Why Is the Talladega Superspeedway So Notorious, Despite No Fatalities in the Last 2 Decades?

Published 10/02/2021, 8:20 AM EDT
Apr 25, 2021; Talladega, Alabama, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace (23) leads during the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports


The Talladega Superspeedway is regarded as an iconic NASCAR venue, right up there with the likes of Daytona. Both tracks boast of their own notoriety and penchant for massive crashes. However, it is interesting to note that Talladega has far fewer fatalities than its Florida counterpart. In fact, there have been just two fatalities there, namely Larry Smith and Tiny Lund in 1973 and 1975, respectively.

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So, one has to wonder why this track is considered dangerous, especially when the other name of the list, Daytona, has turned in eight fatalities.

Back in 1969, when the Talladega Superspeedway made its debut, the event was marred by protests from the drivers. Apparently, there had been multiple failures during the tire tests, and many drivers planned on boycotting the race.

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Apr 25, 2021; Talladega, Alabama, USA; NASCAR Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2) takes the lead from NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto (21) during the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Apparently, when the track was first built, the project was done with more primitive cars in mind. So, even when the track was inaugurated, it was practically rendered obsolete right from the get-go. To be precise, by the time the first race rolled by, the cars had already advanced in terms of technology. That race, Richard Petty and the Allison brothers, Bobby and Donnie, led the boycott with 17 other drivers.

What else makes the Talladega Superspeedway so dangerous?

According to Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin, “There’s no right way to do it or wrong way to do it. That’s why so many drivers have been caught in wrecks at Talladega. No one has it figured out. And I don’t think that you can figure it out because there are so many moving parts, and there’s many other drivers out there that have their own agenda.”

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The largest NASCAR track is also notorious for its multi-car pile-ups. One of the most famous ones is when Tony Stewart triggered a 25-car wreck in 2012. Owing to that crash, Stewart flipped violently over crashing and flaming cars.

Another victim was Dale Earnhardt Sr, who broke his sternum, shoulder blade and sustained more injuries in 1996. At that time, his car slammed into the wall head-first and more cars rammed into his own. The impacts caused the car to flip upside down and Bill Elliott came away from the same crash with a broken leg.

Meanwhile, the likes of Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, and Elliott Sadler, all had airborne smashes.

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To be honest, though, it is really fortunate that nobody has died at the track since 1975, and we hope that it stays that way for a long time.

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Dhruv George

12114 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Formula One and NASCAR analyst for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

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