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Previewing the Aaron's 499
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Talladega, Ala.
Specs: 2.66-mile tri-oval; Banking/Turns:33°; Banking/Tri-Oval: 18°; Banking/Backstretch: 2°
2010 Winners: Kevin Harvick (April), Clint Bowyer (Novemebr)
2011 Race Length: 500 miles/188 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 212.809 mph (Bill Elliott, 1987)
Race Record: 188.354 mph (Mark Martin, 1997)
From the Spotter's Stand
Drivers went after the checkers at Talladega last season like a spider monkey all hopped up on Mountain Dew, with a pair of too-close-to-call races that Ricky Bobby’s entire family — even Walker and T.R. — would be proud of.
Kevin Harvick beat Jamie McMurray by .011 seconds in a photo finish that was well worth the three attempts at a green-white-checkered flag finish it took to seal the deal in April. Along the way, Cup records were set for the number of leaders (29) and lead changes (88).
“The Big One” hit on the final lap in October, delaying the official announcement of Clint Bowyer’s victory — which came over Harvick, after “Shake ’n’ Bake” style help from Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 187 of 188.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Being at the right place at the right time and picking a dancing partner wisely are the ultimate keys to winning at Talladega. While horsepower and aero are important, the CoT evens the playing field in the aero department, and the restrictor plates do so (although not to the same extent) under the hoods.
“Talladega is the track where you don’t have any control, particularly sitting on pit road. So much can happen. The driver’s got to be smart, and there can’t be any lapses. Even if there aren’t, he’s just in the hands of fate out there. They call it a high-speed chess match, and that’s pretty appropriate.”
Looking at Checkers: He hasn’t won at Talladega, but Kurt Busch certainly has a knack for avoiding the big wreck here. Sometimes that’s fantasy gold.
Pretty Solid Pick: Ah, to be young and hungry. Right Kes?
Good Sleeper Pick: Gotta mention Jamie McMurray somewhere, don’t we?
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Mark Martin and Ryan Newman are known for their dislike of the place.
Insider Tip: A total crapshoot. Right place, right time, right dancing partner; right push at the end.
Classic Moments at Talladega
Local legend has it that the ground Talladega Superspeedway is built on was cursed by a medicine man from a tribe of Native Americans that were driven from its valley.
It’s hard to argue this logic — as strange occurrences have been the norm here throughout the years, from driver boycotts to car sabotage to drivers hearing voices inside their cars.
The inaugural event in 1969 is boycotted by most of the top drivers of the time due to safety concerns. A newly formed (yet short-lived) drivers’ union, led by Richard Petty, cites tire issues associated with speeds as the reason.
The race goes on with “scrubs,” however, and is won by Richard Brickhouse. Thus begins a pattern of drivers getting their first and/or only career win at Talladega.
Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro