Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Talladega....




What's Talladega? It not just a race track. It's a SUPER SPEEDWAY, an atmosphere that's festive and bright, swarming with happy people everywhere at 7:30 in the morning, a sport that is like no other whose fans are like no other. Some get there days ahead and camp through Monday! The smells of all sorts of delicious food waft over the air, some from those taligating and cooking over charcoal on grills, some from vendors who show up each year.


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The sounds are music (always there is Sweet Home Alabama playing somewhere!) and there are multiple helicopters flying overhead, a blimp sometimes buzzing slowly shooting video for the television coverage, and there are the numerous private jets flying in for the landing, to deliver their drivers to the raceway.


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You'll also hear policemen's whistles as they direct six solid lanes of traffic inching into the huge complex four HOURS ON END...all to make a crowd of more than 140,000 souls in one place for one reason: to watch men race their amazingly fast machines against each other in a frighteningly bizarre, gigantic (2.66 miles!) racetrack that is as wide as a four-lane expressway, very steep on both ends: the turns are from four to six stories TALL and the pitch of those turns are as steep as an old farmhouse roof!


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The huge complex that is the raceway, is over 2,500 acres and all around it are privately held parking lots and campgrounds. It is something that has its own museum, its own airstrip, and an infield that is larger than some racetracks on the NASCAR circuit! (If you are ever able to take a tour, or to do the PETTEY Ride-Along, do it! You'll learn a ton about this track that you never knew, and the ride around the track at 170mph is something you'll never forget! I did it and I loved it!)

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There are miles of campgrounds on the roads leading into the track facility.


We always start the day with a little shopping at the huge food/merchandise markets set up in the open air across from the track complex. You'll see EVERYTHING there...take your pick...clothing, merchandise (some naughty, most nice) of ALL kinds and food!






After a little shopping for a new t-shirt of our favorite driver, a new dog collar and leash, we turn around and head back to the old farmhouse parking lot and then....



it's back to our yearly "parking spot" where we always meet our friends from Georgia, (at $20/day, it's well worth it to not get caught in the raceway parking nightmare) for our tailgate "morning lunch" before we head into the track complex itself to find our way to our seats. The walk in is about a mile or more from here. We prefer our own food to the greasy fast food offered in the booths or on the huge concourse at the track. We pack our soft coolers and our clear backpack with drinks and provisions for 4-5 hours of racing and slather on the sunscreen and go...



We find our seat and enjoy what we can see of the pre-race show, driver introductions, and then once the men remove their hats and the National Anthem is sung, we are treated to a huge semi driving the whole track with the most enormous American flag you've ever seen flying proudly on the back of the truck to the cheers of the crowds, with the finale being flyovers from the Air Force and a case of intense pride and goosebumps happen to me EVERY single time!





This man pictured here in the foreground, spotted a race fan heading up the steps of the stands during the National Anthem with his hat on his head. He took his own hat, smacked the man on the arm with it and said "Take off your hat!". The man sprinting up the steps, removed his hat, but kept on going. I wanted to go hug this man for standing up for his country! (Click on photo to see each of the race pit crews in perfect formation for the National Anthem and flyover!)


Then, (I wish you could hear it!) all the cars start their engines and it's a roar like you wouldn't believe to have almost fifty of these powerful engines running at once; it'll shake you in your seat! But that's nothing like it will be in a few minutes when they all get up to full speed and run that track at almost 200 mph!




Here's a really good telelphoto shot of the camping area of the infield. As you can see, the track site is set into a very beautiful spot in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. You feel like you're sitting on top of the world. Our seats are directly across from pit road.



When Junior's in the lead...it's a real crowd pleaser! They go nuts when he's out front or getting ready to pass someone for the lead.


The race was very good, loved it even though our favorite wasn't the winner (he was second!) he led a lot of laps and pulled some of his "smooth moves" to get back to the front each time he was shuffled back in the pack. (We've been going to 'Dega for seven years and in the eight races we've been to there, we've only just now--this time-- had a bad experience in the stands with out-of-control drunk college-age fans who must have thought they were there for a "girls gone wild" shoot. I wanted to smack them down because there were children (one oif whom was my 13 year old son!) in the audience who could see all their filth and it's a long story but I'd sure like to have been the sherriff instead of a spectator! For the most part the fans are very family-oriented and nice.)

The weather was perfect (sunny, breezy, temps in the mid eighties) and we weren't seated too far from the Big One at the end...but the smoke and debris stopped us from seeing too much of the accident, but we sure did hear it. I taped the beginning and the ending of the race, and if I can figure out how to post a video, I'll show you both and then you can hear my scream when the accident happened there at the end. We're glad everyone is okay and that the fence did its job; if it hadn't, the outcome would have been much worse!



This was taken by Suzie, after our long day at the track, the race is over, and we've taken the long walk back to the parking spot, and had something cold to drink from the cooler and wiped our faces with an iced-down washcloth. We discuss the race and visit awhile, then say our goodbyes to Brian and Suzie, our friends from Georgia, and tell each other that we'll see each other again, at the same time next year! Then, we get in the Suburban to take the two hour trip back to Jamie's house, exhausted, but happy!

5 comments:

Becca's Dirt said...

So glad you had a good time. I keep saying that I'm gonna go to a 'Dega' race. Maybe I'll meet me a good man to take me. Love the pics of the race. Have a safe trip home. Becca

Connie said...

Let's hear it loudly for that man, sugar!!! That is a true MAN!!!!
xoxo,
Connie

Farm Chick Paula said...

Thanks for the Talladega tour! I've never been... always wanted to go. Bristol is the only track I've ever been to, and as you probably know, it's very different from a BIG track!

Tara said...

Loved your post, brought back memories of everything I loved about going the 2 races I went to. I get goosebumps too! My favorite part is how you can "feel" that first go round the track. The whole experience is just so nice, the patriotism and comaraderie is like no other event! Glad you had a good time and shared it with us!

Shari said...

Thanks for the tour of Talladega. Sounds like a wonderful experience!!