New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather
Legendary driver Red Farmer gives a "thumbs up" as he is hoisted into a crane at the site of the new tunnel under construction at Talladega Superspeedway. (Dennis Washington)

Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

Update on new tunnel, other construction projects underway at Talladega Superspeedway from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

Construction of the new tunnel at Talladega is underrway. (Dennis Washington)

Lance Taylor, president of Taylor Corp., said the company has installed a special drainage system underneath the tunnel, which has already pumped about 25 million gallons of water.

“The groundwater down there was terrible — we knew that when we got into the job, that’s part of what we’re dealing with,” Taylor said. “It’s something we’re having to fight all of the time along with rainwater.”

In addition to the special drainage system, Taylor said workers have placed 15,000 tons of stone and a 4-foot-thick mat of concrete underneath the tunnel to stabilize it.

“That tunnel is a different animal,” Taylor said. “It will be something I will remember for years to come.”

The new tunnel has been on the wish list for decades. Legendary NASCAR drivers Red Farmer and Donnie Allison said during the news conference that many of their friends would have to wait for races to conclude before being allowed to drive their RV’s or vehicles into the infield.

“Now they can just load up, drive on out through there,” Farmer said. “It’s going to be a blessing.”

“It’s going to make a world of difference,” Allison added.

Allison drove his first lap at Talladega Superspeedway 50 years ago in 1969 — the first stock car driver to drive a lap at the track. Allison said Talladega is the best track in NASCAR.

Talladega Speedway has always had the best race,” he said. “I know I’m a little prejudiced, but it’s the best.”

In addition to the new tunnel, the track will feature a new premium RV section this spring called the “Finish Line Premium RV.” It will include 69 paved RV camping spots for both motorhomes and fifth wheel travel trailers. Each spot will be 21 feet wide by 50 feet long and offer full hookups to power, water and sewer. The area will be secured and have designated quiet times.

“We feel good about how we are positioning ourselves to market to our fans,” Lynch said. “Seventy percent of our fans come from outside of Alabama. Half of our crowd comes from more than five hours away. That’s the draw of Talladega.”

After the April race, construction will begin on a new Fan Zone building. Fans will be able to interact with the top 22 teams in a new Fan Zone building where drivers, crews and cars will be parked.

“It’s going to be a spectacular experience for them because the No. 1 through No. 22 teams are going to be garaged on both sides of that big building,” Lynch said. “You’re basically in the middle of the sport with the greatest stars of the sport just a walk to the left or a walk to the right.”

Lynch, who announced last fall he will be retiring as chairman of the track at the end of the year, said he is thrilled to be leaving the track better than how he found it.

“To get $50 million to rebuild my favorite race track is a thrill for us and the whole team here at Talladega,” Lynch said. “We’re going to do things never been done before in the history of NASCAR.”

Members of the media, track officials and guests get footage of the new tunnel under construction at Talladega Superspeedway. (Dennis Washington)

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