The last two NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway were intense for Ryan Blaney, but winning, even by just seven one thousandths of a second, easily calmed his nerves.
Now, with the upcoming Oct. 4 YellaWood 500 just over a week away, the pressure intensifies yet again for the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. With a third consecutive win, he can join an elite group of two iconic names at Talladega Superspeedway – Baker and Earnhardt.
Only two drivers have ever won three consecutive premier series races at storied Talladega. NASCAR Hall of Famer Buddy Baker pulled the rabbit out of the hat by sweeping both 1975 races, followed by a triumph in the spring event in 1976. He had to hold off the likes of runnerup finishers’ Richard Petty, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough, respectively, in each event. That record of three straight stood until 2001-03 when Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who will be inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame next year, claimed an unprecedented four-in-row.
Currently, Blaney sits in the fine company of another group of NASCAR greats with the two straight triumphs at the 2.66-mile venue, NASCAR’s most competitive track. They include: Pete Hamilton (1970 sweep), Darrell Waltrip (1982 sweep), Ernie Irvan (1992-93), Sterling Marlin (1995-96), Jeff Gordon (2007 sweep) and Talladega Superspeedway all-time winner Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who won back-to-back on three different occasions (1990 sweep, 1993-94, 1999 sweep) as part of his 10 total victories.
How did those drivers fare in their attempt to get three Talladega wins in-a-row? Some came close:
- Hamilton – 4th in spring of 1971
- Waltrip – 33rd in spring of 1983
- Irvan – 2nd in summer of 1993
- Marlin – 29th in summer of 1996
- Gordon – 19th in spring of 2008
- Earnhardt, Sr.:
- 3rd in spring of 1991
- 34th in summer of 1994
- 3rd in spring of 2000
Now it’s Blaney’s turn. He made his pass on Ryan Newman coming through the tri-oval in last fall’s win, while in June for the GEICO 500, he traded paint with Erik Jones just feet from the finish line, sending the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the outside wall, before fending off Ricky Stenhouse and Aric Almirola.
“The 20 (Jones) got to my outside and I tried to go up there to slow him down and I’m not sure, I don’t know three-wide, I hate that I hit him, but just kind of trying to beat and bang to the line and things like that,” said Blaney afterwards. “We just edged it out. It’s been a cool year so far and I’m really excited to get our first win of the year at a cool place. Thank you everybody (limited fans in grandstands) for coming. I appreciate you. That was a lot of fun.”
Blaney hopes the fun will continue, but he will have to earn it in the YellaWood 500. While his GEICO 500 victory placed him the Cup Series Playoffs, he was eliminated last week at the conclusion of the Bristol race. Who knows, maybe he will have a chip on his shoulder with even more incentive to play a spoiler role in capturing that third straight win at the high banks of Talladega.
Team Penske has won eight of the last 12 premier series race at Talladega with the three teammates’ Blaney (2 wins), Brad Keselowski (3 wins) and Joey Logano (3 wins).
The YellaWood 500 gets the green flag on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 1 p.m. CT. The full schedule for Oct. 3-4 Playoff Weekend for Talladega Superspeedway includes:
- Sat, Oct. 3 – Talladega 250 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at 12:00 p.m. CDT (FS1, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 94 laps
- Sat, Oct. 3 – Ag-Pro 300 At TALLADEGA NASCAR Xfinity Series at 3:30 p.m. CDT (NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 113 laps
- Sun, Oct. 4 – YellaWood 500 NASCAR Cup Series at 1:00 p.m. CDT (NBC, SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90 & MRN); 188 laps
For further information on the YellaWood 500, including infield camping possibilities for the weekend, fans may learn more by calling the ticket office at 1-877-Go2-DEGA. The ticket office is open Monday through Friday from 8 am-6 pm CT, and 8 am-4 pm on the weekends.