“I’m overwhelmed in happiness,” Wallace said Wednesday during a tour of the construction. “I’ve been coming to Talladega for a long time. I remember how it looked years ago, and man, it’s just big time. It’s just different. I really appreciate Talladega keeping up with the times and NASCAR keeping up with the times and making it really nice for the fans.”
Track officials invited Wallace and media to tour the renovations happening in the infield, which included Wallace inspecting a steel beam and sweeping the floor of the new 35,000-square-foot Open Air Club. Fans who purchase access will be able to stand just a few feet away from NASCAR’s top drivers during the race and surround the winner in a remodeled Victory Lane.
“Everything is just for the fans,” Wallace said. “The new garage areas for the teams? Whoever thought you could get that close — two feet from the front of your favorite driver and take photographs and look at what’s going on? It’s long overdue. I’m real excited at what NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation and Grant (Lynch) and this team here at Talladega have been able to pull off.”
The construction is part of the track’s $50 million “Transformation” as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. The centerpiece is the Talladega Garage Experience, which includes the Open Air Club. The track is also building a new Race Operations tower high above the tri-oval, as well as a new Pit Road Club for guests who want a bird’s-eye view of team pit stops.
“The fan having that closeup experience is so important,” Wallace said. “There’s so many people that are brand new to NASCAR and don’t know anything about the sport. When you can bring them to the track and show them what’s going on, I’ll think they’ll have a whole new respect for NASCAR. You’ll be able to go down there and put eyeballs on it and see it.”
Wallace admits some drivers may feel uneasy about fans being so close to them during the race, but says the access is too important to ignore.
“It’s a transition period,” Wallace said. “NASCAR has done a good job of getting the rules to make the cars more competitive with each other. NASCAR is also working really hard to help our fans get to know our new drivers. To add this new element — a beauty, I think they’ve hit it right over the head.”
To learn more about the project or purchase tickets, visit talladegasuperspeedway.com/transformation.