Since opening its gates in September 1969 as the Alabama International Motor Speedway, the Talladega Superspeedway has been a prime NASCAR venue and will be the scene for the fourth NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup race on October 7, 2012. Clint Bowyer took the checkered flag last year, and is in the running again this year. Don’t miss the action at Talladega!
Date: 7 October 2012
Venue: Talladega Superspeedway
Two-car tandem racing has become a feature at Daytona and Talladega, with drivers working together to gain the highest speed possible around the track. In this two-car collaboration the trailing driver pushes the lead car around the track. Due to the position of the cars, the driver doing the pushing has a limited view of the road ahead and relies on the leader to make the right moves. However, the close proximity of the two cars can lead to overheating, and so the pusher needs to trade places with the leader from time to time. The temporary breaking of the pusher-leader partnership causes a dramatic reduction in speed for both cars and is potentially hazardous.
Three days of testing at Daytona saw NASCAR trying to break this two-car tandem racing pattern, and revert to the pack racing format that auto racing fans enjoy the most. During the testing, Kyle Busch clocked a 205.813 mph in a pack racing format, while Regan Smith and Kurt Busch formed a two-car tandem, with Kurt Busch clocking an incredible time of 206.058 mph.
Bearing in mind that NASCAR has traditionally been against exceeding speeds of 200 mph, four-time series champion Jeff Gordon reportedly queried the high speeds being achieved on the track, and was assured by NASCAR officials that they have no problem with the new record speeds. Nevertheless, with pack racing bringing in the fans, in November last year NASCAR Chairman Brian France made it clear that he wants drivers to move away from two-car tandem racing, so in addition to a series of changes to rules governing aerodynamics of racing cars, driver-to-driver communications over their scanners has been banned.
While a number of changes have been made during testing, with drivers and their teams kept informed all along the way, it is very likely that more changes will be made before the much anticipated Speedweeks begin, with the iconic Daytona 500 taking place on February 26. NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton noted that while there may be some loose ends to tie up as they make final plans for Speedweeks, and was reported as saying that “everything is going according to plan.”
Richard Childress Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton presented a superb example of teamwork and driving skill as they separated themselves from the pack, chasing each other and working together to maintain first and second positions at Talladega on Sunday. But on the final stretch of the Good Sam Club 500, Bowyer pulled past Burton to cross the finish line in first place – his first win of the current season and the 100th win for Richard Childress Racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Third place was taken by Dave Blaney, with Brad Keselowski in fourth place and Brian Vickers in fifth, followed by Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin in sixth, seventh and eighth place respectively.
In a post-race interview Bowyer was reported as saying that he owed it to his team and sponsors to go out and win the race, even if it was up against his teammate. Burton noted that Bowyer did what he was supposed to do in making his move to take first place, following the strategy they had planned before the race. Commenting on the result, Childress said that he tells all his drivers to try to win the race, as they are in the business to race hard and to put on a good show for the fans.
While the two RCR drivers held the lead using the two-car drafting system, where two cars working in a nose-to-tail formation can gain at least a 10-mph advantage, other drivers further back in the field tried the same strategy with varying degrees of success. Jeff Gordon was less than impressed when Trevor Bayne failed to push him over the last two laps as Gordon had expected. Instead, Bayne joined the alliance of fellow Ford drivers in supporting Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards in the championship race. Gordon had been in seventh place on the final restart, but fell to 27th spot when Bayne bailed on him. Gordon tweeted his disappointment with Bayne and his dissatisfaction with the two-car drafting style, noting that it is too premeditated.
A number of accidents marred the race, but fortunately no injuries occurred, although it did result in a reshuffle of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings. The first ten spots, in order, are held by Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.
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.
Formerly known as the Atlanta International Raceway, the Atlanta Motor Speedway is located in Hampton, just to the south of the city of Atlanta. Atlanta Motor Speedway, is a 2.48 kilometer superspeedway, that has a quad-oval circuit and a spectator seating capacity of approximately 125 000. The track first opened in 1960, but condominiums were erected over the northeastern part of the Atlanta Speedway track in 1994. This construction led to the track being redesigned and practically rebuilt in 1997. The front and backstretches were swapped, and the oval form of the track gave way to quad-oval. Today, the Atlanta Motor Speedway is the fastest NASCAR track on the entire NASCAR circuit. The track also includes a 4 kilometer road course, approved by the FIA, and a Legends racing track, between the main track and the pit road.
This NASCAR circuit was seeing qualifying lap speeds of approximately 311 kilometers an hour, with the fastest recorded lap speed of 317 kilometers an hour, between the 1990s and the 2000s. The Texas Motor Speedway, that was designed very similar to the Atlanta Speedway, did have faster times during 2004 to 2005, but after its surface was worn, the higher speeds returned to Atlanta. Tracks such as Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway did once have faster lap times, averaging about 322 kilometers an hour, but NASCAR mandated restrictor plates for these tracks, making the average speed approximately 306 kilometers an hour. The Atlanta Motor Speedway’s slogan is “Real Racing. Real Fast.” This is not an exaggeration, as NASCAR has not mandated restrictor plates at this track.
Hurricane Cindy hit the Atlanta Motor Speedway on 6 July 2005, with the damage being estimated at approximately 40-50 million US Dollars. Debris was littered across the track, facades were torn off, roofs were damaged, scoreboard towers were knocked down or left leaning and new grandstands had to be built to replace those that were built in 1960. But against all odds, Atlanta Motor Speedway was ready to race by the next big event and has gone on to welcome spectators to witness some of the fastest racing in the United States.