Courtesy of talladegasuperspeedway.com
It’s been more than six months since Talladega Superspeedway
has hosted an event weekend, but fans can rejoice – the wait is finally over.
The Most Competitive Track in the world is set to host
racing’s best this tripleheader weekend (April 29-May1) in the highly
anticipated NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500, NASCAR XFINITY Series Sparks
Energy 300 and the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards General Tire 200.
The always unpredictable GEICO 500, a pivotal opportunity
for a driver to all but guarantee a spot in the season-ending 10-race playoff Chase
for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, is the 10th race on the 2016
schedule and gets the green flag at 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 1. The Sparks Energy
300 is set for a 2 p.m. start on Saturday, Apr. 30, which also features
qualifying for both the GEICO 500 and the Sparks Energy 300 earlier in the day.
Practice for both NASCAR races, as well as practice, qualifying and the green
flag for the General Tire 200 (5 p.m.) is slated for Friday (Apr. 30).
“We are excited to have both General Tire and Sparks Energy
be a part of this incredible tripleheader weekend for the first time, joining
our friends at GEICO who have been with us for a few years now,” said Talladega
Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. “It’s going to be three incredible days of
racing, and it will be interesting to see if history can be made in the GEICO
500 with Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who both can make their mark in
the Talladega Superspeedway record book.”
Can Carl Edwards win his first race at Talladega and his
third straight in 2016?
Could we see history yet again at Talladega? Since the track
opened in 1969, on only
three occasions has a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver come
to Talladega on a two-race win streak and walked away with a third consecutive
victory after the checkered flag fell.
Joey Logano picked up his first Talladega win, and in the
process, his third in a row in the NSCS just last fall after wins at Charlotte
and Kansas. “King” Richard Petty pulled off the trick in mid-summer of 1974,
backing up triumphs at Atlanta and Pocono. David Pearson, a three-time
Talladega winner, is the only driver to come into Talladega’s spring race – the
GEICO 500 – with a shot at his third straight victory. The “Silver Fox” lapped
the field on Talladega’s high banks after winning at Darlington and
Martinsville in 1973.
Edwards, who won last week at Bristol, as well as Sunday’s
event at Richmond in his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, now has the chance to
join that elite group, but he has never gone to Gatorade Victory Lane at
NASCAR’s biggest and baddest track. In 23 starts, he has four top-five
finishes, including fifth last fall and his best of third in the 2013 GEICO
“This race, everything about it is chaotic and unpredictable
that I think the stats really don’t mean much here,” said Edwards of Talladega
last year during the GEICO 500 preparations. “You could have all the stats in
the world, but someone could win this race that’s not even on the radar up
until the end. The last lap of this race could turn the field inside-out and
anything could happen.
“As it gets closer to the end of the race it just gets
crazy,” added Edwards. “It’s Talladega. I’d really like this place a lot more
if I could get a victory here, but for right now I like it OK.”
In 2009 Edwards was leading coming through the tri-oval only
to be tapped and spun out by Brad Keselowski. Edwards then exited his battered
car just short of the finish line and ran by foot to cross the stripe.
On 15 occasions a driver has come to Talladega on a two-win
streak, but 12 of those times the drivers were denied a third straight win.
Three competitors came within one spot of excelling as Cale Yarborough (1977),
Darrell Waltrip (1981) and Tim Richmond (1986) were all bridesmaids, finishing
second in their Talladega attempt at history.
Time not an issue for Dale Jr.’s attempt at another GEICO
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., the defending champion of the GEICO 500
in his No. 88 Hendrick Chevrolet, has already won back-to-back GEICO 500s once
in his career (2002-03) and he is part of an elite club of back-to-back GEICO
500 winners that include Jeff Gordon (2004-05), Buddy Baker (1975-76) and David
Pearson, who reeled off three straight GEICO 500 triumphs from 1972 to 1974.
Now, incredibly, Earnhardt, Jr. can win back-to-back GEICO
500s after a 13-year time lapse. Earnhardt, Jr’s triumph a year ago propelled
him into the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Earnhardt Jr. and his team
will also welcome back “Amelia,” a two-time winning car in 2015. The machine,
which had to be repaired after a crash in the Daytona 500 earlier this year,
went to victory lane in last spring’s GEICO 500.
Logano has chance for back-to-back wins in Sparks Energy
In the Sparks Energy 300, a host of young talent will battle
it out for Superspeedway supremacy behind rising stars Daniel Suarez (current
point’s leader), Erik Jones, Ty Dillon as well as veteran Elliott Sadler, who
went to Gatorade Victory Lane in the 2014 Sparks Energy 300. However, NASCAR
Sprint Cup Series star Greg Logano will invade the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS)
yet again at Talladega. A year ago, the driver of the No. 22 Penske Ford took
home the checkered in the Sparks Energy 300, holding off Brian Scott in a
nailbiter. If a NXS regular wins the race, that particular driver is all but
guaranteed a spot in the Series’ new season-ending, seven-race Chase.
Rising star a new addition to Alabama Gang?
Munford native Bret Holmes, who grew up 15 minutes from
Talladega Superspeedway, will make his first superspeedway start in the ARCA
Racing Series’ General Tire 200 with fellow Alabama native Grant Enfinger
(defending ARCA driving champ) sitting on the pit box as crew chief. The
combination made its ARCA debut at Nashville a couple of weeks ago, resulting
in a fifth-place finish. Could the duo write the next chapter for the famed
Alabama Gang? Time will tell. Blake Jones is the defending champion of the General
While the action on the track is undoubtedly the most
spine-tingling that fans will ever witness, Talladega also offers exhilarating
experiences off the track, which includes a list of fan upgrades and happenings
found throughout the weekend.
The famous Saturday Night Infield Concert, near Talladega
Boulevard will be headlined by iconic country duo Big & Rich, featuring
Cowboy Troy, as well as one of the best-kept secrets in country music,
singer/songwriter Eric Lee Beddingfield, who will open the evening at 7:30 p.m.
The concert has become a popular event at Talladega
Superspeedway with top music acts and is FREE with the
purchase of a Sunday GEICO 500 ticket.
Talladega honorary officials announced
Master Sergeant Larry D. Nix, Flight Chief, Basic Military
Indoctrination for the 23rd
Training Squadron at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery will serve as
Grand Marshal of Sunday’s GEICO 500 and will give the most famous command in
motorsports – “Drivers, Start Your Engines.” Waving the green flag and serving
as the Honorary Starter will be Senior Airman Maxime Copley, an Aerospace
Medical Services Technician for the 42nd Medical Operations
Squadron. The 313th United States Army Band will perform the
National Anthem before the GEICO 500. The band is comprised of 30-plus
citizen-soldiers who train and perform as army musicians.
The Freedom Trophy – which represents the five branches of
the U.S. Military – will be awarded to the GEICO 500 race winner in Gatorade
Victory Lane Sunday. Commander Daniel G. Straub of the United States Navy’s
soon-to-be commissioned USS Montgomery (LCS-8), currently under construction in
Mobile, will present the heralded trophy as well as other officers and crew
from ship, including Executive Officer
Commander Wayne Liebold, Command Senior Chief Michelle Hastings,
Navigator Lieutenant Caleb Pavlus, Logistics Supply Chief Jesus Reyes, Fire
Controlman First Class Billy Coffelt and Hospital Corpsman First Class Samir
Ihmud. More than 40 other sailors that will be deployed on the USS Montgomery
will also be in attendance of the GEICO 500.
Munford native Ramsey Whitney will sing the National Anthem
prior to the General Tire 200 on Friday. Whitney, a 5th grade
student at Munford Elementary School, has been in over 15 performing arts shows
in the area over the past seven years. Jordan Sasser, a top 24 finalist during
the final season of American Idol earlier this year, will perform before the
Sparks Energy 300 on Saturday. Alabama Raceway Ministries will give the
pre-race invocations prior to the races on Friday and Saturday, as well as
Sunday’s GEICO 500.
Fan experiences and opportunities abound this weekend at
Fans will get the opportunity to see one of their favorite
NASCAR heroes up close and personal – six-time Talladega Superspeedway winner
and current NASCAR on FOX analyst Jeff Gordon – with the 24EVER Talladega
special ticket package. Talladega offer will give fans the excitement and
thrill of being able to talk in person with Gordon, a 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Champion, during a special Q&A session scheduled for Saturday, April 30.
Package also includes a ticket in the Lincoln Grandstand both the Sparks Energy
300 and the GEICO 500. $24 of every ticket sold goes to the Jeff Gordon
Fans that purchase Talladega’s “Pit Pass Upgrade” can have
access to a special fan Q&A with a selection of drivers on Sunday, prior to
the start of the GEICO 500 at the pre-race stage. Scheduled are: 8:40 a.m.:
Ryan Newman (Driver for Richard Childress-winningest TSS car owner); 8:50 a.m.:
David Ragan (2013 GEICO 500 winner); 9 a.m.: Regan Smith (2013 Sparks Energy
300 champion); 9:10 a.m.: Trevor Bayne (2011 Daytona 500 winner); 9:20 a.m.:
Kevin Harvick (2010 GEICO 500 champ); 9:30 a.m.: Brad Keselowski (3-time
Talladega winner); and 9:40 a.m.: Rusty Wallace (MRN analyst and 1989 NASCAR
Sprint Cup Series Champion)
Not only can fans get an up-close look at NASCAR’s finest
with the Pit Pass Upgrade, they can also take in all the festive pre-race
activities, which include Driver Introductions, Red Carpet Entry into the
Drivers Meeting and an firsthand look at the cars lined up on pit road. The Pit
Pass Upgrade is $75. To obtain, call 1-877-Go2-DEGA.
Alabama Gang Autograph Session
Four-time Talladega Superspeedway winner Bobby Allison and
his grandson Robbie Allison, son of the late, great Davey Allison (three-time
TSS winner), will be on hand Sunday morning from 9:30 -11 a.m. behind pit road,
giving autographs for fans. Bobby, the elder member of the famed Alabama Gang,
along with Robbie, who is competing on local short tracks now across the
southeast, will be joined by Alabama newcomer Bret Holmes, set to compete in
Friday’s General Tire 200 ARCA Racing Series event. Show cars of Bobby, the
1983 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ and NASCAR/International Motorsports Hall
of Famer, as well as Davey and Holmes, will be on display. To get admittance to
the area (near the track Media Center), fans need to have a “Pre-Race Pit Pass”
or a Pit Pass Upgrade.”
Five Sprint Vision Digital High-definition video screen will
tower above pit road this weekend. Four of the five are now permanent and
showcase bigger, brighter, crisper and clearer views for all the fans in the
grandstands. Two of the video boards are mammoth 40’ x 80’ in size – one atop
Gatorade Victory Lane and one in front of the Media Center. The board at the
Start/Finish line, along with the structure at the exit of turn four near the
Care Center, is 26’x 52’. Mobile screens will be located in Turn One (18’ x
33’), along with the Alabama Gang Superstretch (20’ x 27’). The video boards
are part of a multi-phase plan to implement video boards at other International
Speedway Corporation facilities over the next few years.
In addition to the video boards, the first-class experience
for fans is enhanced with every seat in the house having roomy 21-inch and
22-inch chair-back seats with drip shields.
Talladega, known for its crazy party atmosphere, is bringing
back the “Big One on the Bouledvard” Friday in the infield on Talladega
Bouledvard. The wildest Mardi-Gras style parade in the South will kick off at
7:30 p.m. and will feature top drivers. They will oversee fan competitions that
teams of two will act as human bowling balls down our slippery fast lane.
Eat Your Nanas.
Teams of two will compete to peel, pass and consume as many bananas as possible
in two minutes.
Crazy Balls. Four
contestants will attempt to compete in an obstacle course in driver-themed
Human Hamster Ball Zorbs.
Capture the Pickle.
Eight female contestants will try to capture the pickle first in the famous Big
One BBQ sauce pit.
Competition winners will not only claim bragging rights but
will also win cash prizes!
Fans will be singing and racing to the concession stands at Talladega
Superspeedway to sink their teeth into the track’s new signature hot dog. The
grilled, all beef Hot Dog split into two and placed on top of melted Yancey’s
Fancy buffalo cheddar cheese, topped with a generous helping of Pimiento
Cheese, placed in between two slices of Texas toast (grilled to golden brown)
and cut down the middle. Purchase “The Talla-Mento Dogwich” for $5 at
concession stands in the Gadsden and O.V. Hill South Grandstands along the
“The Big One” Meatball.
Race fans can sink their teeth into this “softball-sized” menu item. “The Big
One” Meatball has a center of blended Mozzarella and Pepper Jack Cheeses mixed
with smoked BBQ Pulled Pork and a little house BBQ sauce for an extra kick. It
is then covered by a layer of ground beef, rolled in a panko bread crumb and
Parmesan mix before being deep fried to a golden brown. It is topped off with a
dollop of BBQ sauce and a spaghetti garnish. This mammoth meatball, like
Talladega Superspeedway, is the biggest of its kind and weighs in at over 1
pound. Purchase “The Big One” Meatball for $13 at concession stands in the
Gadsden and O.V. Hill South Grandstands along the frontstretch.
Clyde 240 Tower Tavern.
In an effort to continue the long standing tradition of bringing the best in
southern hospitality to the great fans of Talladega Superspeedway, the track
will have the “Clyde 240 Tavern” that is sure to keep masses thirst’s quenched
and coming back for more. “Clyde 240 Tower Tavern” will be located behind Section
M in the Tri-Oval Tower and will be open to all Tower ticket holders starting
at 8 a.m. each event day this weekend. The delicious drink menu will include
specialty drinks featuring Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey like the “Alabama
Pride” and the “Alabama Mule.”
“Bama Bier Garden.”
“Bama Bier Garden” offers Talladega Superspeedway fans a place to indulge in on
some great local refreshments. Located the Fan Zone outside the track behind
the frontstretch, fans will have a chance to partake in the “Bama Bier
Garden’s” 40-foot full bar stocked with the traditional spread of Miller, Coors
and Budweiser beers, as well as a selection of savory beers that are brewed
right here in Alabama. Local flavors to be featured include Back Forty Beer
Company based out of Gadsden and Trim Tab Brewing Company out of Birmingham.
Fans will have three days worth of opportunities to quench their thirst at
“Bama Bier Garden.”
Back Forty Beer Co. Paddock Club. Located just behind pit road adjacent to Gatorade
Victory Lane, the Back Forty Beer Company Paddock Club has been a mainstay at
NASCAR’s Most Competitive track for many years. Featuring two covered
grandstand seating areas with food and beverages throughout the day, and many
other amenities, fans in the Back Forty Beer Co. Paddock Club will be treated
to new special upgrades which include, but not limited to guided garage tours,
built-in Flat-screen TVs, games, entertainment, giveaways and access to NASCAR
Driver Introductions. Back Forty Beer Co. Paddock Club Packages for Saturday’s
NASCAR XFINITY Series race Sparks Energy 300 and the GEICO 500 are available by
calling 1-855-518-RACE (Press Prompt “1” for ticketing).
Camp for Free.
Talladega Superspeedway offers over 15,000 free camping sites in three
conveniently located parks that opened this week. All-day parking on Talladega
Superspeedway property remains free.
Throughout the grandstands designated smoking areas will be set up under the
grandstands and towers.
Busch looking to capture GEICO 500
Kyle Busch, like many seasoned NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
drivers, has about seen it all at Talladega Superspeedway. Busch, who will be a
favorite in Sunday’s GEICO 500, has always been a strong performer at NASCAR’s
Most Competitive venue but not without a few mishaps along the way. He’s found
himself caught up in “The Big One” at Talladega on a few occasions. In 2007,
Busch made highlight reels around the racing world, sliding on his roof down
the backstretch during a NASCAR XFINITY Series race. Seconds before, he was running
second. That’s just how quickly things can change at Talladega.
“I’ve had plenty of torn up race cars but it’s exciting
here,” said Busch, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion. Talladega
has also proven to be a strong point on the schedule for the Las Vegas, Nevada
native. In fact, he is the only active driver to have won races here in each of
NASCAR’s premier series – NASCAR Sprint Cup (2008), NASCAR XFINITY (2011) and
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (2009, 2010). The only other driver in the
sport’s history to also accomplish that feat is Mark Martin, who can also claim
an ARCA Racing Series (today known as the General Tire 200) win in 1981.
Busch used an 11th place finish in October at
NASCAR’s Most Competitive track to advance in the 2015 Chase for the Sprint
Cup, which he eventually claimed as champion. He notes his XFINITY triumph
(Sparks Energy 300) in 2011 as his most memorable at the 2.66-mile oval.
“Our car was pretty torn up,” Busch said, referring to a
21-car accident early in the race. “Jason Ratcliff was the crew chief at the
time, and he and the team did an awesome job of repairing the car, and we ended
up coming back to win that race. If you looked at that thing in Gatorade
Victory Lane, you would have never thought it was good enough shape to win the
race. That was a fun day.”
Busch, who won back-to-back races at Martinsville and Texas
earlier this spring to secure his spot in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR
Sprint Cup, hopes to add more of those positive snapshots to his memory bank
during the TSS tripleheader race weekend.
“Talladega is more mentally draining than physically,” said
Busch, who is coming off a runner-up finish Sunday at Richmond after being
tapped out of the way by teammate Carl Edwards in the final turn. “(But)
Talladega is fun. It’s certainly got its own aspects of challenges. I’m sure
many drivers have led into the reasons of those, just with all the unknowns
surrounding this place, but it’s exciting. It’s certainly its own form of
racing, and it’s almost its own form of motorsports.”
One thing is for sure. Busch wants to add some more
Talladega hardware to his trophy case.
The action at Talladega kicks off on Friday (April 29) with
practice sessions for the Sparks Energy 300 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and
GEICO 500, as well as practice, qualifying and the drop of the green flag for
the General Tire 200 ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards at 5 p.m.
Saturday’s (April 30) schedule includes qualifying for the GEICO 500 as well as
time trials and the start of the Sparks Energy 300 at 2 p.m. Later that
evening, Big & Rich featuring Cowboy Troy, will headline the traditional
Infield Concert. Country Music’s best-kept secret, Eric Lee Beddingfield, is
set to open the event at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free with a GEICO 500 ticket.
The GEICO 500 race is set for Sunday, May 1, at 12 p.m.
For ticket information, including many upgrade
opportunities, for the GEICO 500, Sparks Energy 300 and General Tire 200
events, log on to www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 1-877-Go2-DEGA.
Talladega weekend includes motorized cooler race
Four of NASCAR’s Xfinity Series drivers – Ross Chastain,
Ryan Preece, Ryan Reed and Garrett Smithley – will test their skill in the
“coolest” event of the Talladega
Superspeedway race weekend. The drivers will be racing
motorized coolers during the 31st annual Race Fever at the FOX Sports 1 Dome,
which benefits the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Foundation.
The motorized “Cruzin’ Cooler” race has become a unique and
entertaining tradition of the live auction, and the coolers have become a
popular auction item with fans attending the event. Darrell Waltrip is host for
the live auction and former driver Phil Barkdoll serves as auctioneer.
Race Fever, begun in 1985 by NASCAR’S Bill France Jr. to
benefit children and adults with hearing and vision loss at the Alabama
Institute for Deaf and Blind, brings drivers and fans together for a night of
silent and live auction of racing memorabilia, autographs, interviews and a
barbecue dinner by Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q.
Many unique items will be featured in the auction, including
autographed racing helmets and flag, a Charlie Daniels autographed fiddle, an
autographed Jack Daniels Oak Barrel, and one-of-kind experiences including
driver handshakes, a trip to victory lane, a Colorado elk hunt or a Minnesota
fishing trip with Jay Dudek.
Event tickets are $50, or buy a table for eight for $375,
and benefit the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Foundation, designated
charity of Talladega Superspeedway. For additional information or to
purchase tickets, call (256) 761-3369 or visit www.RaceFever.org.
NASCAR vice-chairman looking forward to Alabama return at
Mike Helton’s annual travel itinerary includes, among
several other destinations, 36 stops at tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
schedule. As Vice Chairman of NASCAR, Helton has collected memories everywhere
– from Auto Club Speedway to Watkins Glen International. Two weekends each
season, however, are circled on his loaded calendar – The Spring and Fall
Classics at Talladega Superspeedway.
Named General Manager, and later track President, of the
mammoth 2.66 tri-oval in 1988, it’s easy to understand why one of the most
recognizable names and faces in the sport has a soft spot for his trips to
eastern Alabama. During the April 29-May 1 Tripleheader weekend headlined by
the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500, Helton will be in his element, at his
“Long before we had the opportunity to be a part of the
community, Talladega was always my favorite race track,” said Helton who left
Talladega in 1993 to join NASCAR. “And it still is.”
The Bristol, Virginia native first visited NASCAR’s biggest
and baddest track as a young fan in 1969. Nearly 20 years down the road, his
stint as a professional on the rise still had a deep and profound impact later
on he, his wife Lynda, and two children Rich and Tina, as proven by Mike’s
continued words of affection.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but the stretch at
Talladega was the most impactful I think that I and our family have had in our
whole career,” he said, later adding that the Helton clan speaks highly of
their time as Alabama residents during holidays and family gatherings, and that
“everybody hangs their hats on Talladega.”
Earlier this year, Helton returned to the area to speak at a
Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Shocco Springs Conference Center in Talladega,
located just over 10 miles from the entrance to the Superspeedway.
Helton will find no shortage of track activity on his
upcoming visit during the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends
here in 2016. The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards General Tire 200 is
set for Friday, April 29, with the NASCAR XFINITY Series Sparks Energy 300
taking the green flag on Saturday, April 30, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
capping off what is expected to be a wild weekend on Sunday, May 1.
“Coming to Talladega, I’m excited,” Helton said. “I want to
get there a day early because I know where I am.”