This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series is visiting Talladega Superspeedway for its first of two races there during the sanctioning body’s 75th anniversary season. Superspeedway racing has become nearly synonymous with NASCAR’s marquee events. The massive race tracks feature speeds over 200 miles per hour, big packs racing nose to tail, even bigger crashes and spectacular photo finishes.
While Daytona has its place of prominence on NASCAR’s schedule, Talladega is its larger and more raucous Alabama cousin. The 2.66-mile oval outside of Birmingham is the longest oval in stock car racing and the site of NASCAR’s all-time qualifying record run. In 1987, Bill Elliott won the pole for the Winston 500 with a record average lap of 212.809 mph.
However, a horrific crash where Bobby Allison’s Buick flew into the catch fence overshadowed the 1987 Winston 500 and Elliott’s record run. NASCAR feared what could have happened at such high speeds despite no one being seriously injured. By 1988, the sanctioning body introduced restrictor plates to limit engine power and slow the cars.
Plate racing created an environment where cars travel faster in groups with little room for error. A single mistake from a driver could cause a crash significant enough to destroy over a dozen stock cars, commonly referred to as the Big One. The close racing also allows for constant passing and unpredictable finishes, which have made plate races a fan-favorite for decades. Here are NASCAR’s most unforgettable moments at Talladega.