NASCAR at Talladega

NASCAR FOR THE FIRST TIME

 

It's NASCAR at Talladega where y'all, double first names, cigarettes, tattoos and beer are more common than mosquitoes on a sultry southern summer night. It's where the word formal means actually wearing a shirt. It's where over one hundred thousand fans of NASCAR gather to cheer their favorite driver around the 2.66 mile tri-oval track. It's where RVs are the home of choice and flip flops standard footwear. Its where, in 2012, I attended my first NASCAR event.

Beginning on Tuesday morning of race week RVs begin to arrive. Some of them set up at reserved spots around the track and others take advantage of several hundred acres of free RV parking. To get an idea of how many RVs wind up surrounding the Talladega Superspeedway, imagine that every RV owner in Alabama motors over to the race. My son, grandson, and I chose to take our RV over on Friday morning and encountered minimal traffic problems. Note for other newbies: do NOT accept site 61 in the family section. It is on a hill. The people who man the phones leasing these sites are in Florida. They have no clue. Regular Talladega attendees advised us this was the newbie site.

Eighteen wheelers pulled their trailers painted with the advertising of a particular driver and/or sponsor to the northwest corner of the track. Inside the trailers you will find shirts, caps and so much more, most of it bearing the photo or logo of a driver or sponsor. You can also buy beer for $6 a can and Cokes for $4 a bottle. Unfortunately there was no Dr. Pepper. I think this is because Coke is a sponsor. Of course there is also food, including the ubiquitous funnel cake. Several car manufacturers had their wares on display. Trams would sometimes give you a ride and then again sometimes there weren't any trams available. We rode to the vendor section and walked back.

If you didn't want to buy a $20 cap or $75 model car there was always a free tee shirt and photograph from Chevrolet. In exchange they obtained your contact information. A sample can of Skoal was also free for your contact information. A visit to this area was well worth the time and sweat if for no other reason than to people watch.

Prior to each race there is an invocation. For those under 35, an invocation is a prayer. Seeing a hundred thousand people stand and follow the prayer with an amen is rather unusual in this day and time. Prior to the invocation a rendition of God Bless America is sung and following it the Star Spangled Banner. A diesel hauler with a huge United States flag rapidly drove down the track during the singing. With those rituals concluded it is time to introduce the drivers. For me this procedure was like going to a high school reunion only to find out it was the one two years ahead of you. Yeah some of the names are familiar, but that's about it.

The drivers get in their cars, fans stand, and the race begins. This is when ear protection is required if you wish to hear normally after the race. There were about forty cars in the beginning but a good number less than that cross the finish line. Sometimes there are wrecks, but often a mechanical problem forces a car off the track. The races are entertaining, but for someone not steeped in the NASCAR tradition it was the perfect opportunity to observe my surroundings.

Words you do not hear at Talladega: “This is a non-smoking facility.” Be prepared to deal with cigarettes and the occasional cigar. I heard recently on the radio that one in five children do not know where their next meal is coming from. Fortunately none of these children belong to the crowd at Talladega. In other words, if you own a fitness facility do not bother advertising at NASCAR events.

In the middle of the track, referred to as the infield, hundreds of RVs along with numerous 18 wheelers, TV broadcast sets, a long garage area, various trucks including fire trucks and ambulances abound. To give you some idea of size, the infield is 212 acres.

When the race cars need fuel or new tires they pull into pit row for a pit stop. The words pit stop overstate the case a little. In 8 to 10 seconds they get new tires and a full tank of gas. It takes me at least half a day to do that.

After the race begins it is kind of like attending a church for the first time, you aren't certain when to stand and when to sit. People meander about more after twenty or thirty laps. There's a woman in a pink cap with a shoulder tattoo followed by a bald headed man with a cigarette dangling from his lips, holding a can of beer and sporting tattoos on the aforementioned bald head.

A woman carrying a bucket of beer makes her way up the steps. It is only fair to note that during the race we saw no incidents of any kind. These folks seemed able to handle their beer. At Talladega you can bring in most anything to eat or drink as long as it is not in glass. It is a good idea to take in a snack and some bottled water.

I couldn't help but notice that almost no matter what question the drivers were asked, they managed to mention their sponsors. ”What happened out there to slam you into the wall?” Answer, “Well let me say to Ralph's Plumbing that I'm sorry we didn't finish especially since this is their first race with us.” Those NASCAR folks do take care of their sponsors.

With our RV parked in the family section I can't report on all the happenings in other sections. The highlight for us was cooking our hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill. Peace and quiet prevailed. The family section is a short walk to the west side stands, which is quite a benefit for those not in great physical condition.

If you like NASCAR then get yourself over to Talladega. Come early on Sunday morning for the big race or bring your RV in on Tuesday. Either way you will have a great experience.


COPYRIGHT 2012 BY JACK KEAN

Talladega 2012 1
Talladega Speedway
Jack at Talladega
RV at Talladega
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