Talladega Superspeedway, formerly known as 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. Talladega is most known for its steep banking. The track currently hosts NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Camping World Truck Series. Talladega is the longest NASCAR oval with a length of 2.66-mile-long (4.28 km) tri-oval like the Daytona International Speedway, which is a 2.5-mile-long (4.0 km). At its peak, Talladega had a seating capacity of 175,000 spectators, although its current capacity is 80,000 spectators.
|Location||3366 Speedway Boulevard, Lincoln, Alabama 35096, United States|
|Time zone||UTC−6 / −5 (DST)|
|Coordinates||33°34′01.06″N86°03′57.85″WCoordinates: 33°34′01.06″N 86°03′57.85″W|
|Owner||International Speedway Corporation|
|Operator||International Speedway Corporation|
|Broke ground||May 23, 1968; 48 years ago|
|Opened||September 13, 1969; 47 years ago|
|Construction cost||US$4 million|
|Architect||Bill Ward and William France Sr.|
|Former names||Alabama International Motor Speedway (1969–1989)|
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 on May 23, 1968. 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". The track opened on September 13, 1969 at a cost of $4 million. The first race at the track was unlike any other; 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 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Since its opening year, Talladega has hosted many races and has been repaved four times. Talladega also has had many first-time winners, such as Larry Schild, Sr.; Richard Brickhouse, Brian Vickers, and Brad Keselowski.
A 4-mile (6.4 km) infield road course was in operation 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.
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 backstraightway was renamed the "Alabama Gang Superstretch" in time for the 2014 Aaron's 499 held in the spring.
"The Big One"
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 due to the fact that 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 200mph 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 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.
The Talladega jinx
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, Roger Penske 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 Sprint Cup crew chief Trent Owens), was killed by an air tank that exploded in the pits.
To some, Bobby Allison's wreck in 1987 described above was yet another reminder of the curse. In 1993, his son, Davey Allison, died in a helicopter crash in the infield of Talladega. That same month, Neil Bonnett was involved in a crash similar to B. Allison's, in which his car went airborne and impacted the catch fence in the tri-oval. In the 2009 Aaron's 499, Carl Edwards suffered a similar wreck.
In 1996, Automobile Racing Club of America president Bob Loga died after a traffic accident in a parking lot.
The Legend of Hallowdega, a comedic short film about the Talladega jinx, was directed by Terry Gilliam and released in 2010.