Wild ride expected at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. --- You can expect more bumping this week at Talladega Superspeedway, all with NASCAR's blessing. And the speeds should be higher with a bigger restrictor plate and the return to the rear spoiler.

Big crashes, like this 19-car dustup during last year's Aaron's 499, are part of what makes Talladega races the craziest of the season. With new rules governing bumping and faster speeds, drivers expect even more action-packed racing this year. 
  Getty Images
Getty Images
Big crashes, like this 19-car dustup during last year's Aaron's 499, are part of what makes Talladega races the craziest of the season. With new rules governing bumping and faster speeds, drivers expect even more action-packed racing this year.

But no matter what changes are made for the 2.66-mile speedway, one thing never changes: it's the craziest racing of the season.

"My expectation is that the plate will be bigger and the drag will be more with the spoiler and the race will be much wilder than anything we've ever seen before," Mark Martin said. "That should be good for the fans -- not so sure it is good for the color of our hair as drivers, but, definitely should be good for the fans."

Races at Talladega generally include a lot of three-wide packs of traffic, at least one multi-car wreck and unpredictable finishes. Just last year Carl Edwards flipped into the grandstand fence trying to block Brad Keselowski 200 yards short of the checkered flag. Keselowski won the race; Edwards made it to the line on foot.

Now that NASCAR has provided a faster, more stable race car that makes pushing and shoving even easier, everything else has been accelerated, too.

"It's going to be crazy," Greg Biffle said. "Now we are going back there for the first time and it will be interesting to see what happens with guys pushing each other all the way around that place. I am almost willing to bet it will be the most exciting race of the season."

Action has never been a problem at Talladega. It's where Bill Elliott once ran 212.809 mph in qualifying. It's where Martin once averaged 188.354 mph for all 500 laps. It's where Dale Earnhardt once rallied from 16th to the win in the final five laps. And it's where they had 57 lead changes among 25 drivers a year ago.

It's where Jimmy Horton flipped over the second turn wall in 1993 and landed in a parking lot without a scratch.

It's where Bobby Allison's car got airborne in 1987 and slammed into the same fence along the main grandstands. Allison was going faster than 200 mph then, so NASCAR added a restrictor plate to slow the speeds by reducing the amount of air and gasoline into the engine. While the cars slowed down, it created huge packs of traffic because nobody is fast enough to pull away.

The cars may be safer, but they're certainly not under control. And that's what continues to distinguish Talladega Superspeedway from any other racetrack.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.

AARON'S 499

(NINTH OF 36 RACES)

WHERE: Talladega Superspeedway at Talladega, Ala.

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday

TRACK DIMENSIONS: 2.66-mile tri-oval with 33-degree banking

BROADCAST: Television -- Noon, Fox-Ch. 54; Radio -- Noon, Motor Racing Network, Sirius Satellite Radio 128

2009 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

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