“Bobby Rahal and Rick Mears battle it out on the backstretch…” crackles the announcers voice over the loudspeakers, as thousands of fans rise to their feet. But this isn’t the scene of the closing laps at Indianapolis, it’s the 1986 IROC race at Talladega Superspeedway. Over the course of four decades, Talladega has hosted some of the finest drivers open-wheel racing has to offer and their response has all been the same. Talladega’s unlike any other racetrack.
Names like Foyt and Unser are usually reserved for talk about the Brickyard, but both have competed at Talladega, albeit in different series. A.J. Foyt made 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Talladega, including a start from the pole in the 1977 Winston 500 (now Aaron’s 499). Foyt’s best career finish at Talladega was third the very next year, in the 1978 Winston 500. Prior to his first race, Foyt remarked, “I never saw Talladega before last Thursday, but I have heard enough about it. It’s a fast track, the fastest in the world. It will be interesting to see what speeds we turn.”
Both Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr. competed at Talladega Superspeedway in the IROC Series, with Jr. recording wins in 1993 and 1995. Between the two of them, father and son own six Indy 500 wins.
The recent influx of open wheel drivers competing in NASCAR full time has meant that even former Formula One competitors are trying their hand at Talladega. Juan Pablo Montoya made his first start at Talladega in the ARCA RE/MAX Series in 2006, qualifying second and finishing third. Former Formula One competitor Scott Speed followed in Montoya’s footsteps, competing in the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 in 2007 with a seventh place start and finish. Jacque Villeneuve, the Formula One World Champion, competed at Talladega in the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, then proceeded to make his first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega the following day.
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.