Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway celebrated its 50th anniversary this weekend with a $50 million birthday gift to its fans.
“We’re just as pumped up as we can be,” said Grant Lynch, chairman of the Talladega Superspeedway. “The folks that we’re talking to as they’re going in and out of it are kind of mesmerized by the magnitude and scope of it. We think we’re delivering on our promise to give the fans something special.”
The $50 million Transformation project began one year ago when the track started construction of a new, oversized vehicle tunnel in Turn 3. The tunnel was completed in April, followed by construction of the Talladega Garage Experience. Paul Bellas, project director at International Speedway Corp., said completing the project before race weekend was a big challenge.
“We said it was going to be a tough schedule, and it was,” Bellas said. “Every time we try to bring something that’s on that next level, but trying to do that in a project where it’s about a month shorter than any of the other ones we’ve ever done — we knew it would be a big challenge, and it has been, but we’re really thankful for the local community and all the great contractors we’ve had from this state who have participated in this project. These guys were out there working seven days a week, 12-hour days to make this happen.”
The centerpiece of the Talladega Garage Experience is Big Bill’s Social Club, a 35,000-square-foot pavilion for fans to eat and socialize. On both sides of Big Bill’s are 22 garage bays where fans can watch and talk with drivers and their crews. Fans inside the Talladega Garage Experience also have access to free WiFi.
“Seeing it completed and seeing the fans enjoying themselves — there’s nothing like that,” said Bruce Rein, project manager for International Speedway Corp. “It’s very rewarding.”
The fall race is Lynch’s last as chairman. Lynch will retire next month after spending more than 26 years working at Talladega Superspeedway.
“I’m proud to have been here as long as I have,” Lynch said. “I thank the Frances for the opportunity they gave me many years ago to come to work for that company. I’m very proud of what I was able to accomplish during my career here.”
Lynch said he doesn’t plan to go far. In fact, his retirement gift from International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy requires him to stay in Talladega.
“Lesa asked me what I wanted for a retirement gift,” Lynch said. “I told her I would think about it for a bit. That was at the spring race and when she came back for the fall race I told her I decided what I want: as long as I live in Talladega, I want to be have the right to hunt on the Speedway property until I don’t live here any longer. She didn’t even hesitate. She said, ‘Done.’ Deer, dove, quail — lots of it. We have 2,700 acres but we only use 1,100.”
Russell Branham, vice president of Consumer Marketing and Communications at Talladega Superspeedway, said Lynch’s retirement during the grand opening of the Talladega Garage Experience made the weekend bittersweet.
“Grant has meant a great deal to a lot of people in the sport of NASCAR,” Branham said. “When you live with a guy 24/7 for basically 365 days a year, he has a huge, positive impact on you and he’s had that on us. He’s been a great leader for all of us. We’re all looking forward to carrying on his legacy.”
Brian Chrichton will take over track operations in November. His promotion to president of Talladega Superspeedway follows nearly 10 years of service as vice president of Marketing and Sales at the track.
As for the race itself, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 1000Bulbs.com 500 was postponed due to inclement weather. It will resume today at 1 p.m. and will air on NBCSN.
The race on Sunday was called after 57 of the scheduled 188-lap event due to rain with William Byron in the lead after winning the race’s first stage, holding off Joey Logano. Pole sitter Chase Elliott wound up 18th after stage one.
Talladega Superspeedway gates will open today at 11 a.m. All parking lots opened at 7 a.m. with Tram Services beginning at 9 a.m. The Talladega Garage Experience opens at 10 a.m.