The Mysteries of Talladega

(photo courtesy Talladega Superspeedway)

The Talladega Superspeedway recipe is as follows:  Start with the fact  that Talladega is one scary place to drive a race car. Add to it that, the driver’s lives are on the line when those 3400 pound race cars are on the track racing in huge freight train-like packs at over 200 mph on the 2.66 mile high banked facility.  Mix well with the fact that the race track may have built on Native American burial grounds, possibly angering those Native American burial gods.

NASCAR’s biggest track has been in trouble well before it was ever opened in 1969.  As history will will verify, NASCAR founder “Big” Bill France, Sr. was faced with a strike from its drivers before the very first race took the green flag.  The drivers were concerned that the tires weren’t built to sustain the kind of high speed that the race cars were turning.  To combat those claims,”Big Bill” strapped on a helmet and climbed into a car to prove that the tires were safe.  Nevertheless, most all of the veteran drivers packed up their race cars and trucked back home.

In the end, France staged the race without the stars and manned mainly by journeymen drivers and unknowns from the lower divisions of NASCAR.

Then there is the story of Bobby Issac pulling off the race and into the pits while leading the race with 10 laps remaining.  He said that he heard voices in the race car!  That was several years before radio communications gear was ever installed into the cars!

Additionally, there have been the very frightening crashes throughout the 40 year history of the facility.  The most famous of which is the Bobby Allison car going airborne into the catchfence, nearly penetrating it and very nearly going into the crowd.  Allison escaped injury, but several spectators were not so lucky that day.  That crash led to the institution, of the now famous, restrictor plates on the carburetor manifold of the engines.

Nonetheless, the restrictor plates have not made the races any safer.  Last April Carl Edwards was involved in a frighteningly similar crash to the one of Bobby Allison many years earlier!  Again the driver, in this case, Carl Edwards escaped injury but eight spectators were not as fortunate.

Still that element of danger adds to the aura of the race and makes Talladega the “wild card race” during the Chase.  The overwhelming reason that this is a “wild card race”, is that a driver can get caught up in a huge crash that is not his doing!  Hence, it is called “The Big One”!  Needless to say that with the restrictor plate racing comes danger at every corner, literally!  But could that danger come from the so call Talladega jinx?

The president of Talladega, Rick Humphrey, took steps to eliminate that possibility.  He arranged for Creek medicine man Robert Thrower to perform a traditional Native American ceremony at the start/finish line, asking for balance to be restored to the land.

Could this ceremony be all that is needed to put balance back into the racetrack and bring “peace, love and harmony” to Talladega once again?


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