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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Upsets are special at Talladega

Despite the track’s long-running reputation as the consummate wild card, the reality is that upsets have been hard to come by on the circuit’s largest track.
Historically, racing at the Talladega has been dominated  by the series big names, which makes last year’s winners Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray even more shocking.  
Both have since gone on to join new organizations, each of their careers boosted by their Talladega triumphs.
 Keselowski, who now drives for Penske Racing, won the 2009 spring race at Talladega, dramatically emerging from a  late-race multi-car accident to notch his first Sprint Cup victory.  
McMurray won in the fall and used the win as a springboard to rejoin Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates, the men who originally gave him his start in the Cup Series as a replacement for Sterling Marlin when he suffered a neck injury in 2002.

Both wins were significant upsets.  
Prior to last year the last real upset at Talladega was in the fall race in 2006,  when  Brian Vickers drove the Red Bull Toyota to victory.  Prior to that, you had Bobby Hamilton’s victory in the spring of 2001.  Then you have to go way back to the fall race of 1994 when Jimmy Spencer, driving for the legendary Junior Johnson scored one of his two career Cup victories.  
 Phil Parsons, the younger  brother of the late Benny Parsons, notched his one and only Cup win in the spring of 1988 at the Alabama track.  Likewise  Bobby Hillin Jr.  got his one and only Cup series win in the fall 1986 race.
 Old time fans of NASCAR racing may remember Richard Brickhouse who drove to victory over the strangest field of race cars ever to take the green flag in a Cup race. That was the one and only stand of the Professional Drivers Association, led by Richard Petty.  The drivers of the PDA did not feel that Goodyear had a tire capable of the speeds they would be running at the brand new track.  After much posturing and negotiation, the drivers of the PDA refused to compete, packed up their cars and left the track.
 NASCAR president Bill France Sr. refused to knuckle under to the PDA and staged the  race with a field made up of about anything  with four wheels and a driver brave enough or nuts enough to compete.  
At the end of the day, when the dust cleared and the checkered flag fell, unknown driver Richard Brickhouse found himself in victory lane; the one and only Cup win for Brickhouse.
It seems whenever there has been an upset at Talladega it has been a huge one, in sharp contrast to the track’s usual high profile winners.   Coming into last weekend’s  Aarons 499,  of the 81 Cup races staged at Talladega, 41 have been won by series champions.  The list of all-time winners reads like a who’s who of NASCAR greats. Topping the list is Dale Earnhardt, winner of ten Talladega races.  The Alabama track has always been Earnhardt country.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. has five wins and  Michael Waltrip won the fall race in 2003 driving for DEI.
 Never popular with the fans at that track, Jeff Gordon, nevertheless, has the second most wins with six to date. “You need to make sure you’re there at the end, when all the action is going to happen,” said Gordon during practice last week.   
From the largest track on the circuit last weekend,  the  tour heads to the local area this Saturday night for the “Crown Royal Presents the Heath Calhoun 400” at the 3/4 mile Richmond International Raceway.  Calhoun, a retired member of the Army and Purple Heart recipient, was chosen as the grand prize winner of the annual Crown Royal, “Your Name Here” contest. A former member of the 101st Airborne unit and veteran of the Iraq war, Calhoun was severely injured when a rocket propelled grenade hit his Humvee in 2003.
Kyle Busch won last year’s spring race at Richmond.  Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and  Dale Earnhardt Jr. are tied for the most Richmond victories among active drivers with three apiece.   
Want to go?  As they say,  “There are still plenty of good seats available.”    
You may reach Pete Barber
at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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