Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series chronicling the creation and history of Talladega Superspeedway, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary during the Oct. 11-13 NASCAR Playoffs doubleheader weekend, featuring the 1000Bulbs.com 500 and Sugarlands Shine 250. Read about the track’s creation, its unusual design and highlights from the 1970s and 1980s, as well as Buddy Baker’s detailed analysis of the track and how to win there. The venue this weekend will debut the culmination of the Transformation Infield Project presented by Graybar, featuring the Talladega Garage Experience, where fans will be immersed into the sport like never before.
After winning twice the decade before, Dale Earnhardt showed his sheer domination at Talladega Superspeedway in the 1990s, bookending the 10 years by being on top. And it wasn’t just in NASCAR’s premier series.
In 1990, he took his famed black No. 3 Chevrolet to Gatorade Victory Lane in both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events, and also made it three-for-three by claiming a victory in the International Race of Champions (IROC) race in the spring. Nine years later, he did the same thing – two Talladega Monster Energy Cup Series wins and an IROC triumph.
In between, he would add five more victories – three in Cup (’91, ’93 and ’94), along with a NASCAR Xfinity Series trip to the winner’s circle (’93) and a third IROC win in ’95 for a total of 11 wins in the ’90s. In the Monster Energy Cup Series, he had an amazing 13 top-five results in 20 races, plus started on the pole three times.
It was a decade of supremacy for the King of the 2.66-mile, 33-degree banked venue, but there were plenty of interesting accomplishments by others at the track, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this weekend:
- Jan. 23, 1990: Patty Moise breaks the women’s speed record again by going 217.498 mph around Talladega Superspeedway in a Buick.
- May 6, 1991: Harry Gant, driving his famous No. 33, becomes the track’s oldest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner at 51 years, 3 months and 26 days. The “Bandit” plays a gas mileage game and wins by more than 11 seconds.
- July 26, 1992: The first of only three cars to finish on the lead lap, Ernie Irvan earns his initial Talladega Superspeedway triumph. He is also victorious in the track’s inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series event the day before.
July 25, 1993: The summer race at Talladega is the first 500-mile race to produce 1,000 official lead changes over its history, an amazing feat considering the event is only 25 years old and has only 188 laps – or opportunities – to record lead changes.
- July 24, 1994: Apollo 11 Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is the Grand Marshal of the fall event. Aldrin adds a personal touch in commanding the drivers to start their engines, stating, “Gentlemen, energize your ground craft.”
- July 24, 1994: Jimmy Spencer drives to Gatorade Victory Lane, his last career win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
- July 23, 1995: In his 26th start at TSS, Sterling Marlin earns his first Talladega victory, starting from the pole.
- July 28, 1996: Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon collects his first of six Talladega Superspeedway victories.
- May 10, 1997: Mark Martin wins the race, which has no caution flags and still stands as the track’s fastest race to date with an average speed of 188.354 mph. The event is completed in 2 hours, 39 minutes and 18 seconds.
- Oct. 12, 1997: The second Talladega race of the year is moved from the summer months of July and August – as it has been enjoyed since 1969 – to the fall.
- Oct. 11, 1998: Dale Jarrett captures his first Talladega triumph on his 24th TSS start.
- Oct. 17, 1999: Earnhardt becomes the only driver in track history to sweep both events in a season on two separate occasions. Some may argue that Darrell Waltrip shares that distinction since he visited Talladega’s Gatorade Victory Lane twice in both 1977 and 1982. However, the second trip in 1977 was credited to Donnie Allison, who had Waltrip take over the wheel for him as a relief driver on the last 23 laps of that race.
- Other winners of the decade: Davey Allison (1992), Irvan (1993), Martin (1995), Marlin (1996), Terry Labonte (1997) and Bobby Labonte (1998).
- Margin of victory: With the lone exception of Gant’s win on stretching his fuel mileage, the largest margin of victory is just two car lengths during the decade. The closest? Earnhardt over Irvan in July ’93 – 0.005 second.
The tradition continues at the Palace of Speed this weekend. For ticket information and to learn more about the Talladega Garage Experience, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).