One of the oldest and largest tracks on the NASCAR circuit, Talladega Superspeedway opened in 1969 as the Alabama International Motor Speedway, changing to the present name in 1989. In those 47 years, its reputation as the fastest, largest and most competitive NASCAR track was set. Talladega has seating for 143,000 in its mile-long grandstand, but with the 212-acre infield population added in, crowds of more than 250,000 can be handled with no problem.
Compared to most NASCAR tracks, the racing surface is also larger than most. The track is 2.66 miles long, allowing for a 4,000-foot long backstretch, which allows drivers to attain speeds of over 200 miles an hour. It also is much wider (four lanes) than other facilities, which allows for more strategic moves and more competitive racing by NASCAR’s elite drivers. The most successful driver in Talladega history was the late Dale Earnhardt, who notched 10 victories at the track during his illustrious career. In recognition of this accomplishment, there is a full room of memorabilia in the on-site International Motor Sports Hall of Fame Museum, including one of the Intimidator’s own race cars.
A trip to Talladega is a must on any NASCAR fan’s bucket list right after its birthplace at Daytona. Doin’ the ‘Dega is an experience you will never forget.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
NASCAR is different from most sports facilities, in that bringing in food and beverage is allowed. The campsite and RV area fans typically bring enough supplies for the entire racing weekend, making them self-sufficient. In the grandstand area, each fan is allowed to bring one 14x14x14" soft-sided cooler and one light backpack no longer than 17 inches through the gates.
Talladega Superspeedway offers a wide variety of food and beverage selections to those who choose not to tote in their food. Concession stands are readily available for each grandstand / tower area as well as in the infield. The names of the stands give you a pretty good idea of the food selection (i.e. Bama BBQ, Dega Dog, Catfish Corner, the Frontstretch All You Can Eat and the Inside Track Bar.) We are talking southern comfort food here, y'all. Picnic decks are available at each end of the mile-long grandstand. Talladega serves Pepsi and Miller beer products, as well as Crown Royal and Captain Morgan cocktails.
Samplings of the prices to expect are: Dega Dog ($5), Bama BBQ sandwich ($7), hamburger ($6) and popcorn ($5). Drinks include sodas ($4), water ($3), domestic beer ($7), premium beer and imports ($10), and cocktails ($10-$12).
What truly makes Talladega unique from other NASCAR tracks is the close relationship between the fans and the Speedway itself. Having been around since 1969, many of the fans have been to all 46 races held at the track and are second and third-generation attendees. It is not unusual for fans and track employees to know each other on a first name basis.
The track management also values these relationships, and has a very active Fan Advisory Committee to suggest ways to make the Talladega experience even more fan friendly. This two-way communication is unique in the industry, and many suggestions have been implemented at the track. A prime example is, due to the size of the speedway, many people in the grandstand have been unable to see the action on the backstretch. In response, the track has erected several huge video monitors in the infield area across from the grandstand so the fans do not miss a thing.
Talladega has also instituted a three-day weekend, with Friday nights devoted to "The Big One on the Boulevard," which takes place on Talladega Boulevard, a thoroughfare in the middle of the infield. The party kicks off with a parade featuring many of the top drivers in the race, followed by a concert by top country talent and ending with an impressive fireworks demonstration. And that is all BEFORE the racing gets underway on Saturday and Sunday.
I would sum up races at Talladega to be an annual family reunion with a 500-mile race going on around it. The race is definitely still the main attraction, but during lulls due to weather, accidents on the track and other delays, you will never have a dull moment at Talladega Superspeedway.
When the track was built in the early 1960s, the site was chosen due to its location midway between Atlanta and Birmingham and the close proximity of the interstate. That being said, the speedway neighborhood is basically farmland (used for race parking... not crops!) and trees (the Talladega National Forest) lining I-20 to the north of the track. There is one gas station at Exit 173, and two hotels, Days Inn and Comfort Inn, at Exit 168. The town of Talladega is about eight miles from the track.
The neighborhoods for the Superspeedway are basically the campgrounds, the infield or the RV areas. You will find that the fans at Talladega are creatures of habit and typically set up in the same location year after year. It is not unusual to see friends and family arrange for side by side spaces in the camping area or RV lots so they can enjoy the entire racing weekend together.
The remoteness of the track location as far as restaurants is no problem, as a majority of the fans come well-stocked with food and beverages. The track provides hookups for the RVs, and free shower facilities are also provided by the speedway.
The fans at Talladega are among the most knowledgeable in the sport. They have the good fortune of living near one of the six original NASCAR tracks back in the days when it was an exclusively Southern experience. Many of the fans actually grew up with some of the drivers in some of the surrounding small towns. (The backstretch of the track is dedicated to the "Alabama Gang," namely Donnie, Bobby and Davey Allison, who all grew up in nearby Hueytown, Alabama.) While many NASCAR tracks have recently seen a drop in attendance, Talladega fans have been very loyal, and attendance has actually grown.
Though everyone in attendance is a NASCAR fan, Talladega fans can be broken down into two categories: those who are there purely for the racing and those who are there for the partying, with the race being the excuse to party. The fans in the grandstands tend to be the die-hard fans that have earphones on so they can hear drivers communicating with their pit crews. The infield group arrives on Thursday and leaves late on Sunday. What happens in between could be compared to a combination of Mardi Gras and Spring Break. Amongst the revelry, Jell-O wrestling matches, lots of drinking and endless playing of the southern anthem, "Sweet Home Alabama." The track management has sectioned off some parts of the infield to be more family friendly, but if you are bringing the kids, sit in the grandstands.
The Superspeedway is just south of I-20 at exit 173 and is visible from the interstate. At the end of the ramp, you will be on Speedway Boulevard. Continue on Speedway Boulevard for approximately three miles, and the track will be on your left. Parking areas (all free) will be available on both sides of Speedway Boulevard before you even reach the Talladega complex. All parking lots are basically open farmland. Shuttles will run constantly from the parking areas to the grandstand area. Make sure you note what number lot you are in, as trams returning fans after the race will be designated for a specific parking lot. Persons who will be camping on-site, in the infield area or staying in RVs for race weekend will see specific signage on their left prior to reaching the race complex guiding them to their specific point of entry. The largest concentration of hotels near the track will be in Anniston, Alabama, 12 miles from the track at exit 185. Since more than 200,000 people typically attend a race, I-20 can become backed up for miles. The track website offers some alternate routes to the facility via some state roads that are less heavily traveled.
Depending on some choices you make on accommodations, concession items and ticket selection, Talladega can offer you an excellent ROI. By staying in a campsite area or in your own RV, you can eliminate a costly hotel bill (as the nearest major set of hotels is 12 miles from the track). These areas also allow you to bring your own food and beverage, bringing down the concession budget dramatically. Talladega is also just an hour's drive from either Atlanta or Birmingham, so many simply drive over the morning of the race, especially if they are seated in the grandstand. A breakdown of the prices for each of the areas of the track is found in the photo gallery of this review. One figure that is hard to assign a dollar figure to is the experience of a Talladega weekend in the infield and RV areas. Yes, you are close to the track action, but you are also close to pre-race concerts, great interaction with the camper/RV next door and a truly fun time. It is a Woodstock experience on wheels.
Talladega offers several unique experiences for race fans. The first is located right at the front entrance to the speedway. The International Motor Sports Hall of Fame offers a unique look into the broad field of motor racing, not just stock cars. You will see racing boats, racing trucks, dragsters and even go-karts. Special exhibits include an entire room devoted to the Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt; a cutaway of a stock car so you can see the driver's environment and the actual wreckage of cars from many past Talladega races. You will be amazed that the drivers were able to walk away when you see the remains of their cars.
The second "must-do" while in the area is actually found in the town of Talladega, about eight miles south of the track. It is the Davey Allison Memorial Park/Texaco Racing Walk of Fame. Davey Allison was a member of the Allison family racing dynasty, who tragically lost his life in a helicopter accident at Talladega Superspeedway. In addition to his memorial, the park features plaques saluting NASCAR's greatest drivers, from Fireball Roberts of the 1950's all the way up to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. The park is located one block south of the town square.
Talladega was built for one thing and one thing only: Speed, Sheer, unbridled, foot to the floor speed. When "Big" Bill France broke ground on what was then called the Alabama International Motor Speedway at the site of a former airfield in the hills of Northern Alabama in May of 1968, his goal was to develop a longer and faster version of the iconic Daytona International Speedway in Florida, also the brainchild of France.
By the time the $4 million facility opened on September 13, 1969, France had constructed a track so fast, so long in length, so ahead of its time that the first drivers could not race around it without developing major tire wear issues. This led to a driver's boycott of the track and France employing the use of substitute drivers. The finish of that first race was nonetheless exciting, culminating in a three-wide at the line finish, with a little known driver from Rocky Point, North Carolina, by the name of Richard Brickhouse securing the victory. Brickhouse would continue on to have 13 Top 10 finishes in his brief career while Talladega Superspeedway would go on to become the track referred to simply as: "The Big One".
Been to Talladega many times and always have had a great time. When I was young it was the place to go because you are going to see anything and everything. Now, approaching middle age, I still like the track and hanging with friends but cannot stay up till dawn like I use to be able. But if you are young and ready, bring beads and you will see some nice things.
Getting to Dega is easy since it is just off Interstate 20 between Birmingham and Atlanta. One good thing is that you can get to the track from two exits on the Interstate. From the west -take exit 168 (Highway 77) exit where there will be a few fast-food restaurants and gas stations. There will also be a large area where people sell NASCAR items along with tickets. From the east- take exit 173 but do not expect to find anything at that exit. Make sure you have all your food and beverage items before arriving.
Talladega is special since it has a very large area between the track and the interstate where there is free camping. You also must have a ticket to the race to enter the area in a car but if you want to experience the fun of Talladega then this is the area for you. (Hint- if you have friends that don't have a ticket just drop then off before pulling the vehicle into the grounds and they can walk to your area) This area does not have a quiet time so if you want a good night sleep then you might want to consider another camp ground.
On Saturday night the infield at Talladega has a special concert type event where there is mud-fights and contests. The police have made this somewhat more 'family inviting' but you will never see so many rednecks drinking a large amount of alcohol is such a close space with nearly all being super friendly. Some drink till they have to be carried out by friends. One good thing is that trouble makers are quickly handled by the security. But mainly the security people try to let you control your own crowd. They would rather someone take him back to the camping area than arrest him.
Make sure you bring enough food to last the time your in the campground. There is nothing within walking distance. If you have to leave for supplies try to do so in the early morning around dawn. You can get in and out of the area quickly. Make sure you have plenty of ice. They do come around selling ice but at a steep price.
If you are just coming for the race, then pick the free parking. They actually have free parking areas rather close to the track. Right across Speedway Blvd (the main road) there is an area of free parking that is closer than most other pay parking. So take time to look at a map and determine where your seats are located from Talladega Speedway and park accordingly.
Getting into the track is about the same as most others. You can bring a cooler 14x14 with ice into the track. The cooler must be soft-sided and can be filled to the rim with can or plastic beverages. NO GLASS.
Sitting at the track is like picking a neighborhood. If you want to sit with people that drink water and sodas or perhaps a Samuel Adams- then you want the more high price tickets in the Hill or Birmingham Towers. If you want beer drinking, party people, country loving fans- then sit in the Gadsden and Lincoln lower grandstands.
One very nice thing about Dega is since the track is so big most will not be able to see the entire track. They have lots of very large screens to show the action of the leaders when the cars are on the backstretch. You don't miss any of the action even when sitting low.
The infield is nice but for me I enjoyed the grandstands much better since you have the large screens and can see all the action. The Paddock club is not worth the money. You are in the infield with a parking pass and all the beer you can drink- but you cannot see anything other than what is in front of you. Was not worth the cost and a much better time drink beer of your choosing with people in the grandstands.
Leaving is not bad. Yes, everyone wants to all leave at once on Sunday evening but the cops have the roadway moving the best they can. They actually shut-down highway 77 for over an hour just to let race fans get back to the Interstate. So pick any lane and move.
Bring sun-screen and have a party at Talladega!
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