Talladega families: The Elliotts know all about driving fast at this track

Talladega teaser

Cars zoom by the tai-oval during the Geico 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Racing has always been a family business, and nowhere is that more true than at Talladega Superspeedway. In this series leading up to the 1000bulbs.com 500, Anniston Star contributor Mark McCarter takes a look at some of those families.

Chase Elliott took his rightful place in Talladega history last spring by navigating his way to Victory Lane in the Geico 499, but nowhere to be found was his famous father. At 63 years of age, Bill Elliott was also in a race car, getting his own checkered flag at Road Atlanta. Retirement? No way.

But Bill’s presence was still felt, and son Chase was quick to note, “With Dad’s history here, this was very cool.”

Bill Elliott won two Talladega races and had eight poles, including six in a row. His Coors Melling Thunderbird etched an indelible bit of history with a pole-clinching speed of 212.809 mph on April 30, 1987, the fastest qualifying speed ever at a NASCAR track. With the advent of restrictor plates, nobody has touched that record since -- and probably never will.

Chase has three top finishes in seven starts, with one pole.

There wasn’t much hoopla about the 212.809 at the time. It seemed like every race broke a qualifying record, and Talladega traditionally had a starting grid where every qualifier broke 200 mph.

In fact, it was called, “in a weird way, mildly disappointing” in the next day’s Anniston Star. That’s because many in the garage area thought Elliott might surpass his previous mark of 212.229 by as much as three mph. But a hot, sticky track took its toll. Then came the race, and as even the most casual NASCAR historian knows, Bobby Allison soared into the catch-fence on the front straightaway and NASCAR reacted by implementing restrictor plates that slowed the cars by 10-12 mph.

Two months later, Elliott was back at Talladega and again won the pole -- this time at 203.827. Then he won the race, ironically the second-fastest in Talladega history despite the smaller carburetors.

“It’s no secret,” Elliott said after qualifying. “We’ve been good here.”