Campers have been parked, with security personnel holding mirrors underneath vehicles looking for anything unusual. Fans are being questioned about whether they have weapons, which aren’t allowed in the Talladega infield. The race teams have been told to make sure they have their identification badges with them at all times and to be vigilant if they see something in their pits or in the garage that looks suspicious or doesn’t belong there.
After two dangerous events at the track this season and following the Boston Marathon bombings three weeks ago, everything is on high alert at NASCAR’s largest track. More than 30 fans were injured at Daytona International Speedway in February when Kyle Larson’s Nationwide Series car got airborne and slammed into the catch fence, sending car parts and debris flying into the grandstands.
Six weeks later, a fan shot himself in the head in the infield at Texas Motor Speedway following the NRA 500. Then came the Boston bombings, which left three people dead and more than 260 injured when two terrorists ignited bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Such incidents have led to increased security it nearly all sporting events.
When the green flag falls on the Aaron’s 499, fans will sit in areas behind a catch fence that they expect will do its job but know that sometimes an unforeseen accident occurs when it doesn’t offer 100 percent protection from flying cars and debris.
Fans will swarm the garage and pits on race day and drivers and teams will go about their business hoping no one has any thought of doing anyone harm.
Talladega is a place where danger can lurk around any corner, whether it’s a crash on the racetrack or trouble in the depths of NASCAR’s wildest and rowdiest infield and largest camping area.
In a year where the sturdiness of the catch fences, especially crossover gates, has been scrutinized and spectator invincibility to domestic terrorism has been shaken, Talladega represents everything about NASCAR — breath-taking speed, wild racing and wild parties.
But with it comes risks, NASCAR and officials at track operator International Speedway Corp. are well aware of that.
“Fan safety is an ongoing process. … We continue to learn each time something occurs," Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood said. “If there’s a way to improve, we’ll do that." More at Sporting News