Bubba Wallace became the 12th driver to collect his first NASCAR Cup Series victory at Talladega Superspeedway, but history tells us that hardly guarantees future success.
Talladega has lived on an inaccurate reputation as a prime opportunity for first-time winners, primarily because of an inexplicable streak of four newbies in five races in the late 1980s. Wallace became only the fourth first-time winner since 1988, the first in four years.
What’s fascinating, it was the only career victory for six of Wallace’s predecessors, and three others had four or fewer career wins.
The only drivers to use Talladega as something of a real springboard were Davey Allison (19 wins in 191 starts, including two more at 'Dega) and Brad Keselowski (35 wins in 444 starts). Keselowski is tied with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for second-most Talladega victories, at six, while Allison’s life was tragically lost in a helicopter crash at the speedway in 1993.
1969: Richard Brickhouse, an unknown from Rocky Point, N.C., stuck around to race in the inaugural Talladega 500 after NASCAR’s regular drivers — part of a fledgling union led by Richard Petty — left the track because of what they considered unsafe conditions. It was the lone win of his career.
1973: Dick Brooks, who’d go on to be a popular NASCAR pit road broadcaster while clad in blue denim overalls, passed a faltering David Pearson with eight laps to go for his only Cup win.
1978: Lennie Pond won the fastest race in NASCAR history — like Brickhouse and Brooks, his lone victory — with an average speed of 174 mph. The day marked Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s Talladega debut.
1981: Ron Bouchard’s first and only Cup win was celebrated with a 40th anniversary commemoration at Talladega, with his No. 47 Race Hill Farms Buick on display.
1986: Bobby Hillin Jr. became Talladega’s youngest winner, at 22 years and 1 month, but raced full-time for only six more years. He’s now in the engineering and construction business in Texas.
1987: The kid who grew up around this track, Davey Allison, won on the afternoon his dad Bobby flew into the frontstretch catch fence, changing the course of the sport with the advent of restrictor plates to slow the cars at Talladega and Daytona.
1988: Phil Parsons did something his more-famous brother Benny never did: He won at Talladega. Alas, Phil gets filed into the only-career-win category. (Benny was 24th that day, for what it’s worth.)
1988: Ken Schrader gave car owner Rick Hendrick his first Talladega victory, the first of 13 with drivers like Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott to come. Schrader had four wins in 763 Cup starts — but probably has had 7,000 starts on short tracks across the nation.
2006: Brian Vickers was another Hendrick racer to win at Talladega, but only at the expense of teammate Johnson, whom he wrecked late in the race.
2009: Who knew that Brad Keselowski would go on to become one of the track’s greatest drivers when he drove for a low-budget team and won in a major upset, sending Carl Edwards into the catch fence in the process?
2017: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had both his career wins that year, first at Talladega, then following up with a victory in the mid-summer Daytona race.