CUP: Talladega – Reliable Mayhem

The spoiler returned to Sprint Cup racing in 2010, and that meant fresh life for Talladega Superspeedway.

The Old Reliable for great racing on the NASCAR circuit, Talladega suffered a bit under the rear-wing era (not to mention, when cars think they can fly, it’s normally not a good thing).

That dynamic ended — and with a bang — this year, however, as NASCAR’s biggest track staged two of the season’s most impressive races. Even some of those who detest restrictor-plate racing — and that sometimes is a rather large community — took notice.

Both Talladega Sprint Cup races had spirited competition and came down to the final fraction of a second, and the track could throw in a Camping World Truck race in which the win was in dispute long after its conclusion.

The April Sprint Cup race — the Aaron’s 499 — was statistically the most competitive event in NASCAR history. The race had a record 88 lead changes (recorded only at the start-finish line) and a record 29 leaders. There were eight leaders — Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Elliott Sadler and David Ragan — in the first 10 laps alone.

As if regulation wasn’t frantic enough, the race went into “triple overtime,” as three green-white-checkereds were needed to produce an untainted finish. Jamie McMurray led at the end of regulation and through the first two green-white-checkereds, but Harvick edged past him in the trioval on the 200th — and final — lap to win the race by .011 of a second, the eighth closest finish since NASCAR went to electronic scoring in 1993.

Harvick also figured in the finish of the Amp Energy Juice 500, the second Sprint Cup race at Talladega in 2010. It was held, appropriately enough, on Halloween.

There were “only” 87 lead changes and 26 drivers in the lead.

The verdict down to Harvick and Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, who put on a dynamite show on the last green-flag lap, Bowyer nipping Harvick at start-finish. The race ended under caution because of a huge wreck on the white-flag lap.

Harvick and Bowyer were so close at the finish that NASCAR needed videotape study to pick the winner. The teammates parked side by side as they awaited the decision, although Bowyer charged into a series of burnouts before the winner announcement, later saying he was going to “claim” the race win before anyone else did.

That race weekend also featured a dramatic finish in the Camping World Truck Series as Kyle Busch, who had pushed Aric Almirola around the track in the lead position, jumped low to pass Almirola in a photo finish at the line.

Almirola said Busch went too low — below the yellow line designating the racing surface boundary, but NASCAR stuck by its decision to declare Busch the winner.

Just another banzai year of racing at Talladega Superspeedway.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.