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Timothy Cash: Talladega, Childress to pay fitting tribute to Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt

Dale Earnhardt, left, and Richard Sturtz celebrate Earnhardt's victory in the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 15, 2000. Sturtz won a million dollars on a giveaway promotion.

Most of the time, fans in attendance in the grandstands or the infield of Talladega Superspeedway are always on the lookout for the multi-car pileup known as ‘The Big One,’ but history might be easier to spot during this weekend’s race.

NASCAR team owner Richard Childress is going to honor the late Dale Earnhardt by driving his last-winning car around Talladega Superspeedway in the opening pace laps of the 1, 500.

I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute. Undoubtedly, this honor was chosen for this race because the superspeedway is celebrating its 50th birthday this weekend, and it’s hard to tell the history of Talladega without including “The Intimidator.”

Throughout his Cup career, Earnhardt ventured to Victory Lane 10 times at Talladega, with his last coming after the Winston 500 on Oct. 15, 2000. During that race, Earnhardt muscled his way to the front from 18 spots down in the race’s final five laps. He narrowly edged Kenny Wallace for the checkered flag, the 76th and his final of his career.

This weekend is going to be something special for Childress, too. In 1969, Childress was an up-and-coming driver in NASCAR’s lower ranks when Cup drivers decided to strike the new Alabama International Motor Speedway. The striking drivers didn’t believe Goodyear could produce a tire that could withstand the high speeds at the new 2.66 mile-long trioval.

NASCAR co-founder Bill France thought the scheduled races should go on, and hired substitute drivers to fill in for the Cup drivers. Childress was one of those hired to fill in for that first race at Talladega. According to, Childress completed 80 laps before a broken axle caused the young racer to retire to a 23-place finish. On second thought, that might be some history Childress would like to forget.