Over a span of 40 years and 79 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, NASCAR champions have won at Talladega Superspeedway 41 times. While it’s impressive that NASCAR champs have won over 50% of the races at Talladega, perhaps even more astonishing is the fact that over 41 wins, only nine times has a driver won at Talladega the same year they won the championship.
Richard Petty became the first driver to win at NASCAR’s Most Competitive Track the same year he won a NASCAR championship, when he earned his first win at Talladega in the 1974 Talladega 500, now known as the AMP Energy 500. While the win was Petty’s first in 10 starts at Talladega, the championship was his fifth.
Cale Yarborough followed in Petty’s footsteps, recording his first victory at Talladega in the 1978 Winston 500 en route to his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
In sweeping both the 1982 Talladega 500 and Winston 500, Darrell Waltrip rolled to his second Sprint Cup championship. However, while Petty and Yarborough before him earned their first wins at Talladega on their way to a championship, Waltrip had two prior victories at Talladega in 1977 and 1979.
Dale Earnhardt rewrote the book on winning at Talladega Superspeedway and still holds the track record for most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins, with ten. It’s no surprise then that Earnhardt also recorded wins at Talladega on his way to championships number four through seven. In 1990, he swept both the Winston 500 and DieHard 500, leading to his fourth championship. A DieHard 500 win helped propel Earnhardt to another championship in 1991. In 1993 he again won the DieHard 500 en route to his sixth championship. And, in 1994, his final championship was bolstered by a win in the Winston Select 500.
It would be twelve years after Earnhardt before a driver would again carry a win at Talladega Superspeedway to the championship. Jimmie Johnson did so by way of a 2006 Aaron’s 499 victory.
Could the next Talladega Superspeedway champion carry that victory a NASCAR championship? Only time will tell.
In 2009, Talladega Superspeedway proudly celebrates forty years of the most competitive racing in NASCAR. While the track has seen changes made to the cars that circle its high-banks, the surface that they race on and the grandstands that thousands of fans fill twice a year, one constant remains; Talladega Superspeedway is authentic NASCAR racing at its finest.
Race fans should make plans now to experience part of Talladega’s history in 2009 during the triple-header, Aaron’s Dream Weekend, April 24-26, featuring the ARCA RE/MAX Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For tickets, 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.