It was a weekend of "firsts" at Talladega Superspeedway, and the fans loved it. The UAW-Ford 500 event weekend was the best-attended fall event in the track's history.
On Friday, fans witnessed the first competitive miles on a brand new racing surface - the Food World 250 ARCA RE/MAX Series race. Open wheel star Juan Pablo Montoya made his first stock car start driving for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and posted his first top-3 finish. Crossing the line first, however, was seven-time series champion Frank Kimmel, who despite having collected victories at nearly every other track on the circuit in recent years, took his first-ever victory at Talladega Superspeedway.
On Saturday, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rookie David Gilliland posted the fastest speed of 191.712 mph during Discount Food Mart Qualifying, taking his first career pole award and putting the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing Ford in the top starting position for the third consecutive time at Talladega Superspeedway.
Later that afternoon, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers lined up at the start/finish line for a group photo to commemorate the start of the track's first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, the John Deere 250. Mark Martin's name will be listed as the first winner of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. Martin started in the first position after having won the pole during Alabama Beef Producers Qualifying Day on Friday. The trip to Gatorade Victory Lane was an emotional one for his Roush Racing team, since it came on the heels of Martin's announcement Friday that he would no longer pilot the No. 6 AAA Roush Racing Ford full-time in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in order to make the move to the No. 01 MB2 Motorsports team for a limited schedule in 2007.
Then in Sunday's UAW-Ford 500, fans watched as 23 different drivers swapped the lead 63 times with Brian Vickers emerging as the winner to take his first career victory - one of only nine drivers to do so at Talladega Superspeedway in 38 years of history, and the first to do so since Ken Schrader on July 31, 1988. The number of lead changes is the most NASCAR fans have seen in at any track since 1984, when 68 lead changes were recorded here in the July race. It was the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, and Jeff Burton managed to hang onto his points lead, but saw it narrowed after a 27th place finish. A fourth place finish boosted second place contender Matt Kenseth two spots and within 6 points striking distance of the lead, and an eighth place for Mark Martin keeps him in the third position and only 10 points away from the lead.
"While we offered our guests a lot of new experiences, we are most pleased to report that the most important thing has not changed, and it is the unparalleled level of competition and exciting racing at Talladega Superspeedway," said Talladega Superspeedway President Grant Lynch. "We have had an overwhelming positive response from fans and drivers about the new racing surface, and we couldn't ask for a better way to conclude the year than a weekend as successful as we've had. We can't wait for everyone to come back to visit us in the spring."
The 2007 Aaron's Dream Weekend is set for April 27-29, featuring the Aaron's 312 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, April 28 and the Aaron's 499 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday, April 29.
Kids age 11 and younger are admitted free of charge when accompanied by a ticketed adult on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets to all of these events are available by calling 1-877- Go2-DEGA, Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. CDT, or by visiting us online at www.racetickets.com. For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). You may also purchase tickets in person at Talladega Superspeedway's Ticket Office 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. CDT, Monday - Friday.