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Thursday, October 17, 2013
Answers on Talladega's "Big One"

By ESPN Stats & Information


Chris Graythen/Getty Images/NASCAR
Tony Stewart (No. 14) got airborne after being involved in a 25-car wreck last October at Talladega.
This Sunday, the second half of the Chase starts with the biggest wild card of the NASCAR playoffs, a 500-mile race at Talladega (1 PM ET on ESPN and WatchESPN).

The racing and the wrecks at Talladega are, in a word, unpredictable, but the ESPN Stats & Info Group took a shot at answering some questions on Sunday’s restrictor plate showdown.

What are the odds we actually see a “Big One”?
In five of the last seven years, there’s been a wreck involving at least 11 cars in the Chase race at Talladega, including last year’s 25-car pileup.

In the other two seasons, 2010 and 2011, there were still a collection of smaller wrecks. In both years, there were separate accidents of six and five cars. In 2010, there were four total accidents in the race. The next year, there were five.

How many Chasers will be involved?

In four of the last five seasons, at least half of the Chase drivers were involved in the big wreck at Talladega. Last year’s accident involved 10 of the 12 Chasers, with only the top-two finishers, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon, getting through without damage.

After just one Chase driver was involved in a wreck in the first Talladega Chase race in 2004, at least three have wrecked in each of the last eight.

Where can drivers go to avoid the wrecks?
The thought that the only safe place is at the front isn’t true.

Last year, Tony Stewart was leading when he pulled down to block a fast-charging Michael Waltrip. He was turned and ended up airborne in the midst of a 25-car wreck, the largest in Chase history.

In 2008, Carl Edwards mistimed a bump draft on Greg Biffle as they led the high line chasing down the leaders. In 2009, Brad Keselowski turned Kurt Busch in a similar situation.

Even the leaders aren’t spared, and with the rest of the pack following closely behind, the only safe area might be off the track.

When will this take place?
More often than not, these wrecks take place at the very end of the race. The big wrecks in 2009 and 2012 took place on the final lap. The 2006-08 versions took place inside the final 50 laps.

Dating back to 1990, there have been seven last-lap accidents at Talladega, three more than any other track.

But in the 2003 spring race at Talladega, there was a 27-car wreck on the fourth lap, proving that you can’t look away for a second.

Any chance the race won’t have a “Big One”?
If there was going to be a year without a big wreck at Talladega, this could be it. In the first five races of the 2013 Chase, there’s only been 13 wrecks, on pace for the fewest for a single Chase (33 in 2012).

Also, for all the carnage that takes place at Talladega, the only two caution-free Sprint Cup Series races since 2000 both took place at Talladega, although the last one of those took place in 2002.