Talladega – Like No Place On Earth
Thursday, 24 April 2008 19:00

Just off Interstate-20 in eastern Alabama sits a 2.66-mile behemoth of a race track, the Talladega Superspeedway.


Like no other track in the world, Talladega has gained a reputation over the years as being one of the toughest and most unique racing facilities.


With as much action happening in the infield as on the track itself, Talladega is definitely a must-see for any Hardcore Race Fan.


Many strange occurrences have happened at the monstrous speedway over the forty year history of the track. Those in the garage and many ‘old school’ Hardcore Race Fans have a pretty good idea why; supposedly the track was built on Indian burial ground.


The story goes back to 1830 when President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. According to legend, Jackson’s act drove the Talladega Indians from their land. However, before leaving, a medicine man from the tribe placed a curse on their former home. Perhaps because of this curse it in not a surprise that upon its opening in 1969, even the first event was full of controversy.


Drivers complained speeds were too high and the tires being used would not last. Citing safety concerns, drivers formed the Professional Drivers Association and nominated Richard Petty as their representative.


Petty went to NASCAR’s Bill France Sr. with the concerns and argued their case. France offered no concessions and for the first – and only – time in NASCAR history, many drivers boycotted the race. Not letting the PDA get the best of his newest track’s debut race, ‘Big’ Bill France took to the track himself, competing in the 500-mile event.


During the 1973 Winston 500, a massive accident took out half the field in two separate crashes that occurred on the same lap. The late Benny Parsons described the scene as looking as if a passenger airplane had crashed on the backstretch.


Later in that event, the 1970 Cup Series champion Bobby Isaac stopped on pit road and climbed out of his car. Nothing was mechanically wrong with the car, but Isaac claimed a voice had told him to park the car.


The 1974 Talladega 500 saw one of the strangest incidents in all of NASCAR history. A massive sabotage in the garage on race day saw tires and brake lines cut on a number of cars and sand was even poured into gas tanks. The culprit was never found and teams were left to wonder how this could have happened


Over the years, Talladega has been home to dizzying speeds (well over 200 mph) and horrifying crashes. In 1987, Bobby Allison blew a right rear tire going through the tri-oval. His No. 22 spun backwards, lifted in the air and flew into the catch-fence ripping down nearly 100 yards of protective fence.


Allison’s son Davey died in a bizarre accident in 1993 after crashing his helicopter in the infield of the speedway. A routine landing turned deadly when the helicopter suddenly flipped over.


Later that year, an accident going into the first turn sent New Jersey-native Jimmy Horton for the ride of his life. Horton’s No. 32 was sent tumbling over the wall and out of the speedway. Horton was uninjured in the accident but explained, “I knew I was in trouble when the first person to the car was holding a beer and had no shirt.”


Although it appeared Horton received the worst end of the deal, Alabama-native Stanley Smith was critically injured in that same incident after hitting the wall at the wrong angle.


In an eerily similar incident, Ricky Craven was shot up the track going into turn one during the 1996 Winston 500. Craven’s No. 41 was sent tumbling up the track and into the catch-fence (installed after Horton’s incident) and thrown back across the track over the cars crashing beneath him. Craven’s car was mangled and looked like it had been tossed around in a hurricane, however the driver was uninjured.


These strange occurrences are not limited to just the drivers either. In 2006, two men – Keith Stell and Ronny Wright – died after being electrocuted in the infield. Their flag pole fell onto power lines, killing them both.


Whether it is just coincidence or the Talladega curse, racing at Talladega Superspeedway is like no other. High speeds and tight pack racing makes for edge-of-your-seat racing and many tense moments. Drivers compete on the edge of disaster for 500 miles, a definite must see for any Hardcore Race Fan.