By: Isaac Donsky, Staff Writer
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
This weekend will see NASCAR make its annual pilgrimage to the biggest, baddest track on the calendar, Talladega Superspeedway. Here’s why, even if you aren’t a NASCAR fan, you should watch it.
Built on the remains of Anniston Air Force Base, Talladega Superspeedway is the longest and widest track on the NASCAR schedule. The track opened in 1969, and has been both loved and hated by NASCAR fans ever since. I’ll agree with the fans, as this track routinely produces my favorite NASCAR moments, while simultaneously giving me heart palpitations.
What is it that makes Talladega so awesome? Well for one, the track produces the highest speeds and fastest races in NASCAR. Due to its immense size, Talladega has become essentially a proving ground for drivers to see just how fast they can go. In 1987, Bill Elliott set an official NASCAR record by annihilating the stopwatches with a lap of 212.809 miles per hour.
Coincidentally, in that same race, Bobby Allison was going so fast that when he blew a tire, his car became airborne and impacted the safety fence separating the fans from the track. Thankfully, nobody was killed, but NASCAR knew they had to do something to slow the cars down.
This would lead to the era of restrictor plate racing. Beginning in 1988, NASCAR placed a small metal plate on the intake of the engines to restrict air flow and slow the cars down. Speeds fell drastically, keeping spectators safe. But on the track, the racing became even more intense.
Now unable to pull away from rival cars due to the immense drag the plates created, drivers had to race in tightly knit packs, drafting and bumping their way towards the front. This style of racing, known as pack racing, led to some truly insane races and massive crashes.
Nowadays, restrictor plates are no longer needed. NASCAR removed the plates for the 2019 season, but with modern safety features, the concerns of the 1980’s are long forgotten. This doesn’t mean that racing isn’t dangerous. Pack racing is heart-stopping, furiously paced and in some cases quite reckless. Drivers have to be incredibly careful, as one wrong move can cause a massive 20 car pileup. It’s no wonder that Talladega has caused some of the largest and most violent NASCAR crashes of all time.
So intense racing, spectacular crashes and breakneck speeds are what Talladega has to offer for the casual fan. However, for NASCAR nuts like myself, there is so much more to offer.
Talladega has a rich history with many historical moments. There was the grand opening in 1969, which was boycotted by almost all drivers due to safety concerns leading to one of the worst races in NASCAR history.
In 1997, Mark Martin won the fastest race in NASCAR history at a blistering average speed of 188.354 miles per hour. Lastly, between 2001 and 2003, Dale Earnhardt Jr. rewrote the record books by winning four consecutive Talladega races, something that was believed to be impossible.
Talladega has so much to offer that I can’t even put it all into one column. There’s the massive number of first-time winners the track produces, the controversy surrounding the double-yellow line rule, which I’ve previously complained about in a prior column, and the crazy infield parties.
Also, Talladega cannot be talked about without mentioning the rumours that the land was cursed by a Native American tribe when they were forced out. Perhaps that explains why so many strange and spooky events occur during the October race weekend.
So wherever you may be on Sunday, whether it be in front of a TV or in the car listening to the radio, I implore you to tune in to Talladega April 25, at 2:00 p.m.. Trust me, it will be something you’ve never seen before.