When looking at the history of the spring NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway in the 1990s, there’s one name that pretty much sums it up – Earnhardt – as in Dale Sr.
In a run of 10 races, Earnhardt bookended the decade with triumphs, won three overall (1990, ’94, and ’99), and had eight top 4 finishes, which also included a runner-up result, three 3rd place efforts, and a 4th. In ’95, while battling for 3rd on the final lap, he was in position for yet another top 4 result, but was tapped by Morgan Shepherd and spun, finishing 21st. In ’98, he was caught up in a 20-car accident with more than 40 laps to go and wound up 36th.
He won the pole position for the spring Cup event in ’93. In addition, he showed his prowess in the spring with three International Race of Champions victories (1990, ‘95, and ’99) while also going to Victory Lane in the NASCAR second tier event in ’93.
The world’s largest superspeedway, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, saw seven different winners in the spring premier series events during the decade, with Mark Martin the only other multiple winner. Ernie Irvan led the way in pole positions in ‘Dega’s first event of the year with four.
The following are quick recaps of each springtime race at Talladega, the creation of Big Bill France in 1969, from the ‘90s that captured memorable moments.
1990: Earnhardt, in his famous black No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, led 107 of 188 laps, including the final 22, to score his third career Cup Series win at Talladega, but his first to come in the spring event. He held off Greg Sacks, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, and Martin.
1991: Harry Gant ran the final 149 miles on a tank of fuel to become the track’s oldest NASCAR Cup Series winner at 51 years, 3 months and 26 days. He finished 11 seconds ahead of Darrell Waltrip and Earnhardt, who both made late-race gas stops.
1992: In an 8-lap shootout, Davey Allison crossed the line by two car lengths over runner-up Bill Elliott, who was nearly side-by-side with 3rd place finisher Earnhardt. It was Allison’s third and final TSS triumph.
1993: In a final-lap shootout, Irvan, along with Jimmy Spencer and Dale Jarrett, slipped past Earnhardt, who fell to 4th. It was Irvan’s second trip to Talladega’s winner’s circle.
1994: Master of restrictor plate racing, Earnhardt passed Spencer with five laps to go and held off Irvan by just .06 seconds to claim his seventh Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR Cup Series career victory.
1995: In his 19th TSS start in the Cup Series, Martin slipped past Earnhardt with just over a lap to go, then held off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon to get his first Talladega victory.
1996: Sterling Marlin won the spring event on his 27th TSS start, bettering Jarrett and Earnhardt by just .22 second.
1997: For the second time in three years, Martin went to Victory Lane in the spring event that had no caution flags and still stands as the track’s fastest race to date at an average speed of 188.354 mph. The event was completed in 2 hours, 39 minutes and 18 seconds. Earnhardt was 2nd with Bobby Labonte 3rd.
1998: Labonte became the eighth driver to win the GEICO 500 from the pole position, with Spencer and Jarrett in tow.
1999: Earnhardt notched his eighth career Cup Series triumph at the 2.66-mile venue in the spring event, edging Jarrett and Martin. He would come back later in the year in the fall to make it a 1999 Talladega sweep.
Five of the drivers in the ‘90s lay claim to multiple triumphs at the historic venue – Earnhardt 10, Allison 3, Martin 2, Irvan 2, and Marlin 2.