Jimmie Johnson beats Clint Bowyer in the 2011 Aaron's 499 by a margin of 0,002 seconds. As of 2015 this is the second closest finish in history.
Talladega... need I say more?
Opened in 1969, Talladega Superspeedway was opened to create a similar style of racing seen at Daytona International Speedway. The 2.66 mile raceway has witnessed many of the greatest finishes and crashes in the 60 plus year history of NASCAR. The Cup series currently visits the small Alabama town twice during the season, and both events are always circled on a fans calendar. But non-followers of the sport may wonder why... well here you go.
Talladega is pure excitement, craziness, and un-predictable. Exciting is and understatement for this race! Though waiting for 168 laps to get to the last 20 laps (188 lap events) can be boring, this race is all about the build up to a great finish. Talladega is pack racing at its finest with 30 plus cars running in one pack at a single time. Watching 3 and 4 wide racing for the entire race is one of the most unique features that comes with this speedway. For non racing fans, these packs occur due to NASCAR implementing restrictor plates to weaken some of the horse power created. Without these plates racing would be very much the same at Daytona & Talladega, as it is at other racetracks.
These plates also force drivers to work with each other in the concept of "the draft". Drafting is when another car tucks in behind the car in front and helps 'push' both vehicles through the air. Drafting can create speeds over 200mph, which is why literally the whole pack is tucked in behind each other. The combination of pack racing, drafting, and high speeds makes Talladega one of the most exciting races of the year.
Craziness. The packs and speeds I mentioned above are great for fans, but scary for drivers. Talladega has caused many major wrecks. With cars floating around each other for nearly 200 laps someone is bound to make a mistake, which occurs every year. Annually fans witness a crash involving 10 to 15 and maybe even 20 cars simultaneously. This is referred as the 'Big One'. These crashes seem innevitable, and always have a say in who will win the race. Getting past this major wreck is half of the job to staying in contention. All of the unknowns involved in restrictor plate racing creates a crazy atmosphere, one that all fans love!
Wreck from 2012.
Lastly, un-predictability. Talladega like all tracks have favorites, but here a favorite is basically someone with experience. This is one event that pretty much all 43 cars have a chance to take home the trophy, which is usually not the case else where. Winners such as David Ragan in 2013 and Brad Keselowski in 2009 show that anyone can win. Underdogs have a chance when stepping into 'Dega. Also, don't pay attention to much before the final 20 laps. Many of the sports best lay back to avoid wrecks and emerge late. In fact a large handful of wins have come from last lap passes. Don't even set you eyes on a winner until the last 100 feet, and that may not even be enough considering Talladega has hosted many of the closest finishes in NASCAR history. When I went to the Aaron's 499 in 2011 Jimmie Johnson beat Clint Bowyer by a margin of 0.002 seconds, which is the second closest margin in history (picture of finish is the title photo).
Brad Keselowski first Cup series win in 2009 driving the #09 Miccosukee Chevy for Phoenix Racing. At the time 'Bad Brad' was a major underdog.
So now that I have briefly mentioned some of the reason Talladega is truly everyone fans favorite i say to you to enjoy the race this weekend!! Best of luck to your drivers and may luck be with them!! The race will be on FOX at 1pm this Sunday!
(Pictures from bradkracing.com, Yahoo sports, rumorsandracing.com)