Through the years: Surprise Talladega winners
By Staff report | Friday, June 19, 2020
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With its always unpredictable nature and high speeds, Talladega Superspeedway has produced many surprise winners -- 13 to be exact, in our opinion -- since NASCAR's premier series began racing at the track in 1969. Take a look back at some of the most shocking drivers to head for Victory Lane at NASCAR's biggest track.
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Richard Brickhouse, 1969Even the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega was a shocker! Richard Brickhouse nabbed his first and only win at the Alabama track at the inaugural 1969 race. He made 39 premier series starts in his career and his win at Talladega came at his 26th start in the series.
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James Hylton, 1972James Hylton's premier series career has spanned five decades -- but his '72 Talladega win was certainly considered an upset. Not able to afford the new treaded tires being run that year at 'Dega, Hylton stuck to his slicks and beat out Ramo Scott for his second and final premier series win.
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Dick Brooks, 1973Dick Brooks could be considered a surprise winner for one simple reason: He wasn't supposed to drive that day. Team owner Jimmy Crawford was expected to wheel the No. 22 Plymouth but NASCAR officials denied him on the grounds of inexperience. Brooks was given the ride and prevailed over Buddy Baker and David Pearson for his first and only premier series victory.
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Lennie Pond, 1978Lennie Pond hadn't quite lived up to his potential. Once crowned the 1973 Rookie of the Year over Darrell Waltrip, Pond had yet to produce a win (just several runner-ups) heading into the '78 race at Talladega. But when second-place Benny Parsons ran over debris from Bill Elliott's car, Pond found a window of opportunity to seal the victory. His win at Talladega marks his only victory in 234 starts.
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Ron Bouchard, 1981Darrell Waltrip seemed to have had the '81 race at Talladega won, his Junior Johnson-owned No. 11 Buick ahead of Terry Labonte and Ron Bouchard on the final lap. But in the final turn, Labonte and Bouchard, who dove to the inside, took it three-wide across the start-finish line, creating a photo finish. Bouchard was found to be the winner, his first premier series win in just his 11th start. He would go on to win rookie of the year, but Talladega would remain his only premier series victory.
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Bobby Hillin Jr., 1986Hillin began racing in NASCAR's premier series at the age of 17, and was 22 when he nabbed his lone premier series win at the Alabama track. In a race that marked the last event before restrictor plates were implemented, Hillin beat out Tim Richmond for the W, a win that would serve as his one shining victorious moment in a 334-race career.
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Phil Parsons, 1988A fuel miscalculation left Parsons toward the back of the '88 race at Talladega. But the younger brother of Benny Parsons used Geoff Bodine's back bumper to draft his way to the front under caution, taking the lead with 15 laps to go. The win marked his premier series career's lone trip to Victory Lane in 203 starts. The winner wasn't the only surprising element of that day's race; runner-up Bobby Allison collapsed for heat exhaustion post-race and A.J. Foyt was suspended for six months for driving recklessly on pit road.
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Michael Waltrip, 2003Driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc., Michael Waltrip earned his fourth career win in 2003 at Talladega Superspeedway, his only victory at the Alabama track. The 2003 season would become one of Waltrip's best, as he notched a career-best two wins that year and earned 11 top-10s. The win remains the only non-Daytona victory on Waltrip's resume that spans a massive 784 premier series starts.
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Brian Vickers, 2006Racing for Hendrick Motorsports at the time, Brian Vickers was drafting with teammate Jimmie Johnson in the waning laps of the 2006 UAW-Ford 500 at Talladega when Johnson pulled ahead of leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the lead. Vickers went with him, but then his No. 25 Chevrolet bumped Johnson's No. 48 ride, collecting both Johnson and Earnhardt in the process. This paved the path for Vickers to secure his first premier series win, while future Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne finished second.
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Brad Keselowski, spring 2009Running the James Finch-owned No. 09 Chevrolet in the spring race at Talladega, a young Brad Keselowski was racing leader Carl Edwards hard for the lead. In the final turn, Edwards left a tiny gap and Keselowski shot through the bottom for the lead, clipping Edwards' No. 99 ride and sending it airborne. Torn up with fire erupting from the front, Edwards was unable to finish the race, so he jogged across the start-finish line on foot, waving to the crowd, while Keselowski headed for Victory Lane for the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career.
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Jamie McMurray, fall 2009Jamie McMurray now has seven premier series victories, but when he arrived at Talladega Superspeedway in 2009, he was searching for his first win since 2007. A multi-car crash allowed McMurray to win the race under caution over Dale Earnhardt Jr., breaking his 86-race winless streak. McMurray would win again at the Alabama track in 2013.
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David Ragan, 2013David Ragan had one premier series win to his name in 2013 -- but that changed after the always unpredictable race at Talladega. Ragan started 19th and led only four laps en route to his '13 win. His Front Row Motorsports teammate David Gilliland finished second, giving team owner Bob Jenkins a 1-2 finish.
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Ricky Stenhouse Jr., spring 2017Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had yet to win a NASCAR Cup Series race in 157 starts until the GEICO 500 at Talladega on May 7, 2017. Stenhouse won the pole and led the first 13 laps, but didn't lead again until the final circuit where he held off Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray for the victory.