From the Bleachers
Published 1:12 am Sunday, April 6, 2008
By Adam Prestridge
Talladega becomes the largest city in Alabama twice a year.
This month, the ‘athletes’ of America’s fastest sport will take to the two-and-a-half mile oval in hopes of claiming the checkered flag in the running of the Aaron’s 499 on April 27.
Yes, I said athletes. I will argue with anyone who thinks otherwise. Only a well-trained athlete can withstand the inferno inside the cockpit of a NASCAR and handle the force behind the wheel at nearly 200 mph.
NASCAR fans from all over the United States will flock, cooler in tote, to Talladega Superspeedway for the running of the Nationwide Series event. Recreational vehicles, pop-up campers, tents and even retired school buses, housing nearly 200,000 spectators, will transform the infield and outer perimeter of the speedway into an event similar to Woodstock.
One of the benefits of being a sports writer is that I have had the opportunity on numerous occasions to be behind the scenes with today’s top racecar drivers, while covering the races. I have also had the chance to meet and interview several of today’s top drivers, crew chiefs and pit crew workers, while wandering through the garage and pit areas snapping pictures and hunting for a good story.
The Earnhardts dominated Talladega for years, at one time, winning more than half a dozen races during a span of six years at what’s been referred to as the fastest track in the world. Dale Junior once won four in a row, sweeping two years of races at the track, but has fallen off since.
Junior has a new boss, new sponsor and new team heading into this year’s race in T-town and many believe he has what it takes to refuel his dominance at the track. Just maybe he can wheel his Amp Chevrolet into the Victory Lane.
Jeff Gordon has also found success at Talladega, so never count him out. Fortunately, Gordon and Junior are teammates this season, so if Junior, who I’m a huge fan of, happens to be out front at the end and Gordon is behind him they will be able to work as a team.
With that said, it reminded me of Gordon’s victory a few years back when he beat out Junior for the win and fans pelted his car with beer cans. It was obvious that most were Junior fans since the cans being hurled onto the speedway were Budweiser, which was Junior’s sponsor for his first eight years of his racing career.
Not only is Talladega known for its white-knuckle, peddle-to-the-metal racing, but fans also sit on the edge of their seats awaiting the “big one.” Drivers, fans, the media and everyone else associated with the sport have dubbed the crash that takes out half the field the “big one.” Almost every year, the “big one” takes out half the field because the cars are traveling at such a high rate of speed and are only inches from each other’s bumpers. I can only recall one time watching a race at Talladega and not witnessing the “big one.”
With all the changes in NASCAR this year, I’m more eager to watch some fast-paced action.
Expect some fast-paced racing during the restrictor-plate event and hard fought battle for the win. And you can never count out the big one.
Adam Prestridge is publisher of the Atmore Advance. He can be reached at 368-2123 or email him at email@example.com