TALLADEGA, Ala. – There are several marked differences between Talladega Superspeedway and its sister restrictor-plate track, Daytona International Speedway.
For one thing, Daytona has tighter corners. Handling is more or an issue at the Birthplace of Speed. At Daytona, driving double-file through the corners is about all most drivers care to risk, whereas at Talladega, with its sweeping turns and higher banking, three- and four-wide is possible without calamity.
Perhaps the most obvious difference between the two speedways is the placement of the start/finish line. At Daytona, its location in the center of the tri-oval is typical of most large tracks.
At Talladega, on the other hand, you don’t get to the stripe until you exit the tri-oval, past the exit from pit road. NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. wanted to give fans seated in the frontstretch grandstands at Talladega plenty of opportunity to see cars slingshot past each other in the tri-oval as they raced toward the checkered flag.
And the location of the finish line certainly affects where drivers make their moves on the final lap.
“That extra distance creates just a little bit different finish,” said NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Brennan Poole. “Guys can try to set up a little differently and make some moves and make some things happen and wait a little bit longer.
“It’s still all about timing. If the start/finish line was in the tri-oval, maybe guys would do something a little bit different, and time it a little bit different.”
“They moved it there to bring the tri-oval more into play,” added Elliott Sadler, who is competing in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this weekend. “It just adds more excitement coming down to the start/finish line—definitely.”
As NASCAR drivers ran between raindrops throughout the day on Friday, Clint Bowyer paced opening practice with a lap at 196.822 mph, as cars identifiable by manufacturer hooked up in a session that was shortened by rain.
All told, nine Fords posted the nine fastest laps, followed by five Toyotas. Camry drivers Erik Jones and Kyle Busch ran the most circuits in the session—13 each. Only 31 of the 41 cars attempting to earn positions in Sunday’s GEICO 500 recorded times in the opening practice.