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Track profile: Talladega Superspeedway

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Talladega Superspeedway basics

Track Type: Superspeedway
Distance: 2.66 Mile Tri-Oval
Banking/Turns: 33 degrees banking | Tri-Oval: 18 degrees banking | Backstretch: 2 degrees

Inside look

Talladega is known for "The Big One" — the seemingly inevitable multi-car wreck that wipes out much of the field due to the aggressive driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic that goes on at the Alabama restrictor plate track every race, every year. The first run was won by Richard Brickhouse in 1969. Every season since, the Cup circuit has made two trips to the 2.66-mile tri-oval that was built on abandoned airport runways and now seats over 175,000 crazed fans. The track took on a new identity in 2006, thanks to the re-paving of the asphalt and the Will Ferrell character Ricky Bobby — a "big hairy American winning machine" who "could only count to No. 1." Another driver of mythical proportions — the late Dale Earnhardt — dominated Talladega for a track-record 10 checkers and 23 top-5 finishes in 44 career runs. Apparently, Dale Earnhardt Jr. learned that "if you ain't first, you're last" from his father. Junior has five first-place finishes and 13 'last-place' finishes — including a pair of runner-ups, a seventh and an eighth. Among active drivers, only Jeff Gordon (six) has more wins that Dale Jr. But unless he drives backwards or runs around screaming for Tom Cruise to help him, the fans are likely to rain beer cans on the track when he wins. Last year, Kyle Busch went "Shake 'n' Bake" with Juan Pablo Montoya to avoid a wreck for the win in April, before Tony Stewart took a controversial green-white-checkered-flag finish after rookie Regan Smith passed after being forced below the yellow line in October.

Getting around the track

Being at the right place at the right time and picking a dancing partner wisely are the ultimate keys to winning at Talladega. While horsepower and aero are important, the COT evens the playing field in the aero department, and the restrictor plates do so (although not to the same extent) under the hoods. The Talladega repave gave the track a ton of grip, so handling is no longer a concern.

What to watch for

Looking at Checkers: Whoever gets the push at the end. Pretty Solid Pick: Whoever does the pushing at the end. Good Sleeper Pick: David Ragan; any youngster. Runs on Seven Cylinders: Mark Martin hates the place. Insider Tip: How do you predict a winner at Talladega? Answer: You don't, but our dart board says David Ragan and Kyle Busch.

Classic Talladega Moment

The 1987 Winston 500 goes down in history as the race that forces NASCAR to restrict speeds at Daytona and Talladega. Bill Elliott sets a qualifying mark that will never be touched, sitting on the pole with an average speed of 212.809 mph. On Lap 22 Bobby Allison cuts a right rear tire and get sideways coming into the tri-oval. His No. 22 Stavola Brothers Buick lifts and flies into the catchfencing, ripping down a 200-foot stretch of fence and collecting a number of cars. Allison's son, Davey — a fellow member of the Alabama Gang — passes Dale Earnhardt with 10 laps remaining and captures his first career win in the event at his home track in the No. 28 Havoline Ford. NASCAR mandates smaller carburetors for the remaining summer races at Daytona and Talladega and carburetor restrictor plates the following year.
Tagged: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin, Regan Smith

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