|Location||3366 Speedway Boulevard, Lincoln, Alabama 35096, United States|
|Time zone||UTC-6 / -5 (DST)|
|Capacity||80,000-175,000 (depending on configuration)|
|Broke ground||May 23, 1968|
|Opened||September 13, 1969|
|Construction cost||US$4 million|
|Architect||Bill Ward and William France Sr.|
|Former names||Alabama International Motor Speedway (1969-1989)|
|Length||2.66 mi (4.281 km)|
|Banking||Turns 1 & 2: 33°|
Turn 3: 32.4°
Turn 4: 32.5°
Back straight: 3°
|Race lap record||0:44.998 (Bill Elliott, Melling Racing, 1987, NASCAR Cup Series)|
Talladega Superspeedway, nicknamed "Dega", and formerly named Alabama International Motor Speedway (AIMS), is a motorsports complex located north of Talladega, Alabama. It is located on the former Anniston Air Force Base in the small city of Lincoln. A tri-oval, the track was constructed in 1969 by the International Speedway Corporation, a business controlled by the France Family. The track currently[when?] hosts the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. Talladega is the longest NASCAR oval, with a length of 2.66 miles (4.281 km), compared to the Daytona International Speedway, which is 2.5 miles (4.0 km) long. The total peak capacity of Talladega is around 175,000 spectators, with the main grandstand capacity being about 80,000.
During the 1960s, William "Bill" France, Sr. wanted to build a track faster and longer than Daytona International Speedway. After failed attempts to reason with local government in Orange County, North Carolina, with the Occoneechee Speedway, he attempted to find a new spot for a race track and make his idea a reality. After failing to secure a location near the research triangle around Raleigh, France then looked around between Atlanta and Birmingham along Interstate 20. He would end up breaking ground on an old airfield 47 miles east of Birmingham and 100 miles west of Atlanta on May 23, 1968. The track opened on September 13, 1969, at a cost of $4 million. The track was named the "Alabama International Motor Speedway". The name would remain for twenty years until 1989, when the facility's name was changed to "Talladega Superspeedway".
In the first race at the track, all the original drivers abandoned the track due to tire problems, which allowed France to hire substitute drivers with the winner being Richard Brickhouse. After the first race, Talladega hosted two Cup Series races a year, one of which would become part of the 10-race NASCAR Cup Series playoff format.
Since its opening year, Talladega has hosted many races and has been repaved four times. Talladega has also had many first-time winners, such as Richard Brickhouse, Ron Bouchard, Bobby Hillin, Davey Allison, Brian Vickers, Brad Keselowski, and, in 2017, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
A 4-mile (6.4 km) infield road course operated from the track's founding until 1983. In the 1970s, six IMSA GT Championship races were held at the speedway, including a 6-hour race in 1978. The International Motorsports Hall of Fame museum was opened in 1983.
In May 2006, Talladega started to re-surface the track and the apron. Construction started on May 1 and lasted until September 18. The first race on the resurfaced race track was a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on October 7.
In December 2013, the ISC announced removal of the 18,000-seat Allison Grandstand on the backstretch, reducing the track's seating capacity to 80,000. The 4,000-ft backstraightaway was renamed the "Alabama Gang Superstretch" in time for the 2014 Aaron's 499 held in the spring.
Speeds in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h) are commonplace at Talladega. Talladega has the record for the fastest recorded time by a NASCAR vehicle on a closed oval course, with the record of 216.309 mph (348.116 km/h) set by Rusty Wallace on June 9, 2004. Wallace circled the 2.66-mile (4.28-km) trioval in 44.270 seconds, which surpassed the previous record held by Bill Elliott (212.809 mph (342.483 km/h)) set in 1987, but did not replace the record because it was a radio test and not a NASCAR sanctioned event. Buddy Baker was the first driver to run at a speed over 200 mph (320 km/h), with a 200.447 mph (322.588 km/h) lap during "testing" on March 24, 1970. Bill France himself invited Chrysler to come on down to run a 200 lap for publicity for the April race. The car was fully NASCAR inspected and certified. NASCAR sanctioned the event and Bill Gazaway was there with the official timing equipment. Baker's 200 mph lap was set while driving the No. 88 Chrysler Engineering Charger Daytona. It is currently undergoing restoration in Detroit, after being found in the late 1990s in Iowa. Benny Parsons was the first driver to qualify at over 200 mph (320 km/h), doing so in 1982 with a speed of 200.176 mph (322.152 km/h).
In May 1987, Bobby Allison, after contacting debris from a blown engine, cut his right-rear tire while going through the tri-oval portion of the track. The car was vaulted airborne. His car damaged a portion of the frontstretch catch fence, but did not enter the spectator area. NASCAR imposed rule changes to slow the cars after the incident, with a 1988 rule requiring cars running there and at Daytona to again use restrictor plates. The most often cited reason is a fear that the increasing speeds were exceeding the capabilities of the tires available at the time, as high-speed tire failure had led to some terrific crashes at slightly lower speeds. The plates limit the amount of air and fuel entering the intake manifolds of the engine, greatly reducing the power of the cars and hence their speed. This has led to an extremely competitive style of racing at Talladega and Daytona. Allison's crash was very similar to Carl Edwards's airborne crash at the 2009 Aaron's 499.
The reduced power affects not only the maximum speed reached by the cars but the time it takes them to achieve their full speed as well, which can be nearly one full circuit of the track. The racing currently[when?] seen at Talladega is extremely tight, often in rows of three or four cars, and sometimes even five lanes wide on the straightaways throughout most of the field, as the track is wide enough to permit such racing. Breaking away from the pack is very difficult as well.
Such close quarters, however, makes it extremely difficult for a driver to avoid an incident as it is unfolding in front of them, and the slightest mistake can lead to a multi-car accident dubbed "the Big One" by fans and drivers. It is uncommon, but possible, to see 20 or more cars collected in the crashes. Occasionally, cars go airborne and barrel-roll or slide on their roofs, although NASCAR has made several advances in safety over the years to lessen the chance of a car going airborne.
Numerous strange occurrences at the track have led to rumors of Talladega being cursed. Stories of the origin of the curse vary. Some claim that a local Native American tribe held horse races in the valley where the track currently resides where a chief was killed when he was thrown from his horse. Others say that the site of the superspeedway was once an Indian burial ground. Still another version says that after the local tribe was driven out by the Creek nation for their collaborating with the forces of Andrew Jackson, a shaman put a curse on the valley.
Since the construction of the track, many unusual events and untimely deaths have fueled the rumors of a jinx or curse. In the 1973 Talladega 500, NASCAR Rookie of the Year Larry Smith died of massive head injuries in a solo crash, one that was reported by commentators as a heavy hit, but believed by no means bad enough to be fatal. Later in the same race, driver Bobby Isaac parked his car and announced he was quitting racing; he did not participate in another 1973 race. Isaac explained, "Something told me to quit. I don't know anything else to do but abide by it." At the time of Isaac's death in 1977, friend and colleague Ned Jarrett told reporters that the reason Isaac parked his car in Talladega was because he "had heard a voice that told him to quit".
During the 1974 Winston 500, Penske Racing crewman Don Miller lost part of his leg in a pit lane accident. Miller was helping service his team's AMC Matador, driven by Gary Bettenhausen. The car was hit by another driver in pit lane, pinning Miller between the pit wall and Bettenhausen's car. In the Talladega 500 a few months later, ten of the top eleven qualifying drivers found that their cars had been mechanically--and elaborately--sabotaged the night before the race. While the majority of the damage was quietly repaired before the race, the culprit was never found.
In the 1975 Winston 500, Randy Owens, brother-in-law of Richard Petty and a crew member on the family team Petty Enterprises (father of current NASCAR Cup Series crew chief Trent Owens), was killed by an air tank that exploded in the pits.
In 1996, Automobile Racing Club of America president Bob Loga died after a traffic accident in a parking lot. ARCA team owner James Hylton was killed in a highway accident following the 2018 ARCA race, 22 years and one day after former ARCA president Bob Loga died.
Talladega hosts many NASCAR events, which include two Cup Series races, one Xfinity Series race, and one Truck Series race. The Cup Series races include the GEICO 500 and the YellaWood 500, which are both 188 laps each or 500.08 miles (804.80 km). The Xfinity Series race has historically been a 311.2-mile/500-kilometer (117 laps) since its 1992 inception, but was cut to 300 miles (480 km) (113 laps) in 1998 due to a spectator's letter questioning the metric distance, but restored to 500 kilometers by its current[when?] sponsor. The Truck Series race is 250 miles (94 laps). The ARCA race, once a 500 kilometer affair, was shortened to 300 miles in 1998 and to 250 miles in 2006 when it was moved to Friday.
(As of 3/24/19)
|Most Wins||10||Dale Earnhardt|
|Most consecutive Wins||4||Dale Earnhardt, Jr.|
|Most top 5s||23||Dale Earnhardt|
|Most top 10s||27||Dale Earnhardt|
|Most starts||61||Dave Marcis and Terry Labonte|
|Most poles||8||Bill Elliott|
|Most laps completed||10,181||Michael Waltrip|
|Most laps led||1,377||Dale Earnhardt|
|Avg. start*||5.3||Davey Allison|
|Avg. finish*||12.4||Dale Earnhardt|
*minimum fifteen starts
The circuit's infield also hosts the Birmingham Ultimate Disc Association Mud Bowl tournament in the winter.
A large number of drivers won the first race of their careers at Talladega. As of May 6, 2017, eleven drivers have won their first race at Talladega.
* As of 2019, this was their only career win in the series.