A Look Back In Talladega History: Gone Streaking
Winning two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in a row at NASCAR’s Most Competitive Track is something only a handful of drivers have done. Pete Hamilton was the first, Jeff Gordon most recently, with Sterling Marlin, Darrell Waltrip, Ernie Irvan and Dale Earnhardt (three times!) in between. Winning three in a row however, has only been accomplished twice in the 40 year history of Talladega Superspeedway. The first driver to set the streak? Buddy Baker from 1975 to 1976.
Despite becoming the first driver to complete a 200mph lap around a closed course in 1970 and earning a pole in the 1973 Winston 500 (now Aaron’s 499) Baker had yet to earn a victory at Talladega Superspeedway by 1974. A history of bad luck had Baker feeling he was due some good fortune.
“I figure this track owes me something and someday I’m going to collect,” Baker said at the time. “When I do, I’m going to hold the (biggest) party this part of the county has ever seen. And it’s going to be right in front of the grandstands. I’m going to lock all the gates, have champagne sent in for the press and ain’t nobody ever going home.”
In 1975, Baker found his good luck charm in the oddest of items… a No. 9 headlight decal.
“Sunny (King) found it on pit road the morning of the Winston 500,” Baker explained. “He gave it to me before the race and said it would bring me good luck.”
Who knew King would be so right.
Baker swept both races at Talladega Superspeedway in 1975 and capped off the streak of three consecutive wins with a victory in the 1976 Winston 500. Baker’s record stood for over 25 years until Dale Earnhardt, Jr. recorded a streak of four consecutive victories from 2001 to 2003.
Earnhardt, Jr. calls it his favorite memory of Talladega Superspeedway.
“My greatest experience was winning my fourth in a row there,” said Earnhardt, Jr. “I imagine it’s an obtainable record, but it should stand for some time at least. I’m very proud of that.”
The keys to his success?
“I just like plate racing. I like racing in the close packs, bumper to bumper. It’s a little bit different than what we normally do. You have to be uncanny and spiteful and almost mean at the end of the race. But what it really comes down to is having a great race car.”
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.
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