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Will Talladega Deliver Magic Once Again?

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The thing about Talladega Superspeedway is, you just never know.

The mammoth, 2.66-mile track, where teams will race in Sunday’s Alabama 500, is the most unpredictable circuit in the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The last time the Cup teams competed at Talladega, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came into the race winless in 157 career starts. Yet he and his Roush Fenway Racing Ford left Talladega as winners and would later win again July 4th weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Stenhouse Jr. is hardly alone in producing an upset victory at Talladega.

Eleven different drivers got their first Cup wins here, often in dramatic fashion.

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski is one of the sport’s elite drivers and a past Cup champion, but he got his first victory here under unusual circumstances in 2009, when he drove for the small, independent Phoenix Racing team.

Coming to the checkered flag, Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact, with Edwards’ car going airborne, landing on Ryan Newman’s hood first and then the Talladega catchfence. Edwards got out of his wrecked race car and ran on foot to the finish line, a la Ricky Bobby.

In 2006, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading on the last lap here when Jimmie Johnson and third-place Brian Vickers moved out to pass on the backstretch. Vickers tagged his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson, who in turn hit Earnhardt, taking the two leaders out of the race and allowing Vickers to drive to his first career victory amid a hail of boos from the legion JR Nation fans.

And certainly one of the most memorable and amazing Talladega finishes wasn’t a first-time winner, but a last-time winner.

In October 2000, Dale Earnhardt and the black No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet were barely inside the top 20 with four laps to go. Somehow, Earnhardt launched a banzai charge to the lead, using a push by Kenny Wallace to take what would turn out to be the final race victory of his NASCAR Hall of Fame career.

The noise when Earnhardt won was deafening, as his delirious fan base was overjoyed with his remarkable finish. Fans were so loud that the grandstands on the frontstretch shook. It felt like an earthquake.

Will we see some kind of magic or miracle finish again this time around?

The thing about Talladega Superspeedway is, you just never know.

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.