What's a good definition of an upset for a race track like Talladega Superspeedway?
In other sports, it's easy — a big upset is someone or some team that beats a heavy favorite. In NASCAR racing, it's not as simple to pin down.
Is it when a nobody runs the perfect race to garner a rare win? Is it a great driver overcoming impossible circumstances to produce one of the sport's most memorable victories?
When trying to come up with Talladega's greatest upsets, we at The Anniston Star chose to stretch the definition. With plenty of help from Russell Branham, the executive director of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, we've come up with five Talladega races in which a true "upset" may or may not have occured, but they're worth remembering nonetheless.
1. Awesome Bill
Bill Elliott won 11 races in 1985, so it was hardly an upset that he won May 5, 1985, at Talladega.
But 48 laps into the race, Elliott was down and apparently out. Smoke began rising from underneath the hood, and Elliott had to pit. Turns out the issue was a broken oil line. His pit crew fixed the issue faster than Elliott expected.
When Elliott returned to the track, he was nearly two laps down. Under green-flag conditions, he roared back and grabbed the lead on the 145th lap. Cale Yarborough took the front from laps 160-168 before Elliott went back ahead and held it through the 188th lap to win.
"I remember coming down pit road and our guys dealing with the oil line issue," Elliott told NBC Sports in 2015. "We went back out and ran wide open and I was totally shocked the motor lived all day long … totally shocked."
It's probably the biggest comeback in the history of the sport.
2. Rookie champ
A rookie making only his 11th start on the Cup circuit, Ron Bouchard pulled off one of the biggest upsets in track history by taking a win at Talladega on Aug. 2, 1981.
Near the end, Bouchard was third and trailed NASCAR stars Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte. Waltrip led, and Labonte moved outside to try to pass. When Waltrip went up to deal with Labonte, Bouchard ducked inside. The three drivers headed to the finish line, with Bouchard edging in front by inches.
Bouchard ran his last Cup race in 1987. In 160 career starts, that was his only victory.
3. Journeyman winner
In 1973, car owner Jimmy Crawford entered his Plymouth intending to drive himself. Speedway and NASCAR officials nixed that idea because he didn't have enough experience on a superspeedway.
Three days before the race, 31-year-old journeyman Dick Brooks was signed to drive. Brooks had a decent year, finishing in the top 10 nine times, including that Sunday at Talladega.
That was his only career win in 368 starts.
4. Flying rubber
Lennie Pond got his only career win in Talladega in 1978 while driving for Harry Ranier.
Pond had a good year, finishing seventh in the Cup standings and placing in the top five a career-high 11 times.
His win came under unusual circumstances. He took the lead during an accident, which brought out the caution flag. Once the caution came out, drivers motored back to the line, and during the rush, rubber pieces hit Donnie Allison's windshield. That slowed Allison briefly and allowed Pond to keep the lead.
Pond's victory and big season wasn't enough to keep him in the car, as Ranier hired Buddy Baker for the next season.
5. Keselowski's rise
Brad Keselowski has five Cup victories at Talladega, but in 2009, he was a 25-year-old Xfinity driver who raced about half the Cup schedule for Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske and independent owner James Finch.
On April 26, 2009, he was behind the wheel for Finch, who had little money and hadn't won a race in nearly 10 years as a car owner. That day, Keselowski bumped Carl Edwards out of the way to cause a wreck on the way to the flag. Keselowski won, drawing the ire of Edwards.
That win helped Keselowski land a full-time ride with Penske for 2010.