In an action-packed start to the season, the NASCAR Cup Series has produced some of the best racing in the history of the sport, and the green flag passes for the lead prove it. Will the trend continue at NASCAR’s Most Competitive venue – Talladega Superspeedway – this weekend during the GEICO 500? Bet on it!
The 2022 campaign has seen an incredible average of 45.8 green flag passes for the lead per race, which is up 25 percent on average for the first nine races of a season – dating back over 16 years when Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated, where the average was 33.8 per race). Now the sport, headlined by the new ‘Next Gen,’ racy race cars, travel to the iconic 2.66-mile, 33-degree banked Talladega Superspeedway, created by NASCAR founder Bill France, Sr., to be a palace of speed and a magnet for ultimate competition. The numbers at Talladega are staggering.
Green Flag Passes for the Lead at TSS
NASCAR counts lead changes at the start-finish line, but Talladega Superspeedway provides passing opportunities throughout the 48-feet wide ribbon of asphalt of its four turns and trioval. The track holds the all-time record in green flag passes for the lead in a single NASCAR Cup Series event with 219, set on October 20, 2013. Amazingly, during last fall’s YellaWood 500, the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race produced 123 green flag passes for the lead, which was the most during 2021. What makes that number impressive is that it was done in only 117 laps of the scheduled 188-lap event (race was cut short due to inclement weather).
Official Lead Changes at the Start-Finish Line at TSS
True, official lead changes in NASCAR are counted at the start-finish line, and Talladega Superspeedway also owns the NASCAR record – 88 (twice – in spring of 2010 and 2011). Incredibly, with the track a mammoth 2.66-miles, premier series races at Talladega are just 188 laps (500 miles).
Total Green Passes Throughout the Field During a TSS 500-miler
Over the last 16 seasons, Talladega Superspeedway, which France, Sr., deemed the “greatest race track in the world,” holds the all-time record in total green flag passes in a single NASCAR Cup Series event with 23,765 total throughout the field set on October 20, 2013. A year ago in the GEICO 500, Talladega Superspeedway again led the way for the season in total green flag passes throughout the field with 9,738.
No wonder when fans purchase a seat at Talladega, they rarely sit it since they are standing with excitement. And there’s more!
White Flag Leader Doesn’t Mean a Checkered Flag
As noted earlier, lead changes are counted at the start-finish line in NASCAR. Unbelievably, since Talladega began racing the Cup Series in 1969, in 105 races, an official lead change happened on the last lap in 29 races – the driver who took the white flag didn’t bring home the checkered flag. The trend started in 1974 and continued last spring when Brad Keselowski captured the GEICO 500 for his sixth Talladega triumph. Here’s the full list:
Date Winner White Flag Leader
Aug. 11, 1974 Richard Petty David Pearson
May 14, 1978 Cale Yarborough Buddy Baker
May 3, 1981 Bobby Allison Buddy Baker
Aug. 2, 1981 Ron Bouchard Darrell Waltrip
May 2, 1982 Darrell Waltrip Benny Parsons
July 31, 1983 Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Darrell Waltrip
May 6, 1984 Cale Yarborough Harry Gant
July 29, 1984 Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Terry Labonte
July 31, 1988 Ken Schrader Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
May 2, 1993 Ernie Irvan Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
Oct. 21, 2001 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Bobby Labonte
Oct. 2, 2005 Dale Jarrett Matt Kenseth
May 1, 2006 Jimmie Johnson Brian Vickers
Oct. 8, 2006 Brian Vickers Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Oct. 7, 2007 Jeff Gordon Jimmie Johnson
April 26, 2009 Brad Keselowski Carl Edwards
April 25, 2010 Kevin Harvick Jamie McMurray
Oct. 31, 2010 Clint Bowyer Kevin Harvick
April 17, 2011 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon
Oct. 23, 2011 Clint Bowyer Jeff Burton
Oct. 7, 2012 Matt Kenseth Tony Stewart
May 5, 2013 David Ragan Carl Edwards
Oct. 19, 2014 Brad Keselowski Ryan Newman
May 7, 2017 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. Kyle Busch
Oct. 15, 2017 Brad Keselowski Ryan Newman
Oct. 14, 2018 Aric Almirola Kurt Busch
June 22, 2020 Ryan Blaney Kevin Harvick
Oct. 4, 2020 Denny Hamlin Matt DiBenedetto
April 25, 2021 Brad Keselowski Matt DiBenedetto
Those Close, Blink-of-an-Eye Finishes at ’Dega
With so much passing at Talladega, naturally it contributes to the incredible close finishes like no other venue. During the last 26 years at NASCAR’s biggest track that didn’t end under caution, the average margin of victory is .129 seconds, most of time with multiple cars gunning for the win. The closest? Jimmie Johnson over Clint Bowyer by .002 seconds in 2011.
Talladega’s Margin of Victory Added Up – Wow!
Here is one final, but amazing stat. Add together the times of the margin of victory in each Cup Series race over the last 25 years (38 races) at Talladega that didn’t finish under caution. The grand total is 4.905 seconds.
The ‘Next Gen’ car will see its first action on Talladega’s high banks in the GEICO 500. Debuting in the season-opening DAYTONA 500, the Next Gen car is designed to give the drivers greater control and put an emphasis back on race strategies, team personnel and vehicle setups while returning the ‘stock car’ look to NASCAR. So far this season, the race cars that look more like street version vehicles, have put on incredible racing with rave reviews from fans.
Guests who have a Sunday GEICO 500 ticket will get admission to the traditional Saturday Night Infield Concert featuring country music artist Riley Green. The show kicks off after the running of a racing doubleheader, featuring the General Tire 200 (12:00 p.m. CDT) for the ARCA Menards Series and the Ag-Pro 300 (3:00 p.m. CDT) for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. In addition, Saturday morning on-track action kicks off at 10 am with KLĒNSKIN Pole Qualifying at 10:00 a.m. CDT.
To see all weekend admission opportunities, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA. Several options await fans like the fan-favorite 140,000 square-foot Talladega Garage Experience, which includes up-close access to Garage Viewing Walkways, Pre-Race Ceremonies and Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane. In addition, there are hospitality areas such as Fan Suites, Premium Box seating, and Busch Balcony, along with incredible Kid’s programming.
Fans are encouraged to keep up with all the happenings at the biggest, baddest race track on the planet by following Talladega Superspeedway on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as the all-new NASCAR Tracks App.