500 Could See Another First-Time Winner Make History at Talladega Superspeedway

From its first race in 1969 to present day, Talladega Superspeedway, site of the 500 on Oct. 25, has been a track where both young and veteran drivers have earned their first — and sometimes only — NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) victory.

Starting with Richard Brickhouse, who won the track’s inaugural race in 1969, through Brad Keselowski in 2009, 10 drivers have gone to Gatorade Victory Lane for the first time by winning on the 33-degree banks of NASCAR’s Most Competitive Track. Six of those 10 drivers only took the trip to the winner’s circle one time in their NASCAR careers.

The all-important third and final race in the riveting Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the 500, will be the center of everyone’s attention due to the 12 potential champions who will trim down the field to eight at the checkered flag. However, there will also be plenty of “outsiders” looking to become No. 11 on the list of TSS first-time winners.

Two drivers to consider have notched close fourth-place finishes the past two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at the biggest, baddest track on the planet. A year ago in the 500, Landon Cassill showed strength, even took the lead at one point, while Ryan Blaney, driving the No. 21 for the famed Wood Brothers, was in the lead pack all day in the GEICO 500 this past May.

Other contenders to join the first-time winner’s club at TSS could include: Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Chevy for Richard Childress Racing (Childress is tied with Rick Hendrick as the all-time winningest car owner in TSS history); Kyle Larson, 2014 NASCAR Rookie of the Year and driver of the No. 42 Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing who has been knocking on the Victory Lane door recently; and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Ford for  Roush Fenway Racing, who has a pair of TSS top-10 finishes, including a third place finish in the 2013 500.

Here is a brief look at the initial 10 “first-time” winners at Talladega Superspeedway:

Richard Brickhouse: The journeyman driver, who raced just 39 times in his entire NASCAR career, won the first race ever run on the track on Sept. 14, 1969. His trip to Gatorade Victory Lane also made him the first of the six drivers who recorded their only career victory at NASCAR’s longest track.

Dick Brooks: Brooks held off Talladega legend Buddy Baker and the Silver Fox – David Pearson – to win the 1973 Talladega 500 (today known as the 500) and record his first and only victory in 358 career NSCS starts.

Lennie Pond: Piloting the Oldsmobile of noted car owner Harry Ranier, Pond edged two-time Talladega victor and Alabama Gang member Donnie Allison at the stripe to win the 1978 Talladega 500 (today known as the 500). It was his only win in 234 career NSCS races.

Ron Bouchard: Making just his 11th career start, Bouchard, running third at the time, shot by Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte through the tri-oval to win the 1981 Talladega 500 (today known as the 500) in what is still considered by many one of the greatest finishes in NASCAR history. It was his only triumph in 160 career starts.

Bobby Hillin, Jr.: Won the 1986 Talladega 500 (today known as the 500) by three car lengths over Tim Richmond to record his only win in 334 career NASCAR starts.

Davey Allison: In storybook fashion, the Hueytown, AL native and member of the Alabama Gang recorded his first career victory by winning in May of 1987 at his home track. It was also the first of an amazing 19 wins he recorded in just 191 career starts.

Phil Parsons: Went to Gatorade Victory Lane in May of 1988, a year in which first-time winners would sweep both races. It was his only win in 203 career starts.

Ken Schrader: Two months after Parsons’ triumph, Schrader took the second TSS race of 1988 for the first of his four career victories in 763 career starts.

Brian Vickers: In the fall of 2006, while running third on the final lap, Vickers tapped second-place Jimmie Johnson, who then ran into leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. As a result, they both spun while Vickers was able to continue, recording his first of three career wins.

Brad Keselowski: Coming to the stripe through the tri-oval in the spring of 2009, Keselowski, a newcomer to the NSCS while driving for a low-funded team, got together with leader Carl Edwards, who spun while Keselowski continued on to record the first of his current 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories.

Talladega’s weekend kicks off on Friday (Oct. 23) with practice sessions for both the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™ and the 500. Saturday’s (Oct. 24) slate includes Foodland/Food Giant qualifying for the 500 as well as qualifying for the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola race, which starts at noon CDT. The race will feature veterans like Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter trying to hold off hard-charging young guns like Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick. The green flag will drop Sunday (Oct. 25) on the 500 at 1:30 p.m. CDT.