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In 1998, the name of the race was swapped with that of the Talladega spring race. The fall race became known as the Winston 500 for three years to promote the Winston No Bull 5 program.
This race has been on average the most consistently competitive in NASCAR history. The race has broken 40 official lead changes in 1971, 1973, 1975-1978, 1983-1984, 1989, 2000, every year in the period spanning 2003-2013, and once again in 2019. In 13 of these, the race exceeded 60 lead changes, most recently in 2012 with 65, and in 2010 the race reached 87 lead changes, one short of the motorsports record set in April.
Ryan Blaney is the defending winner, having won it in 2019.
1972:James Hylton raced from mid-pack to the win; he was using a year-old tire compound from Goodyear while fast qualifiers got a new compound, including Joe Frasson; Frasson was involved in an early crash and angrily ripped the new compound ("These new tires Goodyear brought here weren't worth a damn"). 32 of 50 starters failed to finish as Hylton led 106 laps and edged Ramo Stott at the stripe. "I was going with the old tire anyway," Hylton said afterward. "I figured it would be better."
1973: In 1973 Dick Brooks survived heat and humidity to himself as well as an overheating engine and shot down heavy favorites Buddy Baker and David Pearson to his only career win. Driving a Plymouth Roadrunner, Brooks started 24th and whipped his way into contention right away; he'd expected to drive a Tom Pistone Ford in the race but the car never showed up, so Jimmy and Peter Crawford hired him to drive their Plymouth. The lead changed 64 times, a motorsports record that stood until 1978. Tragedy marred the race when sophomore driver Larry Smith crashed and was killed in his car early in the race.
1974: Before the race, crewmen found slashed tires, tampered alignments, and dirt clogging fuel lines in the garage area. NASCAR threw several competition yellows to allow teams to further check their cars for undetected sabotage; two early crashes happened when cars slipped in oil from other sabotaged cars. Richard Petty won on the last lap by sideswiping David Pearson in the tri-oval and winning by a nose.
1975: The race was blackened when former Daytona 500 winner Tiny Lund was crushed to death in a vicious melee on the backstretch by the spinning car of Terry Link. Dick Brooks survived a wild tumble down the backstretch later in that race. Buddy Baker edged Richard Petty after 60 lead changes among 17 drivers.
1976: The lead changed 57 times as Richard Petty fell out in the final 20 laps and Buddy Baker had to pit late for fuel, allowing Dave Marcis to whip to the win, his only Talladega win.
1978: The lead changed a then-record 67 times as Lennie Pond stole the win over Allison and Yarborough; it was Pond's only career win and the first win for Ranier Racing.
1980: In 1980 Neil Bonnett fought off a hard challenge from Dale Earnhardt to win in a frantic four-car finish. Driving for the Wood Brothers, Bonnett pulled off what would be the final win for the Mercury automobile brand; it was also the brand's seventh career Talladega win.
1981: The race was famous for the finish between Terry Labonte, Darrell Waltrip, and Ron Bouchard. Running third on the final lap, Bouchard darted under both Labonte and Waltrip to pick up his first and only career win. CBS Sports, which televised the event, experienced technical errors in the last laps of the race, and showed replays with audio of the finish a week later.
1982: The race at Talladega would be the final Talladega start for country music singer Marty Robbins. Robbins would die later that year on December 8. Darrell Waltrip became the first multi-time winner of the race.
1983: The rivalry between Waltrip and Bobby Allison came through in a dramatic finish. Allison, two laps down, pushed Dale Earnhardt past Waltrip on the final lap for the win. Waltrip and the Junior Johnson team were upset that Allison was seemingly "blocking" for Earnhardt; Allison claimed he was racing Joe Ruttman, also in the lead pack but laps down, for position.
1984:Dale Earnhardt's first win with Richard Childress came in the 1984 running, for many years considered NASCAR's greatest race. The lead changed 68 times among 16 drivers. Terry Labonte stormed to the lead with seven to go in a ten-car pack; crew chief Dale Inman radioed him to get out of the lead in the final laps so he could counterattack on the last lap, but Labonte stayed ahead. Harry Gant made a charge to a battle for third with two to go, but could not get up to the leaders, and on the final lap Earnhardt and Buddy Baker drafted past on the highside; Labonte fought Baker down the stretch, allowing Earnhardt to blast away by three lengths at the stripe.
1989: The second year with Die Hard batteries sponsorship, it was the final year of the classic "Talladega 500" name. The name would be revived in 2001 as the name of the spring event at Talladega, but for only one year before being changed to the Aaron's 499. The lead changed 49 times as Darrell Waltrip was involved in a hard crash on pit road with rookie Jimmy Spencer; Waltrip rallied from last place and fought for the lead, ultimately finishing second to Terry Labonte, who took his final win with Junior Johnson's team.
1991: The race was a frantic affair as the lead changed 31 times officially and some 22 times elsewhere around the track. Dale Earnhardt was engaged in a non-stop battle with Davey Allison, Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin, and Michael Waltrip with Bill Elliott staying in the fray as well. With four to go Allison squeezed ahead of Earnhardt with Marlin drafting him, but Elliott, Martin, and Ricky Rudd drafted with Earnhardt, enabling Earnhardt to seize the win; an enraged Allison broke his wrist punching the wall of his hauler after the race.
1993:Dale Earnhardt edged Ernie Irvan by 0.005 seconds, the second closest finish in Talladega's history since the introduction of electronic scoring loops. The race was marred by two frightening crashes: On lap 69, Stanley Smith and Jimmy Horton got together in turn one, collecting six other cars. Horton's car took the worst hit, as it went up the track and over the outside wall, tumbled out of the racetrack down the embankment, and came to rest on a dirt access road. Though Horton was not seriously injured, Smith suffered a near-fatal basilar skull fracture; he would eventually recover. The incident led track officials to install catch fencing along the entire perimeter of the superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega), rather than just in spectator areas. On Lap 132, Neil Bonnett flew into the catch fence similar to the Bobby Allison crash in 1987. That resulted in the introduction of roof flaps in 1994.
1995: A violent wreck unfolded on lap 140 when Jeff Gordon clipped Ken Schrader on the back straightaway, collecting eleven more cars. Schrader took the worst hit, flipping eight times before landing in the grass.
1996: One of the most frightening crashes marred the race. On lap 117, battling for the lead in the tri-oval, Sterling Marlin tried to pass Dale Earnhardt on the outside. Ernie Irvan tapped Marlin from behind, sending Marlin into Earnhardt. Both cars slid hard into the outside wall. Earnhardt's car flipped over, and was struck again while sliding down the track on its roof. About 6 cars escaped on the inside, while the rest of the field became tangled up in the incident. Ten cars were destroyed, and several more were involved (including some already damaged from an earlier crash). Video of the crash showed what appeared to be a fatal incident, but once medical workers arrived at Earnhardt's car, he climbed out and waved to the crowd, refusing to be loaded onto a stretcher despite a broken collarbone, sternum, and shoulder blade. A red flag ensued, and because of the late start caused by a rain delay, the race ended with a five-lap shootout on the ensuing restart.
1999: A frantic race saw sixteen leaders and 21 cars battling at the finish. Dale Earnhardt charged from 27th place to 5th place in the first 3 laps. With 10 laps to go, Earnhardt charged to the front and held off Dale Jarrett for the last two laps to win his ninth Talladega race.
2000: This was Dale Earnhardt's 76th and last recorded win before his death. With four laps to go, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was leading Earnhardt Sr. was scored in 17th place. In the next four laps, Earnhardt Sr. found an opening and took the lead at the white flag. He then held off the field to win the race, while Earnhardt, Jr. went from leading to a 14th-place finish when he was shuffled out of the pack in the last two laps.
2001:Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won his third race of 2001, and first of four straight at Talladega. The first half of the race was caution free, with the race's first caution flag not appearing until lap 99, when Kevin Harvick sent Todd Bodine into the outside wall in turn 3, also collecting Elliott Sadler and Casey Atwood. In the last 55 laps, Earnhardt, Jr., Bobby Hamilton and Bobby Labonte changed the lead multiple times. With five laps to go, Labonte took the lead from Earnhardt, Jr. He was still leading at the white flag, but heading into turn 1, Earnhardt Jr. moved to the low lane, bringing Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton. Entering turn 2, Labonte drifted up, out of the draft, and tried to block Hamilton. Exiting turn 2, Hamilton tagged Labonte from behind, sending Labonte into Johnny Benson, Jr. and Ricky Craven, running in fourth and fifth place. Labonte's car then flipped over onto its roof, while Benson was shot into the inside wall and collected another 14 cars, including Jason Leffler, Sterling Marlin, Ward Burton, Robby Gordon, Mike Wallace, Terry Labonte, and Buckshot Jones. As the wreck occurred, Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, and Tony Stewart continued racing towards the finish, followed by another group of cars from the reduced pack, composed of Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kenny Wallace, and Hamilton. Earnhardt, Jr. rocketed away in the tri-oval to win the race by several car-lengths as Burton and Stewart battled side-by-side for second place, winning the No Bull 5 $1 million bonus, just as his father had done a year prior. He was docked 25 points after his car failed post-race inspection, due to a shortened rear spoiler.
2002: Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s third consecutive Talladega win came in the third and last Talladega race to be caution-free. He won on fuel strategy. This race is also remembered for an unusual accident during the warm-up laps, when Mark Martin's steering box failed and he ended up striking polesitter Jimmie Johnson. As a result of the incident, Martin was black-flagged, while Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus requested NASCAR to inspect the car and repair the damaged right front fender. Johnson later came into the garage on lap one.Jeff Gordon led the first three laps, but on lap 125, he was forced to move the car to the garage after his crew found smoke under the hood, ending his race. Gordon wasn't the only Hendrick Motorsports engine to fail, as Johnson, Terry Labonte and Joe Nemechek, also failed to finish due to engine problems.
2003:Michael Waltrip's fourth and last win came in this race in 2003. It is also his only non-Daytona race win. He and teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 1-2. With seven laps to go, Elliott Sadler, the third-place finisher from the spring race, went airborne and tumbled down the backstretch into the turn three apron after being tagged by Kurt Busch. As this was the first restrictor plate race to follow the elimination of racing back to the caution, the yellow flag and subsequent red flag for cleanup caused by Sadler's accident nullified Ward Burton's pass on Waltrip into first.
This was DEI's fifth straight Talladega win, and first with Waltrip, after four straight with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
2004:Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s win in 2004, his fifth overall at the track, was a dramatic one, as on the last lap of the race, Jeff Gordon brushed the wall exiting turn two, collecting then-rookie Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle. No caution was thrown for the wreck, and the leaders continued to race to the finish line. At the finish, Elliott Sadler repeated the tumble of the previous year. This time, he flipped at the start-finish line after making contact with Ward Burton, in almost the same location that Rusty Wallace had taken a very violent airborne crash off Dale Earnhardt's bumper in 1993.
The race was also famous for Earnhardt Jr. using an obscenity during the post-race television interview, when he uttered "...It don't mean shit, daddy done won here 10 times..." during his post-race interview on NBC. He was penalized 25 championship points as a result (in the aftermath of the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy, NASCAR imposed stiffer penalties for drivers who used obscenities in interviews; a similar one would be imposed when Tony Stewart won the Brickyard 400 in 2007).
2005: Much like the EA Sports 500 the year before, the 2005 UAW-Ford 500 was a wild race. Two cars flipped over in separate accidents. Michael Waltrip was hit by Mark Martin and flipped after being involved in a wreck that began when Jimmie Johnson spun Elliott Sadler. Not long after, Ryan Newman spun Casey Mears, which started a chain reaction resulting in Scott Riggs flipping several times before being hit by Jeff Burton. The race was incident-filled, and Dale Jarrett took his last win in the race. Scenes from this race were used in the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and actors from the movie were introduced in driver introductions.
2006: The October 2006 running was the first at Talladega since the track was repaved following the May 1 Aaron's 499. The new asphalt proved exceptionally racey and the lead changed hands 63 times among 23 drivers. In the final laps Dale Earnhardt, Jr. led with Jimmie Johnson and Johnson's teammate Brian Vickers in a charge towards the finish. On the final lap in the half-way mark of the final lap Vickers, trying for his first Cup win, went below Johnson who tried to block but was far too late to defend and just in turn 3 Johnson and Earnhardt, Jr. spun around to crash as Vickers charged to the win in a close finish with Kasey Kahne under caution. Although Kahne was briefly in front of Vickers during the charge to the checkered flag during the caution, video showed that at the moment of caution Vickers was the leader and thus freezing the field in the finish. The fans were furious with Vickers and threw bottles and garbage at him as he came by the track to perform burnouts. Vickers was emotional about his win since he was fired by Hendrick Motorsports after 2006 for his lack of success in the past and he wanted a win to dedicate to the Hendrick family members that died in the 2004 plane crash at Martinsville. On the other hand, Johnson was upset with his teammate: despite that Vickers apologized for the contact in victory lane Johnson retorted after the race about Vickers running out of talent but both made up with each other after a press-conference with NASCAR.
2007: The 2007 UAW-Ford 500 was won by Jeff Gordon in dramatic style. Gordon pulled off a comeback much like Dale Earnhardt had in 2000, working his way from the back in the closing laps, and passed teammate Jimmie Johnson with a push from Tony Stewart on the final lap. It was the first Talladega race for NASCAR's soon-to-be-controversial Car of Tomorrow.
2008: The newly named AMP Energy 500 in 2008 saw 64 lead changes among a motorsports record 28 leaders (broken in the 2010 spring race). Two accidents (one a ten-car crash that came when Brian Vickers' right-front tire disintegrated, the other a ten-car melee involving Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and others) took a number of contenders out in spectacular fashion. Regan Smith passed Tony Stewart on the apron of the tri-oval at the finish. The pass was ruled illegal by NASCAR in prohibiting passing under the yellow line; controversy ensued, however, as NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston the year before had commented to the effect that the yellow-line rule did not apply on the final lap, and NASCAR was ridiculed in the media over the decision. The victory was awarded to Stewart, what proved to be his final win for Joe Gibbs Racing.
2009: The race was set up in a green-white-checkered finish after Ryan Newman spun and blew over, landing on top of Kevin Harvick with five laps to go, in the same place and in an eerily similar matter to Sadler's 2003 blowover.. Newmans flip was the direct result of the rear wing on the Car of Tomorrow lifting the car off the ground and rendering the roof flaps useless; this crash, along with Carl Edwards' crash at the spring race and Brad Keselowski's crash at Atlanta the next year, was one of the factors in NASCARs decision to replace the wing with a more traditional spoiler in 2010. Before the cars got underway some ran out of fuel. Jamie McMurray led the restart alongside Brian Vickers; Vickers beat McMurray to the line, but was not penalized but McMurray squeezed ahead. When the field came off turn 4, Brad Keselowski spun Kurt Busch causing a chain reaction; Mark Martin tumbled on his roof and came back on his wheels as McMurray took the win. It was his 3rd career win and last for Roush as he went on to Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in 2010. The race was criticized because during the prerace drivers meeting Mike Helton told the drivers "we will have a problem" with tandem drafting in the corners. The drivers spent three periods of 15-20 laps riding single file, but the lead changed 58 times among 25 drivers, both season highs.
2010: On Halloween 2010 NASCAR declared Clint Bowyer the winner after the yellow flew on the start of the final lap for A. J. Allmendinger's blowover just past the start/finish line. Bowyer was ruled ahead of teammate Kevin Harvick at a Turn One scoring loop. Due to a brief delay by NASCAR in announcing who was ahead, Bowyer and Harvick were confused as to which one of them had won. Believing he was the leader, Bowyer did his victory burnout prematurely and almost had to be stopped as he drove back down pit road towards victory lane. The race lead changed 87 times among 26 drivers, the second straight Talladega race to break 80 official lead changes.
2011: This was the first NASCAR Cup Series race to follow the death of IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and several drivers painted tributes on their cars for this race; NASCAR also provided "Lionheart Knight" decals that Wheldon wore on his helmet to be added to the cars' b-pillars.Clint Bowyer defended his previous win by slingshotting past his Richard Childress teammate Jeff Burton on the final lap and winning by a hood. It was the 100th career win for Richard Childress Racing and it came following announcement that Bowyer would move to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012 (by coincidence, Bowyer was driving a special 100th Anniversary of Chevrolet paint scheme). The track before the race posted a $100,000 bonus if the race reached 100 official lead changes, the bonus going to the driver who made the 100th pass. The bonus went unclaimed as the race lead changed 72 times.
2012:Matt Kenseth won his first Talladega race in a very competitive run that saw 18 different leaders and 55 lead changes. On the final lap, with the entire field four abreast and Tony Stewart fighting Kenseth for the win, Stewart tried to block the advancing drafting pair of Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears coming in to turn 4. The ensuing move and subsequent contact caused Waltrip to spin up the banking in front of the entire field, and Stewart went airborne as Waltrip was tagged by Casey and both went into the outside wall and 23 cars were collected, the most cars to be involved in any single Big One since 2010. 10 of the 12 Chase drivers were involved (the only three not involved were Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch, the top three finishers). David Ragan and Regan Smith escaped the melee to cross the start/finish line 4th and 5th respectively. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., also involved was highly critical of the crash, and was sidelined for the next two races at Charlotte and Kansas after being diagnosed with a concussion, replaced by Smith for those races. Busch and Kenseth had been the runner-up finishers in the spring Talladega race.
2013: The race was surprisingly clean, only seeing two caution flags during the first 187 laps. The lead changed 52 times among 20 drivers. The race was dominated by Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.. On the last lap, Austin Dillon was running third behind Jamie McMurray and Dillon and was about to push Earnhardt, Jr. past McMurray when he was turned by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. coming off Turn 2. Dillon spun against the outside wall, then was struck head-on by Casey Mears and caught air. McMurray's win was the second straight Chase race of 2013 won by a non-Chaser. It also snapped a 108-race winless streak for McMurray that stretched back to October 2010.
2014:Kyle Larson spun on the apron of turn 1 and brought out the fourth caution of the race with 14 laps to go. Jeff Gordon was the only car who hadn't pitted and had to give up the lead to stop for fuel. Ryan Newman cycled to the lead, The race went past its advertised distance and went into overtime. The first overtime attempt, resulted in another big one on the backstretch that collected 11 cars. It started when David Gilliland tapped Greg Biffle who clipped Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and collected a nine other cars. Brad Keselowski was ahead of race leader Newman and assumed the lead, Brad Keselowski held off a hard charging Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth to win the race with the pack behind them, being stacked up. "I can't believe it," Keselowski said. "Talladega is such a wild card and to be able to win here you have to catch breaks and make your own breaks, a little of both. I can't believe we won at Talladega. This race is the scariest of the three in the bracket. To be able to win here is really a privilege, it really is." Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson were the four drivers who were eliminated. "We had a real good car most of the day," Earnhardt said. "Got real loose, kind of shuffled out. ... It's just hard racing. That's the way it goes at the end of these races. We weren't in good position."
2015: The first 135 laps were run under green-flag conditions, and then the 2nd caution flew with 4 to go with Greg Biffle holding a 38-second lead, setting up a questionable finish. On the only attempt at a green-white-checker (a rule NASCAR mandated for this race after Austin Dillon's scary crash in July at Daytona), Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Larson spun coming to take the green, which caused NASCAR to waive off the restart, saying that "it was not an official restart", to the ire of drivers and fans. Then, Kevin Harvick reported to crew chief Rodney Childers that his motor was going. On the "2nd attempt" at the restart, Harvick hooked the 6 of Trevor Bayne just after the exit of pit road, causing a crash that ended the race which involved chasers Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth, among others (the crash ended Newman, Kenseth, and Hamlin's chances at a title). After looking over the scoring and video, NASCAR declared Joey Logano the winner over Dale Earnhardt Jr., causing irate fans to shower Logano with beer cans as he did his burnouts. NASCAR did not sanction Harvick for his actions after the race. The controversy over this finish led to NASCAR introducing the overtime line rule for the 2016 season.
2016: After the round of stops, Keselowski led from lap 89 to 109. Ryan Blaney took the lead for a circuit on lap 110 and Hamlin moved back to the front on lap 111. A three-car wreck on the frontstretch involving Biffle, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Casey Mears brought out the second caution with 74 laps to go, Past the scheduled distance of 188 laps, the race restarted on lap 190 with two laps to go. Logano drove on to score the victory.
2017:Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the pole for the first and final time at Talladega. The race was filled with numerous wrecks, with 10 of the 12 playoff drivers being involved in wrecks. Jamie McMurray was involved in a 6 car crash on lap 25 during green flag stops, which put him in a must-win situation. Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney would win the first and second stages respectively. The Big One occurred in Turn 3 on Lap 172 and took out 17 cars, including Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.. Two more small crashes occurred during the next stretch that ended Blaney and Harvick's day, and another with 5 to go that took out Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. On the last restart, Keselowski drove on to victory after an intense battle for the lead with Ryan Newman, who finished runner up. Denny Hamlin was the other playoff driver who was running at the line at a 6th-place finish with no damage, and Earnhardt, Jr. finished 7th in his final restrictor plate start after spinning through the turn 3 grass to avoid the Big One. Thanks to the string of late race crashes, only 14 cars were running at the finish, the lowest number of cars to finish in Talladega's history, tied with the 1986 race, and most number of cautions at 11 tied with the spring 2004 race.
2019: The race was interrupted after a caution-free stage 1 by rain, postponing stages 2 and 3 to Monday. During the second stage, every one of the playoff drivers was involved in at least one accident, and there were three Big Ones. The first was on Lap 107 in the closing laps of Stage 2, when Joey Logano ran into Alex Bowman from behind on the backstretch, causing Bowman to spin onto the apron and then back into the pack in turn 3, collecting nine additional cars. The second was on Lap 163 when, entering turn 3, William Byron was turned into Logano by Kurt Busch, collecting six more cars. Finally, on Lap 181, in the same location as the previous two Big Ones, Kurt Busch tried to give brother Kyle a push to challenge Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. for the lead, turning Kyle into Brendan Gaughan and collecting 11 cars in all. Gaughan took the worst hit as his car went airborne from contact with Matt DiBenedetto and Kurt Busch and flipped over once before landing upright in turn 3. On the last lap, Ryan Blaney was leading at the white flag and being trailed by the previous year's winner Aric Almirola. Heading down the backstretch, Ryan Newman got pushed to the lead by Denny Hamlin. Newman was leading exiting turn 4, and moved up in an attempt to block Blaney. Blaney got Newman loose, went to Newman's inside, and managed to inch ahead of Newman at the finish line by 0.006 seconds, the sixth closest margin of victory in NASCAR history, and securing Blaney a spot in the Round of 8.