Photo: Talladega Superspeedway
By: Kobe Lambeth
When some people hear the name, “Talladega,” they think of complete chaos, edge-of-your-seat racing, and destruction. Look at this beautiful photo above and tell me this gorgeous scene is a place where you often see the carnage. If you follow NASCAR often, then you know that “looks can deceiving.”
Many years ago, one of NASCAR’s founding fathers, Bill France Sr, wanted to build a track bigger and faster track than Daytona International Speedway. His dream finally came true as “Alabama International Motor Speedway” was built. As time passed, the track name changed to Talladega Superspeedway.
However, one thing has not changed about this historic superspeedway. This is a place where dreams can come true and chaos is also lurking in the shadows.
Sprint Cup drivers, Brad Keselowski, and David Ragan will tell you about the true beauty of Talladega as both drivers scored unbelievable wins in recent years.
In 2009, Brad Keselowski was battling Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Carl Edwards for the victory when contact between Edwards and Keselowski ended with a spectacular crash as Edwards car went airborne, crashing into the catchfence upside down.
Certainly not the way to win your first career Cup race, but this victory showed the world that Brad Keselowski had the potential to hang with the best in the business. Look where he is today as a champion in NASCAR’s top series.
BK Racing’s, David Ragan, also had a remarkable victory in the 2013 Spring race when he and teammate, David Gilliland, led a Front Row Motorsports 1-2 finish. A great day at Talladega can be huge for smaller teams in the field.
Restrictor plate racing is definitely a unique form of racing, which gives every single driver the chance to pull into victory lane. Drafting is the “great equalizer” and gives underfunded teams an opportunity to have a dream day in the tight, pack racing environment.
Although Talladega Superspeedway is a unique track that can change your life forever, it can also break your heart. Whenever NASCAR goes to the “superspeedways” Daytona and Talladega, there is always a chance for the “Big One,” which is a multi-car crash that happens almost every single restrictor plate event.
The reason for these spectacular crashes is due to the intensity of the tight pack racing. Drivers try to make the move to the front and things happen. Unfortunately, they are unlucky at times. You could ride along in the pack almost the entire race, but get caught up in someone else’s mistake to end your day. It is safe to say that it might take a little luck to be successful at Talladega Superspeedway. There is nowhere to hide.
Restrictor plate racing is risk versus reward. The best stock car drivers in the world will take the green flag in the Geico 500 as 40 drivers will battle for glory at one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks. The event should provide great edge-of-your-seat racing from start to finish. Will someone battling for the win on the final lap make a mistake and send the field into flames? Is it worth taking that kind of risk just to get the reward?
Some drivers go into Talladega race weekend with the goal of surviving and others see it as an opportunity to make or break their career. When the checkered flag falls on the Geico 500, will we see the usual suspects from Joe Gibbs Racing or Hendrick Motorsports in victory lane? Can an underdog pull off an upset?
Whoever pulls into victory lane will definitely have earned a hard fought victory. The ingredients to success on restrictor plate tracks: stay out of trouble, be confident, make bold moves, hope that lady luck is on your side, and make smart decisions.
No matter what a driver does, it is extremely difficult to put together a “clean” race at Talladega. 188 laps of intense three and sometimes four wide racing in a tight pack is a recipe for disaster. We have 40 soldiers ready to go to battle. Every soldier has a shot to be victorious and make their dreams come true. On the other hand, others might not survive to see the checkered flag as the “Big One” is lurking in the shadows.
This is Talladega.