The $50 million Transformation at Talladega Superspeedway began this morning with a large excavator digging a big hole in the asphalt of one of NASCAR’s most revered tracks.
Officials broke ground on the Turn 3 Oversized Vehicle Tunnel, the first of several projects as part of an investment of more than $50 million dubbed “Transformation: The Talladega Superspeedway Infield Project.”
The tunnel will allow recreational vehicles and large trucks to access the infield throughout a race weekend. They currently have long waits with limited windows when a gate can be opened to give them access.
“Infield customers have always had to wait until we could open gate nine to bring a big vehicle in,” said Grant Lynch, chairman of Talladega Superspeedway. “Now, with this new tunnel, they’re going to be able to come in starting Wednesday morning bright and early and stay, coming in and out all weekend all they want. It’s going to be really good for our infield customers.”
Taylor Corporation in nearby Oxford is handling the tunnel project, which is expected to be complete by the spring race April 26-28. It will be followed by a series of projects the racetrack’s parent company, International Speedway Corporation, is adding to enhance the fan experience and boost access to drivers and their teams.
“It is great to be associated with a venue that has as much tradition and pageantry as Talladega Superspeedway,” said Ellis H. Bennett, project manager for Taylor Corporation. “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 Transformation will center on a one-of-a-kind Garage Fan Zone Experience, with a covered lounge and bar area between the open garages of NASCAR’s top teams.
“That’s never been done before in history,” said Lynch, who celebrated his 65th birthday with the groundbreaking. “We’re going to have a 35,000-square-foot party zone right between the top 22 teams in the sport. That’s progress and that’s going to be something the race fans have never seen.”
All enhancements are expected to be in place for the final race in 2019, Talladega Superspeedway’s 50th anniversary.
Lynch said that’s going to require nonstop work at the track following today’s groundbreaking.
“We’re going to work every day, every single day until we get the tunnel done and then we’re going to start on the front side of the infield project and we’re going to have that ready for next October,” Lynch said.
The completion of the Transformation will draw a close to Lynch’s more than 25-year career at the track.
“I’m going out with a bang,” Lynch said. “This is the biggest project Talladega’s ever had. When they built the racetrack they spent $3 million and we’re going to spend $50-something million.”
One of the people who dug a shovel on that original Talladega racetrack groundbreaking 50 years ago was Dell Hill, who attended today’s event. He remembers NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. envisioning a racing venue on a site that was then a World War II military airfield.
“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, was an avid proponent of the creation of the track in the 1960s. “Bill always said when people flew over this area in an airplane and looked down, many saw an old dilapidated airport 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.”
Lynch said it will be a great day for current and future race fans when the Transformation project is complete.
“We’re bringing Talladega up a notch and it was already way up there,” he said.