64 SEPTEMBER 2016
NASCAR SPRINT CUP
As things stand, it isn’t
Daytona or Talladega.
International Speedway –
two miles long and no
restrictor plate – just edges
the honor. Joey Logano’s
June 2016 pole was
199.557mph, with Chase
Elliott (LEFT) putting in a
201.630mph lap in practice.
WORDS Tom Jensen MAIN IMAGE Sepidehmaleki/iStock
in the United States and NASCAR was a
relatively small, regional player compared
to the “big car” open-wheel races put on at
the Brickyard and elsewhere.
So France reasoned that building a
high-banked, 2.5-mile oval would put stock
cars closer in speed to the open-wheel boys
running on the essentially flat IMS track. In
his biography of France, “Big Bill, The Life
And Times of NASCAR Founder Bill France
Sr.,” Herb Branham wrote that France’s vision
for Daytona was “a design that would allow
stock cars to chase unprecedented speeds.”
Those heady post-World War II days were
a time of enormous optimism in the United
States and a time where barriers were
being broken everywhere – on race tracks,
with ever-faster street cars, jet airplanes
and even the early days of the space race.
So building the nation’s fastest oval was in
tune with the zeitgeist.
A decade after opening his Floridian
temple of speed, France opened an even
bigger and faster track, the 2.66-mile
Alabama International Motor Speedway,
known today as Talladega Superspeedway.
arl Edwards climbed out of his car and
shook his head as he talked to reporters
at Michigan International Speedway. It
was August 2014, and Edwards had just
posted a qualifying lap of 206.115mph.
Astonishingly, that didn’t put Edwards
on the pole for the Pure Michigan 400. In
fact, it didn’t even put him on the front row.
Jeff Gordon took the pole with a track
record speed of 206.558mph, just ahead
of Joey Logano’s 206.381mph. All told, 32
of the 43 cars that made qualifying
attempts smashed the 200mph barrier.
“It’s fast. That’s the simplest way to
describe it,” Edwards said, disbelief etched
on his face. “It’s fast. I wish you guys could
ride in that car with me. That is screamin‘...”
Speed matters. NASCAR founder
William Henry Getty France knew as much.
Speed was a huge motivator behind
France’s creation of, first, Daytona
International Speedway in 1959, and then
Talladega Superspeedway a decade later.
In the mid-1950s. Indianapolis Motor
Speedway was the epicenter of auto racing
Back in the day, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. saw speed
as a way of putting stock car racing on the map. Now, miles
per hour is just one aspect of the sport’s optimal package.