If there is one track that can shake up the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it's Talladega Superspeedway, where the series returns this weekend for the Aaron's 499.
Talladega is famous or infamous — depending on your word choice — for its spectacular crashes. Some have been puzzling, many have been destructive, and a few have been downright terrifying.
Bobby Allison's crash at Talladega in 1987 gave birth to restrictor-plate racing starting the following year at Daytona International Speedway.
Restrictor plates are designed to choke airflow to the engine, helping to keep horsepower down, speeds under 200 mph and cars on the pavement. But that hasn't stopped cars from piling up or occasionally sailing airborne over each other or into a catchfence.
So before Sunday arrives, relive some of the most memorable wrecks in Talladega history (in chronological order):
Bobby Allison in the 1987 Winston 500
This is the crash that was the impetus for restrictor plates. Allison blew his right rear tire, spun on the frontstretch and then flew up into the catchfence, tearing up a large section. Allison was uninjured and when he climbed out of the car, the fans gave him a huge cheer.
Dale Earnhardt in the 1996 Die Hard 500
Dale Earnhardt suffered one of the most terrifying crashes of his career before his untimely death following a crash at Daytona International Speedway in 2001. Earnhardt, a 10-time winner at Talladega in NASCAR's premier series, bruised his sternum and fractured his collarbone after Ernie Irvan and Sterling Marlin bumped, sending Marlin into Earnhardt's car. Earnhardt careened into the wall head-on but walked away under his own power.
Elliott Sadler in the 2003 Aaron's 499
Kurt Busch made contact with the rear of Sadler's car, sending Sadler into an incredible barrel roll that seems as if it will never end. Sadler's car does a complete 360 in the air, slides across the infield grass on the roof, and then launches back into a series of flips when the car makes contact with the pavement again.
Carl Edwards in the 2009 Aaron's 499
Edwards was on his way to victory in the spring race at Talladega, trying to hold off Brad Keselowski on the last lap, when Keselowski made a move, tapped Edwards' car and sent the No. 99 sailing. Seven fans were hurt by flying debris when Edwards' Ford crashed into the front-stretch fence. Edwards would eventually climb out of the car and jog across the finish line.
Tony Stewart in the 2012 Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500
With a push from Sam Hornish Jr., Stewart used the outside lane to take the lead at the white flag, then worked hard to hold it. But Stewart's attempt to block heading into the final turn led to chaos that eventually collected 25 cars. Matt Kenseth, who was battling Stewart for the lead, avoided the pile-up, cruising home for the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr. wasn't so lucky; he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss the next two races.
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