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The Worst Talladega Crashes

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Talladega has seen some of the most violent and horrifying crashes in the history of NASCAR. While drivers mostly walk away unharmed, the danger has been and always will be immense. These are the worst crashes in Talladega Superspeedway history.

  • For this list, we will include all types of crashes including the craziest “Big Ones” and the single-car accidents. Any crash is eligible for the list.
  • What’s amazing about these crashes is that drivers are generally unhurt. But, things can and have gone wrong. It’s that dance with danger that often appeals to fans and even drivers.
  • Fans have a strange perspective on crashes at Talladega. No one wants to see drivers get hurt, but, the danger is also a large part of the appeal.

5. 2002: The “BIG” One

The 2002 Aaron’s 312 at Talladega saw one of the biggest crashes in NASCAR history early in the race. A total of 27 cars were listed as “Involved” according to Racing Reference, while NASCAR says 30 cars were involved. As a result, many cars were either taken to the garage or simply too aerodynamically challenged to stay in the draft.

Only 3 cars finished on the lead lap and 22 of 43 starters failed to finish the race. Jason Keller won the race, leading the final 50 laps.

4. 1993: Rusty Wallace

The finish of both Talladega races in 1993 was memorable, but, the July race was easily the most frightening. Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace were fighting in the middle of the pack on the last lap when Earnhardt turned Wallace into the infield. Wallace flipped wildly through the grass after crossing the line airborne.

It was Wallace’s second major flip that season. He also flipped during the Daytona 500 earlier that season, but, this one was far more violent. Ernie Irvan won the race.

3. 2003: Elliott Sadler

The final laps of the 2003 EA Sports 500 at Talladega featured a snarling pack trying to get around Michael Waltrip. Elliott Sadler snaked his way through the pack and poked his nose toward the lead until he made contact with Kurt Busch trying to avoid Dale Earnhardt Jr. Sadler then flipped and slid through the grass before flipping multiple times on the track.

Sadler was unhurt in the accident. It became the thing he was most known for in his career, but, it also showcased the incredible safety strides NASCAR had made in the previous few years.

2. 1996: Ricky Craven

Ricky Craven’s crash at Talladega in 1996 was one of the wildest and scariest, yet, most forgotten crashes of the 1990s. Craven’s car flew, yes, flew, up the banking, over cars, and into the catch fence. The car slammed back down, and Craven was later taken to the hospital when he saw the wreck for the first time.

Despite his hospital visit, Craven did not miss a race. He qualified 3rd before the next race at Sonoma Raceway.

1. 1987: Bobby Allison

Bobby Allison’s crash at Talladega in 1987 changed the course of stock car racing. Debris from a blown engine caused Allison to blow a tire, sending him airborne into the catch fence. The race was red-flagged for two hours as the catch fence was destroyed, and NASCAR knew things needed to change.

The result was the introduction of restrictor plates the next year. This led to the introduction of pack racing, and the superspeedway product fans know today.

Wrecks at Talladega can showcase how safe the cars are while also being much-needed wake-up calls for NASCAR. It’s one of the tracks where danger is imminent, and it takes nerves of steel to race there.

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Joshua Lipowski

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