A Look Back In TSS History - First Timers
There was a time when Darrell Waltrip was known by something other than “ol’ DW”. It was a time before he was running his competitors ragged and known as “Jaws.” It was on May 5, 1972 at Talladega Superspeedway when Darrell Waltrip was simply known as…rookie.
The list of competitors who made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Talladega Superspeedway is over 60 names long. While some have gone on to lengthy careers behind the wheel in NASCAR, others have faded away from the sport. Others still found success at NASCAR’s highest level, just not in the fashion they expected.
Richard Childress made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Talladega Superspeedway during the inaugural Talladega 500 in 1969. He finished 23rd. While he would compete at Talladega 18 times behind the wheel, he earned no victories and only five top-10s. He is however, the second-most winning car owner at Talladega Superspeedway with nine wins.
It’s understandable that a rookie driver would find the high speeds and high banks of Talladega a bit overwhelming, but it isn’t just the track and the car that is a new experience. Just ask Jamie McMurray who made his first start in the 2002 AMP Energy 500 filling in for an injured Sterling Marlin.
“I remember being really nervous that weekend filling in for Sterling,” said McMurray. “I had never stayed in a motorhome before, so that was my first weekend to stay in a motorhome at the racetrack. Just really nervous all weekend.
“Then during the race, we ran really well. It was ironic that on my first Cup start, the race ran green the entire time. I don’t know that I had ever made a green flag pitstop before in the (Nationwide) Series up to that point. All through the entire race we made green flag pitstops. And then we ran out of gas a lap before the last pitstop so we didn’t finish very well, but the car ran really well that day.”
Other notable drivers who made their first start at Talladega Superspeedway include: Dennis Setzer in 1998, Davey Allison in 1985, Kyle Petty in 1979 and Neil Bonnett in 1974.
Race fans can experience part of Talladega’s history this fall, during the 40th running of the AMP Energy 500 weekend, Oct. 3-5. Visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA. For our hearing impaired guests, please call TDD 1-866-ISC-TRAK (1-866-472-8725). Tickets also are available in person by visiting the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. CDT, Monday- Friday.