A new, larger tunnel opened Tuesday underneath Talladega Superspeedway, giving fans and crews the ability to enter and exit the infield at any time before, during or after a race.
NASCAR driver Jeffrey Earnhardt, the grandson of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, officially opened the tunnel. He rode through it inside John Ray’s iconic big rig, which has carried an American flag around the track for every race since 2001.
“Anytime I get to participate in anything here at Talladega, it’s guaranteed fun,” Earnhardt said.
The new tunnel in turn three is 28 feet wide and more than 16 feet tall, enough clearance for two RVs or two car haulers to move through the tunnel simultaneously. Without this tunnel, oversized vehicles could only enter or exit the infield across the track when it was not in use because the tunnel in turn four is not big enough.
Track Chairman Grant Lynch praised Taylor Corporation for staying on schedule despite the wet winter.
“They (Taylor Corporation) worked 11 straight days over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, 24 hours a day, and they did that to get a jump start on the project, and I would say if you hadn’t have done that, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Taylor Corporation President Lance Taylor praised his crew for getting the work done on schedule.
“It was a team of us out there getting that done,” Taylor said. “We fought that thing from the first week.”
The new tunnel weighs about 3.2 million pounds. It sits on a 4-foot-thick layer of concrete. A special pump system is in place to keep groundwater from flooding the tunnel.
Taylor said his crews are now focused on repaving the section of the track cut open for the tunnel. The first of three layers of a special mix of asphalt has already been paved. Taylor said his team is working extremely hard to make sure the track will be smooth and safe for racing.
“Before we took the track out, we took a laser scan image — over a million shots of the track. We built a computer image of exactly what was there so when we back-filled the tunnel going back up, we knew the specifications to eliminate the settlement that can cause dips,” Taylor said. “When these guys are running across it at 200 miles per hour, we don’t want them to feel anything.”
The tunnel is the first of several projects happening this year as the track celebrates its 50th anniversary. A new Finish Line Premium RV area and infield shower trailers are scheduled to be complete in time for next month’s NASCAR race. After that race, a VIP “Talladega Garage Experience” will be constructed in the infield for fans to interact with drivers and crews. Fans inside the Talladega Garage Experience will have:
- “Locker room” access to NASCAR’s top drivers and crews inside a new infield garage bay.
- Open Air Social Club featuring a bar, a large 41-foot diagonal video screen, lounge chairs and tables.
- Celebration Plaza featuring victory lane.
- Watch Zone featuring a 40-foot-by-80-foot video board, a Kids Zone, a beer garden and plenty of seating.
- Free Wi-Fi.
- Enhanced concession stands, restroom complexes and guest services.
The Talladega Garage Experience is scheduled to be built before the October race. Earnhardt said he’s most excited about the Wi-Fi.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve been at the track and you just can’t get nothing to go out,” Earnhardt said. “Now y’all can tweet and Snapchat and send everyone all kind of videos of how much fun they’re missing out on.”
Xtreme Concepts of Birmingham will serve as the “presenting sponsor” of the Wi-Fi in the new Talladega Garage Experience. The company’s founder, Landon Ash, was on hand today to announce a partnership between Talladega Superspeedway and 1st Foundation, a volunteer organization he oversees that assists first responders in foreign and domestic conflicts. First responders can get tickets for next month’s races at discounts up to 60 percent off the regular price.
To learn more about the Transformation project, the Talladega Garage Experience or to buy tickets, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.