Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of a six-part series chronicling Talladega Superspeedway, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019, featuring highlights from springtime racing events through the decades.
In a remarkable run of 10 races, Earnhardt bookended the decade with triumphs, won three overall (1990, ’94 and ’99), and had eight top-four finishes, which also included a runner-up result, three third-place efforts and a fourth. In ’95 while battling for third on the final lap, he was in position for yet another top-four result, but was tapped by Morgan Shepherd and spun, finishing 21st. In ’98 he was caught up in a 20-car accident with more than 40 laps to go and wound up 36th.
He won the pole position for the spring Cup event in ’93. In addition, he showed his prowess in the spring with three International Race of Champions victories (1990, ‘95 and ’99) while also going to Gatorade Victory Lane in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event in 1993.
The world’s largest superspeedway, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and hosting its tripleheader weekend featuring the GEICO 500 on April 26-28, saw seven different winners in the spring premier series events during the decade, with Mark Martin the only other multiple winner. Ernie Irvan led the way in pole positions in ‘Dega’s first event of the year with four.
Below are quick recaps of each springtime race at Talladega from the ‘90s:
- 1990: Earnhardt, in his famous black No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, led 107 of 188 laps, including the final 22, to score his third career Cup Series win at Talladega, but his first to come in the spring event. He held off Greg Sacks, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, and Martin.
1991: Harry Gant ran the final 149 miles on a tank of fuel to become the track’s oldest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner at 51 years, 3 months and 26 days. He finished 11 seconds ahead of Darrell Waltrip and Earnhardt, who both made late-race gas stops.
- 1992: In an eight-lap shootout, Davey Allison crossed the line by two car lengths over runner-up Bill Elliott, who was nearly side-by-side with third-place finisher Earnhardt. It was Allison’s third and final TSS triumph.
- 1993: In a final-lap shootout, Irvan, along with Jimmy Spencer and Dale Jarrett, slipped past Earnhardt, who fell to fourth. It was Irvan’s second trip to Talladega’s winner’s circle.
- 1994: Master of restrictor plate racing, Earnhardt passed Spencer with five laps to go and held off Irvan by just .06 seconds to claim his seventh Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR Cup Series career victory.
- 1995: In his 19th TSS start in the Cup Series, Martin slipped past Earnhardt with just over a lap to go, then held off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon to get his first Talladega victory.
- 1996: Sterling Marlin won the spring event on his 27th TSS start, bettering Jarrett and Earnhardt by just .22 second.
- 1997: For the second time in three years, Martin went to Gatorade Victory Lane in the spring event, which had no caution flags and still stands as the track’s fastest race to date at an average speed of 188.354 mph. The event was completed in 2 hours, 39 minutes and 18 seconds. Earnhardt was second with Bobby Labonte third.
- 1998: Labonte became the eighth driver to win the GEICO 500 from the pole position, with Spencer and Jarrett in tow.
- 1999: Earnhardt notched his eighth career Cup Series triumph at the 2.66-mile venue in the spring event, edging Jarrett and Martin. He would come back later in the year in the fall to make it a 1999 Talladega sweep.
Five of the drivers in the ‘90s lay claim to multiple triumphs at the historic venue (Earnhardt 10, Allison 3, Martin 2, Irvan 2 and Marlin 2).
The upcoming GEICO 500 will be the track’s 100th race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The weekend kicks off a motorsports tripleheader with the General Tire 200 for the ARCA Menards Series (which has been a staple of Talladega Superspeedway since October 1969) on Friday, April 26, and the MoneyLion 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturday, April 27. The GEICO 500 gets a 1 p.m. start on Sunday, April 28. For ticket information, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).