The Importance of Track Legends in NASCAR

Hi friends and race fans! I have been on hiatus for the last few months. I went to Daytona and came home to some family business that needed tending. But as the season passes, so do the things that keep us busy and it is time to come on back to you all and talk racing.

I had a dream the other night that NASCAR rebanked and repaved Talladega into a 1.5 miler. On my twitter feed, I called it as it was, something of a nightmare that NASCAR would turn one of its most storied tracks into one heck of a cookie cutter track. I did get some interesting feedback. I was told that there was in fact no such thing as  a “cookie cutter race track” that all tracks maintain a personality of their own. While there is some argument to that, there is also the other side too. Really, one 1.5 mile D shaped flat-ish track is so much like all the others, no matter what state it might be in. All that changes is the time the race starts.

Luckily, we have tracks that stand out in our collective consciousness as race fans. And by that, I mean the collective conscious that expands beyond the NASCAR nation. Talladega is one such track. There is no other track, not even Daytona, that is more well known outside of our close family. You can probably get a non-race fan to name Talladega as a race track, even if they couldn’t name a single stock car driver

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It is important that these tracks exist outside of our immediate circle (Go ahead, Insert a race track joke here..) because they serve to introduce new fans to our sport. Not in the forced way in which a lot of marketing execs expect – there is not a ‘right brand’ which will bring in the New Fan, it is a natural excitement that builds around such tracks as Talladega.

Yes, we have the movie Talladega Nights. I won’t insert too much of my own opinion of the film though. I’ll just say that I thought it was funny-ish and extremely insulting, so I am not sure, as a race fan how to work with that. I do know, that  because of that movie a lot of people seem to think that as a female race fan, I spend most of my time lifting my shirt at drivers – I really, really don’t. Yet, it served to maybe bring some interest to the track and thus to the sport. In the same way that Bill France wanted to bring people to the sport by capitalizing on both the size of the track and the speeds which the track produced. With spectacle. 

Another interesting approach to Talladega came last year with the Legend of Hallowdega promotions. If you never explored the site or watched the videos, it is an interesting take on the track.

The mock-documentary had the potential to bring a whole bunch of Monty Python and Terry Gilliam fans to racing, in a sort of sideways approach. I am not sure how well received this particular bit was, but I enjoyed it. It embraced the scary elements of the track, the legends, the local lore..and with a tongue in cheek attitude, had a good time with a legendary track without mocking the sport or the history of the sport.

So then. Have you heard the ghost stories associated with the track? If the terrifying speeds of the monster track weren’t enough to scare the you know what out of the boys that were suddenly faced with 33 degree banking, than stories of voices whispering in driver’s ears probably did it. And yes. The parties are legendary too. I have heard tell of all kinds of things that make you glad we have an invocation right before each race. So that’s Talladega. Legendary on all sides. Not a cookie cutter track, no matter what bakery you take it to.

The track isn’t like Darlington. Talladega isn’t a Southern lady out to remind a few rowdy boys of their manners. Talladega isn’t Martinsville; the storied gentleman, set deep in the roots of racing. Talladega is a legend all on it’s own. The track is more kin to the gators set deep in the swamps. Scary as heck … always waiting to reach out and bite you.

I for one, can’t wait for races at the storied track. But then again, I don’t have to drive it.