won the first Grand National race – the Talladega 500 (now known as the UAW-Ford 500), edging Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott.
Putting that first race weekend on the record books wasn’t as easy as it may sound. The practice and qualifying speeds were so high (Charlie Glotzbach won the pole at 199.466 mph) that the tire companies – try as they might – could not in the time available come up with a compound that held together for many laps. The Professional Drivers Association (PDA), led by Richard Petty, declared the situation unsafe, and left the track Saturday afternoon.
It was not long before the Talladega Speedway came into its own with unprecedented speeds and unparalleled competition. The combination of the two also played a major role in the development of many drivers’ careers as they built reputations for setting records and taking wins at what quickly became known as “the largest, fastest and most competitive track on the circuit.”
The track at the Talladega is 2.66-miles long, four lanes wide and is banked 33 degrees on each end, with 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. This layout has produced some of the fastest and most competitive racing in history. The backstretch is nearly 4,000 feet long, and stock cars have reached speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour in competition.
The grandstands seating capacity at the Speedway is 143,231 including the most recent expansion of the O.V. Hill South Tower. The 212-acre all-reserved infield holds many thousands more.
Many stars have raced around the track’s challenging curves, but the track’s true dominator was Dale Earnhardt, who posted 10 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup wins at Talladega over the years. Earnhardt’s first victory was in the 1983 UAW-Ford 500, driving for Bud Moore. He won again the next year in his first season with Richard Childress. When he captured the 1990 UAW-Ford 500, he became the first three-time winner of that event, then added UAW-Ford 500 wins in 1991, 1993 and 2000.
Earnhardt also had victories in the 1990, 1995 and 1999 IROC races, as well as the 1993 Aaron’s 312 Busch Series race, to give him a total of 14 career victories at Talladega. That put him ahead of Davey Allison, who had four ARCA triumphs and an IROC win to go with his three Aaron’s 499 victories.
Fans know that flag-to-flag competition is the name of the game at Talladega Super Speedway, and the record book backs this up.
Richard Lee Petty was born on July the second, 1937 in Level Cross, North Carolina, and is a well-known NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver. He won the NASCAR Championship seven times, has an overall record win of 200 races and he also won the Daytona 500 seven times. In 1967 he won a record of 27 races during the season, of which 10 were won consecutively, and nine Most Popular Driver awards. One can say that Petty is the greatest NASCAR driver to take part in these races. He also has a record for the most pole positions, 127 to be specific, and out of his 1185 starts he had over 700 top-ten finishes, which includes 513 consecutive starts during 1971 to 1989.
Richard Petty is a second-generation driver, his father, Lee Petty, being the first to win the Daytona 500 back in 1959 as well as a NASCAR champion. Richard married his wife Lynda Owens Petty in 1958 and together they had four children – Sharon Petty Farlow, Kyle Petty, Rebecca Petty Moffit and Lisa Petty Luck – as well as 12 grandchildren. Petty’s son, Kyle is also known as a talented NASCAR driver. The family still lives in Level Cross, NC where they operate Petty Racing as well as the Richard Petty Museum.
Richard Petty’s NASCAR career began when he was 21 years of age, on July 18, 1958. His first race took place at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds in Toronto where he finished 17th in an Oldsmobile. Both 1966 and 1967 were outstanding years for Petty, not only because of all his wins but because he was the first driver to win the Daytona 500 twice in a row. Over the years his dominance soon earned him the nickname “King Richard”. Richard started racing the Plymouth and in the end made it famous in the 2006 Pixar film “Cars”.
In late 1991, after many successful years as a NASCAR driver, Petty announced that after the 1992 season he would retire. Unlike other drivers Richard Petty drove the entire 1992 season. He organised a year-long “Fan Appreciation Tour”, which took him around the country where he participated in different events and ceremonies to thank his loyal fans.
Born in 1934 in Whitney, South Carolina, David Gene Pearson was rated as one of the top two stock car drivers in the world. He competed for the title against Richard Petty – himself a notable and excellent driver. During the course of his career David Pearson came to be called the ‘Silver Fox’ – a glint of light pulsing on the raceway. He made his racing debut on the Grand National racing circuit in 1960, where he took the Rookie of the Year award that year. Right from the start it was obvious that he was at the top of his game and he won the 1966, 1968 and the 1969 NASCAR Championships. His stiffest competition came from Richard Petty and their continual duels for first place are most memorable.
David Pearson’s NASCAR Winston Cup driving career started in 1960 and ended in 1986. During those twenty-six years he managed to achieve every accomplishment possible. In the majority of his races he constantly fought Richard Petty for first place and the two had a number of firsts and seconds to their names. Pearson won the national championships three times in the short four year period that he ran for it. He raced a staggering total of 574 events and he won 105 of them. He also enjoyed 113 pole positions during his racing career. The most memorable battle between Pearson and Petty occurred at the 1976 Daytona 500 when the two collided into the wall after slamming against each other’s front fender. Petty’s car spun off the track and he was left to watch helplessly as Pearson’s car limped across the finish line to claim first place.
In additiona to his numerous victories, Pearson also managed to receive a number of awards. He took the ‘Most Popular Driver’ Award in 1979 and 1980. In 1990 he was inducted in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and in 1998 he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. He was also made a part of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1993. Pearson is one of only eight drivers to have won a Career Grand Slam in the history of NASCAR racing. Before retiring in 1986, Pearson built a family-run garage which incorporated his three sons in various roles and which won the Busch Grand National championship in 1986 and 1987. Unfortunately the team was disbanded in 1990 but most of his sons are still actively racing.
Lee Petty, father of the well-known race driver and NASCAR’s all-time race winner, Richard Petty, was born on March the 14th, 1914 near Randleman, North Carolina. Lee was one of the founders of NASCAR and was also one of NASCAR’s first American stock car superstars in the 1950s and 1960s. Stock car racing is found mainly in Great Britain and the United States and takes place on large oval rings and sometimes on road courses. A stock car differs from a race car in that its an automobile that has come off the production floor and has been used for racing rather then being custom-built for racing purposes only.
It was only at the age of thirty-five years that Petty began racing. His NASCAR career began at NASCAR’S official first race on June 19, 1949, at Charlotte Speedway, a three-quarter mile long dirt track. Lee Petty finished in the Top 5 in season points for all of NASCAR’s first eleven seasons. Lee, on three occasions, won the NASCAR Championships and the initial Daytona 500 in 1959. The Daytona 500 is 805 km NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race and requires the driver to complete 200-laps. This race was held every year at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida on Daytona Beach.
At the inaugural Daytona 500, Petty and Johnny Beauchamp fought every round near the final laps of the race. The finish was inconclusive because both drivers had finished so close to one another. Unofficially Johnny Beauchamp was declared the winner until further notice, it took a total of three days to make the final decision on who had won. With the assistance of the national newsreel a decision could be made and it was found that Petty was the official winner. From that day Lee Petty had cemented his place as one of the all time greats in stock-car racing.
Lee Petty founded Petty Enterprises, and along with both his sons Richard and Maurice, it became NASCAR’s most victorious racing team. He is the grandfather of Kyle Eugene Petty who is an American NASCAR driver and great grandfather of Adam Petty who started a promising career in racing but tragically died in 2000 at the age of 19 years.