The first Cup race on the Alabama track was held under controversial circumstances on Sept. 14, 1969.
NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. was forced to fill the field with drivers from the Grand American Series after many of NASCAR’s stars, including Richard Petty, boycotted the race over safety concerns.
The field was made up of 36 drivers – including future NASCAR team owner Richard Childress in his first career Cup start as a driver. Fifteen drivers made it to the finish as Richard Brickhouse took home the victory. It would be his only win in 39 Cup starts.
Here are some highlights and notes from the first 50 years of NASCAR racing at Talladega.
– Dale Earnhardt Sr. is the winningest driver in Talladega history with 10 wins. NBC Sports analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon are tied for second with six. Brad Keselowski leads active drivers with five wins.
– Six drivers have swept both races at Talladega in a season: Pete Hamilton (1970), Buddy Baker (1975), Darrell Waltrip (1982), Dale Earnhardt (1990 & 1999), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2002) and Jeff Gordon (2007).
– Eleven drivers have earned their first career Cup win at Talladega: Brickhouse, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2017), Keselowski (2009), Brian Vickers (2006), Ken Schrader (1988), Phil Parsons (1988)*, Davey Allison (1987), Bobby Hillin (1986)*, Ron Bouchard (1981)*, Lennie Pond (1978)* and Dick Brooks (1973)*. *Denotes their only Cup win
– Of the Cup champions who have competed at Talladega, only seven have failed to win there: Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, Hall of Famer Benny Parsons, Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac and Hall of Famer Buck Baker.
– Of the 48 drivers who have won at Talladega, 11 will be in the field for Sunday’s race.
– The lowest a driver has started a race at Talladega and won was Jeff Gordon, who won the spring 2000 race after starting 36th.
– Sixty-nine drivers have dared to make their first career Cup start at Talladega.
– The record for most cars in a race was 60 on May 6, 1973.
– The record for most lead changes in a race is 88, which has occurred twice (most recent on April 17, 2011).
– While the record for cautions at Talladega is 11, the track has seen three caution-free races, in 1997, 2001 and 2002.
– The October 2018 race had only one DNF, the fewest in track history.
– Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has the best average finish among active drivers (11.8).
– Bill Elliott owns the track’s qualifying record, 212.809 mph, set on May 3, 1987. He also has the record for Talladega poles with eight.
Sponsors and crew chief pairings will be announced at a later date.
Tifft will drive the No. 36 Ford, a number which has special meaning to him.
“I drove earlier in my career under Ken Schrader (in ARCA), that was his number back in the day,” Tifft said in a live video announcement on NASCAR’s YouTube page. “Obviously it fits into the 30 series of numbers for Front Row Motorsports. For him being my early mentor, the coincidence of that being my number now is really cool.”
Owned by Bob Jenkins, FRM debuted in Cup in 2005 when it made 13 starts with seven drivers. It didn’t compete in a majority of the races with one driver until 2009 with John Andretti (34 starts).
David Gilliland was the first driver to start all 36 races for the team in 2011. Gilliland and Ragan were full-time in 2012 and the team has had two full-time cars each year since, culminating in Ragan and McDowell as its drivers in 2018.
“We’ve made it clear in recent years that it was our intent to continue to invest in NASCAR and expand to a three-car team,” Jenkins said in a press release. “Not only are we here to stay, we’re here to grow.
“We already have two proven veterans in our line-up, and now we’ll get to add an impressive young talent and championship contender who will inject some new energy into the group. With the introduction of the Ford Mustang into the Cup Series, 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting season for us.”
The jokes and observations began flying in the Bristol Motor Speedway media center not long after Kurt Busch won Saturday night’s Cup race.
It had been how long since Busch visited Victory Lane at the half-mile track?
Some media members had covered that race. Others – specifically this writer – had been *checks notes* a freshman in high school when Busch won the Food City 500 on March 26, 2006.
Oh, that long.
Twelve years have passed between Busch’s Bristol wins, the latest bringing him six career wins in “Thunder Valley.”
That fifth win, in Team Penske’s No. 2 Dodge, came in a very different time in NASCAR.
For one, that was two versions of Bristol ago. A year after his win, the track added progressive banking in the turns. That was then retrofitted in 2012, which resulted in the top groove often being the preferred lane.
“This track has been kicking my butt since they redid the concrete, reground the outside lane, then have been throwing the traction compound on the bottom lane,” Busch said. “It’s great to win on the old one and the new one. It’s been a while.”
What else was going on in NASCAR when Busch claimed his fifth Bristol win? Get ready to feel the kind of nostalgia that will make you feel old in all the wrong ways.
– Even if you don’t remember Busch’s win in 2006, you might remember what happened on pit road after it. Jeff Gordon showed off his temper for the first time, when he shoved Matt Kenseth after Kenseth spun him with two laps to go.
– Jimmie Johnson hadn’t even claimed his first of a record-tying seven Cup championships. He would go on to do so that year, beginning his stretch of five titles in a row.
– Ken Schrader was driving the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing.
– Nextel was the title sponsor for the Cup Series and would be through 2007. Sprint took over in 2008.
– The much maligned Car of Tomorrow was exactly a year away. It would make its part-time debut in the Food City 500, and race winner Kyle Busch (his first of seven wins at Bristol) did not like it.
– Chase Elliott, Cup’s most recent first-time winner, was 9-years-old.
This is what was hot in the world of pop culture on March 26, 2008.
The No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 was “So Sick” by Ne-Yo, an artist I don’t remember and a song title I couldn’t have told you. But I definitely remember hearing this on the radio.
If that doesn’t jolt your memory of the time, “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt was the previous No. 1 song for a week and two weeks later, Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” would start a five-week run as at the top before being the year-end No. 1 song.
2006 was a bad year for music.
– The No. 1 movie at the box office that weekend was Denzel Washington’s “Inside Man.” It made $28.9 million and beat out Natalie Portman’s “V for for Vendetta” and the video game horror film “Stay Alive.”
The Play Station 2 was in its last months as Sony’s primary gaming console. The Play Station 3 wouldn’t be released until November of that year.
The top book on the New York Times’ bestseller list was “The 5th Horseman” James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. The following week, “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown would start its second, two-week stretch at the No. 1 book.
Chase Elliott gives Hendrick Motorsports 250th Cup win
In addition to those wins, Hendrick owns 12 Cup titles.
Seventeen drivers have gone to Victory Lane for Rick Hendrick since Geoff Bodine first did it at Martinsville in 1984.
“On behalf of everyone at Chevrolet, I am extremely pleased to congratulate Rick and the entire Hendrick Motorsports family on this tremendous accomplishment of 250 race wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports in statement. “This major milestone is the result of years of passion, persistence, and teamwork to get the job done. We are especially proud of the fact that all 250 wins have been in Chevrolet race cars. Rick’s passion for the brand and dedication to putting Chevrolet in Victory Lane has been relentless. As a key partner and respected friend, we salute you.”