|Breaking ground in Talladega|
Instead of stock cars going around its high banks at 200 mph, Talladega Superspeedway on Tuesday saw a different kind of machinery on its asphalt – a large excavator that was digging into the historic venue as part of the groundbreaking for the track’s new Turn 3 Oversized Vehicle Tunnel to launch Transformation – The Talladega Superspeedway Infield Project.
As part of a special ceremony held on sacred ground at the end of the Alabama Gang Superstretch near the entrance of Turn 3, Talladega Superspeedway and its parent company, International Speedway Corporation (ISC), announced that Taylor Corporation from nearby Oxford, AL, will spearhead the construction of the new tunnel, which is scheduled for completion in time for the track’s April 26-28, 2019, spring tripleheader weekend, headlined by the GEICO 500.
Also in attendance Tuesday was Dell Hill, who was a part of the original track groundbreaking in May of 1968, as well as Lana Osborn, who was the first Miss Talladega 500 for the inaugural Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the 2.66-mile venue in September of 1969.
The Oversized Vehicle Tunnel is a feature of an approximately $50 million redevelopment endeavor, Transformation – The Talladega Superspeedway Infield Project, that is part of ISC’s long-term capital allocation plan and reinvestment into its major motorsports complexes. The project, highlighted by a one-of-a-kind Garage Fan Zone Experience, will feature “up-close" access, interactive attractions and enhanced amenities for fans, sponsors, teams and stakeholders in the iconic Talladega infield. “This is a historic day at Talladega Superspeedway," said Speedway Chairman Grant Lynch, who was also celebrating a birthday Tuesday.
“The new oversized tunnel will serve both our competitors and our fans. Traffic flow will be greatly improved, enhancing the race weekend for our fans. We are extremely excited to have our neighbor and partner, Taylor Corporation, as part of Transformation." The new two-lane tunnel will have dimensions capable of allowing vehicles as large as race team haulers and fans’ recreational vehicles to enter and exit the track simultaneously with ease. The lane tunnel will have a height of 16 feet, 8 inches, a width of 28 feet and a length of 208 feet.
The tunnel will be located near the current Gate 9 crossover. It will be open 24 hours during event weekends. “We are honored to be selected for the design-build construction of the new oversized tunnel portion of the Infield Redevelopment Project," said Ellis H. Bennett, project manager for Taylor Corporation, who was also on hand Tuesday. “It is great to be associated with a venue that has as much tradition and pageantry as Talladega Superspeedway.
“Taylor Corporation was founded in 1969 just like the speedway, so together we have almost 100 years of combined expertise in our respective fields. For me personally, life has come full circle. As a child, I camped out in the infield here with the Boy Scouts of America, then attended several races in the grandstands, and now we have a RV spot on the backstretch (atop the Alabama Gang Superstretch). The track has a lot of personal meaning to me with great memories. It’s truly an honor to be associated with a brand name like Talladega Superspeedway."
The pageantry of the venue was re-lived by Hill, who was part of Talladega Superspeedway founder Bill France Sr.’s vision many years ago. “I was happy to be a part of it when it began 50 years ago and thrilled to be here today," said Hill, whose father O.V. Hill (grandstands named after him at TSS), was an avid proponent of the creation of the track in mid to latter 1960s.
“Bill always said when people flew over this area in an airplane and looked down, many saw an old dilapidated airport (track was built on WWII military air field) but he saw something different – a superspeedway. What took place over 50 years ago was something I will never forget, and it’s been a great pleasure in my life to be associated with three generations of the France family. It’s a great day at Talladega."
The track and ISC also recently announced that Creek Enterprise, Inc. – an integrated information services company headquartered in Tecumseh, MI – as the first “Transformation Partner" of the “We Transformed Talladega Superspeedway" lineup that will include other corporations to be announced in the future.