POSTING BY JB MADDAWG
If one has watched NASCAR racing long enough, it’s obvious that plenty of tracks on the circuit are fairly boring. Places such as Dover, Loudon and Michigan have always been a bit of a drag at times, inducing many a fan into a nice mid-race slumber. Talladega Super speedway is not among those places. This Sunday’s offering would again hold true to being like a 1970’s disaster/car chase flick. Amongst the twisted wreckage and burnt rubber were not only many lead changes, but also crushed dreams crumpled more than Kyle Busch’s left rear quarter panel. Out of the carnage came one Brad Keselowsi, victorious and moving on in The Chase standings.
“How in the hell did Keselowski come away with this thing?”, I texted my father, the great Woogie Bloomquist.
“It was the Indians.” That’s all that really needed to be said.
Oh, you haven’t heard about the ghost Indians that haunt Talladega Super speedway? Well, pull up a sticker tire and lend an ear, friend. See, back when wild Bill France decided that he wanted a track faster than Daytona, he picked a chunk of land formerly used as an Air Force base in the small town of Lincoln. It was the late 1960’s so there weren’t too many people to fuss over a hunk of land that had been vacated, plus people were excited about over 2.5 miles of asphalt being put down for potentially the fastest race course on the planet. Bragging rights, and all that.
So, when did all the bad juju begin you ask? 1973. Driver Larry Smith dies in a crash that would only produce minor damage to his car. During that same race driver Bobby Issac exited his car on lap 90, swearing he heard voices telling him to “get out”. That’s when stories started swirling that the track had either been built on a Native American burial ground or a similar story that has a shaman cursing the land. Either way, it was dismissed as hocus pocus, malarkey and several other old-timey phrases. Yet after decades of use, Talladega has racked up an impressive portfolio of crazy events that could sway one to believe the ghosts of Talladega are more than a mere bedtime story.
Drivers and fans speak of “the big one” at Talladega which is referring to the one massive crash involving multiple cars at almost every event on the track. Sooner or later on race day in Alabama, the giant mass of stock cars teetering around 200 mph gets hit by a giant karmic hammer leaving nothing but car parts, torn up infield and fail. Sure, places like Daytona and Indianapolis have similar occurrences. Not like this, however. Not like Talladega.
Sometimes, the track poltergeists seem to focus on specific cars or drivers. Take the Allison family for instance. Back before restrictor plates were installed on all cars for the race, legendary driver Bobby Allison blew a tire, went airborne and came very close to wiping out hundreds of fans. Allison would be lucky to escape with his life. His son, driver Davey Allison wouldn’t be so fortunate, who crashed the helicopter he was piloting while attempting a landing inside the track area and was killed. It’s worth noting the Allison’s close family friend, driver Neil Bonnett, would suffer a crash similar to Allison’s into the catch fence separating cars from the fans almost five years later.
It seems no driver is safe from the wrath or curse the track unleashes on its unsuspecting participants. From Dale Earnhardt Sr., who had one of the worst crashes of his career at Talladega, to Rusty Wallace, who barrel rolled across the start finish line in 1993. It seems to not matter what plans or strategies happen inside the track area, for the angry track spirits aren’t interested in what NASCAR has in mind.
So what happened in the most recent offering at Talladega? Both top drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson would not make The Chase, Earnhardt getting involved in a crash and Johnson would do everything in his power to stay at the front most of the race, only to fail at the end. And “the big one”? Of course it happened, wiping out a large portion of the competitors. Yet in the end, it seemed the unseen forces of Talladega would allow Brad Keselowski the victory, who just over a week ago had amassed a $50k “behavioral penalty” which is NASCAR lingo for driving like an asshole. The race gods be fickle, this much is true.
Ancient Native American spirits or just plain karma, one has to raise an eyebrow to Sunday’s race. No matter how many cautions, no matter how long a car was allowed to spew oil all over the track for several miles, no matter what NASCAR did to give certain drivers “the call”, the track and quite possibly those magnificent, spectral bastards would have final say.
“That’s what you’re going with. The Indians.” I messaged my father.
“Yes. And they hate cheaters. Jimmie Johnson best remember that. Also, they’re big fans of Landon Cassill.”
I’ll leave you with some of Talladega’s biggest hits. And Happy Halloween from The ThrowDown