Get to know the mystery and history of the steepest and craziest track in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama, might be best known as the setting for a certain hilarious Hollywood movie about life as a race car driver.
The track has launched careers and broken hearts. And on May 7, the GEICO 500 returns to Talladega. From the number of hot dogs sold to speed records, here are 10 things to know about Talladega Superspeedway—including why it might be jinxed.
- It’s 2.66 miles long—the longest oval track in the series.
- Why is Talladega so fast? (It’s home to the fastest lap ever recorded.) It’s all in the banking—the degree of incline measured at each track. Talladega tops the series list with 33-degree banking its first two turns. By comparison, the steepest banking on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway is 7 degrees. Because of its speed, Talladega is one of two tracks where restrictor plates are required to stop speeds from climbing too high. (Daytona is the other.)
- The smallest margin of victory in series history came at Talladega Superspeedway when Jimmie Johnson inched past Clint Bowyer by .002 seconds in 2011 at the finish line.
- The Speedway is known as the most competitive track in the series—holding the record for lead changes. On two occasions—2010 and 2011—the lead has been swapped an incredible 88 times; in 2010, there were 29 drivers who held point.
- About 7,500 hot dogs are sold during each race in the concession areas. Catering adds another 5,000.
- When 51-year-old Harry Gant won the Winston 500 in 1991, he became (and remains) the oldest driver to win at Talladega. He was victorious by letting his gas tank run to empty in order to skip a final pit stop, which would have cost him the race. “Coming around on the checkers, the engine was not running,” Gant told reporters after the race. “From the entrance to pit road to the finish line, I coasted.”
- In 1970, Buddy Baker became the first driver to exceed 200 mph at Talladega. Speeds kept climbing until 1987 when Bill Elliott hit 212.809 mph. After an accident on the track that season at Talladega, changes to the rules (implementation of restrictor plates to slow the cars) make it unlikely for that mark to ever be hit again.
- You can get married at the Talladega campground—though you’ll need to bring your own officiant.
- Talladega might be jinxed. There are two prevailing theories for a myriad bad crashes (known as The Big One) and strange happenings: The first theory is that the track was built on a Native American burial ground. The other is that it was cursed after drivers boycotted the first race there due to safety concerns. Instead of cancelling, replacement drivers filled the field for that historic first event in September of 1969.
- At 22, Bobby Hillin Jr. became the youngest driver to win at Talladega Speedway. Despite his status at the time of a young golden boy, he never won another race.