Setting speed records, along with three giants of the sport winning three straight – although in different fashions – was the order of the day as Alabama International Motor Speedway (today known as Talladega Superspeedway), which celebrates its 50th Anniversary Oct. 11-13 with a NASCAR Playoffs doubleheader weekend, kicked off the 1970s.
Just months after the Big Bill France’s creation in late 1969, it was time to showcase what the mammoth 2.66-mile, 33-degree banked track was built for – high speeds and unforgettable, great racing for fans. It was the beginning of 10 glorious years for the northeastern, AL venue, highlighted by the following:
- Speed Demon: Buddy Baker sets the tone when, on March 24, 1970, he becomes the first driver to officially eclipse the 200-mph mark on a closed-course venue while testing at Talladega. Driving a blue No. 88 winged Dodge Daytona Charger, his speed of 200.447 mph is a world record.
- Hamilton Sweep: After having just one race weekend in its initial year, the track hosts two events beginning in ’70, and it has been that way since. Both races that year are won by Pete Hamilton, piloting a Petty Enterprises winged Plymouth Superbird. In the summer race, he leads 153 of the 188 laps, the most by a winner in the ’70s.
- All in the Family: Brothers Donnie and Bobby Allison, original members of the famed “Alabama Gang,” finish 1-2 in the ’71 spring race with Donnie pulling out the victory by six car lengths. Bobby would get his due, however, coming back to capture Talladega’s summer event. Donnie would claim victory No. 2 at his hometown track in ’77.
- Fox on the Prowl: David Pearson, NASCAR’s Silver Fox, reels off three straight victories in the track’s spring event from 1972-74 behind the wheel of the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury. The “third-time-is-a-charm” win is just by .17 second over Benny Parsons. His record streak isn’t broken until 2003 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. notches four straight.
- Super Tex Makes his Mark: A.J. Foyt sets a new closed-course, exhibition record in an IndyCar with a lap of 217.854 mph, on Aug. 3, 1974.
- Move Over A.J.: Mark Donahue replaces A.J. Foyt as the world record holder for speed on a closed-course by driving a Porsche 917-30 around Talladega Superspeedway at 221.160 mph on Aug. 9, 1975.
- Towering the Competition: Baker, who at 6 feet 6 inches tall was known as the “Gentle Giant,” reels off three consecutive race wins – a sweep in 1975 and the spring event in ’76 – in Bud Moore’s Ford No. 15. Baker, known for going wide open every lap, would later add a fourth trip to Gatorade Victory Lane in ’80.
- BIG WIN: Bobby Allison gets his second victory in the decade by claiming the largest margin of victory at Talladega – one lap and 50 seconds in the 1979 spring event. Darrell Waltrip is the distant second-place finisher.
- First-Timers: Two drivers capture their initial career victory – and only – in the sport, at Talladega. Dick Brooks goes to the winner’s circle in 1973, while Lennie Pond does the same in ’78.
- Ahh, the Thrill of Victory: Other winners during the 1970s include James Hylton (’72), Waltrip (’77 & ’79), Richard Petty (’74), Dave Marcis (’76) and Cale Yarborough (’78).
The 1970s were just the beginning of five glorious decades of motorsports history at France’s palace of speed. It continues with the Sugarlands Shine 250 for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series on Saturday, Oct. 12, and the 1000Bulbs.com 500 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, Oct. 13 – both crucial NASCAR Playoff events.
In addition, the track will debut the new Talladega Garage Experience, the major part of the Transformation Infield Project presented by Graybar where fans will be immersed into the sport of NASCAR and the sanctioning body’s Most Competitive venue like never before. It will feature a fan walkway in the garage bays under the same roof as all of the race teams, FREE Wi-Fi, Value-Priced Concessions, access to witness the race winner celebrate in Gatorade Victory Lane and much more.
For ticket information and to learn more about the Talladega Garage Experience and all ticket questions for the upcoming weekend, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).