NASCAR’s top 5 moments from Talladega Superspeedway
You either love or hate the track in Alabama.
You’ll either love them or hate them.
Here they are.
1. 18th to first (2000)
With four laps left in the 2000 Winston 500, Dale Earnhardt was nowhere near the front.
He was 18th.
Over the last four circuits of the 2.66-mile superspeedway, the seven-time Cup champion would put on one last show at the track he’d won nine previous times.
Earnhardt deftly navigated the draft and the field, rubbing fenders when he needed to, and eventually picked up help from Kenny Wallace with three laps to go. That allowed him to move into third on the backstretch behind his teammate, Mike Skinner, and his son, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As they took the white flag, the elder Earnhardt narrowly led Skinner and Earnhardt Jr. across the finish line.
By the time they reached Turn 3, Earnhardt led Wallace and Joe Nemechek as they broke away from the chaos of the pack behind them.
Earnhardt kept the lead and crossed the finish line for his 76th and final Cup Series win.
2. Gordon win angers Dale Jr. fans (2004)
From fall 2001 to spring 2003, Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed four straight wins on NASCAR’s biggest oval. After his teammate Michael Waltrip won the fall 2003 race, he aimed for win No. 5 in April 2004.
He came very close.
Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon were battling for the lead with five laps to go when a Brian Vickers incident in Turn 3 brought out the caution and froze the field.
When the field raced through the tri-oval back to the finish line, Earnhardt led Gordon.
As the field crept around the track with four laps to go, NASCAR ruled Gordon had been the leader when the caution was issued.
The race never resumed and Gordon took the win.
As the checkered and yellow flags flew, so did cups and cans of beer, as angry fans pelted the track and a celebrating Gordon to show their disapproval in the race not resuming and the outcome.
The creation of the green-white-checkered finish wasn’t far behind.
3. Brad Keselowski gets first win in a part-time role (2009)
In 2009, Brad Keselowski was driving part-time for James Finch. The spring race at Talladega was his fifth Cup Series start and his third of 15 starts that season.
Entering the race, Keselowski had yet to lead a lap. Exiting the race, he had one lap led on his record. How he led that lap is notable.
The tandem racing era on superspeedways was just getting underway and it was on display during a four-lap shootout to the finish.
When the white flag was displayed, Carl Edwards, with Keselowski hooked to his bumper, sped by Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead and second place.
As they raced through the tri-oval for the final time, Keselowski went to Edwards’ inside. They made contact and Edwards went into a spin, the momentum of which caused him to collide with Newman and get airborne into the catch fence. He was unharmed.
By the end of the season Keselowski would be driving for Team Penske. He’d go full-time in 2010 and two years later would win his first Cup title. In the spring 2010 Atlanta race, Edwards would get payback when he intentionally spun Keselowski, causing him to flip onto his roof.
4. Dawn of the restrictor plates (1987)
Every era of auto racing has to start somewhere.
NASCAR’s restrictor-plate era began in 1988 and lasted through the 2019 Daytona 500.
But its origins are in the May 1987 Winston 500 and a scary Bobby Allison wreck, days after Bill Elliott established the track’s qualifying record at 212.809 mph.
Twenty-one laps into the event, Allison was racing through the tri-oval when his engine blew. Debris from it cut a tire, causing Allison to lose control. He lifted up into the catch fence, where his car ripped a large section of it down right before the flag stand.
Allison was unharmed in the crash.
After a lengthy red flag to repair the fence, the race resumed. It ended with Davey Allison, Bobby’s son, earning his first Cup Series win.
That year was the last year of unrestricted racing on superspeedways.
5. ‘Sorry we couldn’t crash more cars today’ (2012)
While Daytona and Talladega provide plenty of spectacle, they also provide really big crashes.
In the May 2012 Cup race, one of those wrecks unfolded on a restart with four laps to go.
Among those involved in the nine-car wreck was Tony Stewart.
Afterward, an unhappy Stewart showed his displeasure in a sarcastic interview.
“Sorry we couldn’t crash more cars today. We didn’t fill the quota for today for Talladega and NASCAR,” Stewart deadpanned. “If we haven’t crashed at least 50% of the field by the end of the race we need to extend the race until we crash at least 50% of the cars. ‘Cause it’s not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that and more tore up cars.”