Michael McDowell and Christopher Bell Pulled off Their Initial Career Triumphs Earlier This Year to Start the 2021 Season.
TALLADEGA, Ala. – As the NASCAR Cup Series head to the Most Competitive race track on the planet – Talladega Superspeedway – for the running of the GEICO 500 this Sunday (April 25), one of the top storylines will beg the question: Will we see another first-time Cup winner in the track’s iconic Victory Lane?
Michael McDowell started off the season by winning his first in grand style, capturing the DAYTONA 500 to claim his initial premier series triumph, and a week later during the DAYTONA Road Course event, Christopher Bell pulled the rabbit out of the hat for his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. With parity highly seen thus far in the first nine races (8 winners – only Martin Truex, Jr., has two wins), the season shifts to the unpredictable 2.66-mile, 33-degree-banked venue that has produced 11 first-time winners.
Since Talladega Superspeedway opened its doors in 1969, going to Victory Lane at marked the beginning of several successful careers with the likes of Davey Allison (1987), Ken Schrader (1988), Brian Vickers (2006) and Brad Keselowski (2009). Allison’s career tallied 19 career triumphs (three at TSS) while Schrader and Vickers finished with four and three total wins respectively. Keselowski, the 2012 premier series champion, currently has 34 (five of which have come at Talladega). Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.is the latest to pull off the feat, going to the winner’s circle in the 2017 GEICO 500. He now has two career victories.
The first – and lone – victory for others at Talladega have been the benchmark of their career, and they all came in dramatic fashion at the “Greatest Race Track in the World,” as it was termed by NASCAR founder and track creator Bill France, Sr. They include Richard Brickhouse (1969), Dick Brooks (1973), Lennie Pond (1978), Ron Bouchard (1981), Bobby Hillin, Jr. (1986) and Phil Parsons (1988).
Interestingly enough, 1988 saw back-to-back first-time winners at Talladega – Parsons in the spring and Schrader later that summer.
There are a host of drivers who have shown the ability to run up front and lead, but are still looking for that first career Cup win. Could Talladega be the place for Matt DiBenedetto, Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain, Ryan Preece or Corey LaJoie? What about Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Briscoe, who could join the likes of Allison, Bouchard and Keselowski, who were rookies when they were victorious at ’Dega.
As history has proven, anything can happen at Talladega and we just might see a newcomer etch their name in the Talladega Superspeedway record book and take home the coveted Vulcan Trophy.
The GEICO 500 is set for a 1:00 p.m. CDT start on Sunday (April 25), but the action-packed weekend begins on Saturday (April 24) with a doubleheader consisting of with the General Tire 200 at 12:00 p.m. CDT and the Ag-Pro 300 at 3:00 p.m. CDT.
Limited admission options remain for the GEICO 500 and fans are encouraged to log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA for details. Tickets are available for Saturday’s races, with kids 12 and younger admitted free (with a paying adult) to grandstands/towers.