The Talladega Speedway is located in Talladega, Alabama and is one of the biggest stock car racing tracks in the country. It is named after the legendary Bill Hollis, who owned and operated it in the 1950s and 1960s. The track has been in operation for over 70 years now and has seen a lot of changes in that time. It now has a grandstand that holds 12,500 people, which is pretty big. They also have a kennel that houses over 900 dogs, which is pretty cool too. The following is an overview of the history of the track.
How Did The Track Get Its Name?
The answer to this question is rather simple actually. The track was originally built in 1946 and was originally known as the Alabama State Fairgrounds Speedway. In 1951, it was renamed after the legendary Bill Hollis. In 1955, it was sold to the State of Alabama and was renamed the Talladega Speedway. It continued to be owned and operated by the Alabama State Fair Board until 1993, when it was purchased by International Speedway Corporation (ISC). Since then, it has been operated by ISC and was renamed the Talladega Superspeedway.
The name “Talladega” means “Land of Tall Pines” in French. It is a portmanteau of the two countries, and a play on words that combines pines, the soft wood that grows surrounding the track, and the fact that a great number of French students and expats live in Alabama. It was officially accepted as the name of the track and grandstand in 1968.
When Was The Track First Opened For Racing?
The very first race at the track was held on May 5, 1946 and was a qualifying round for the Indianapolis 500. The winner of that race was Ralph DePalma, whose average speed was 86.78 mph. The next day, the Indianapolis 500 actually took place and DePalma’s qualifying run was added to the race results, giving him a total of three first-place finishes that year.
The next year was rather uneventful, as there were no races at the track other than the Indianapolis 500. In 1948, a fourth place showing at the Indianapolis 500 was the best the track could muster. A year later, it was back to two races per year and it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the track started to see regular racing action.
First NASCAR Race At The Track
In 1955, the first National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) race was held at the track. It was a 200-mile race that was won by Bill Holland, who averaged 104.8 mph. That same year, the first of what would be an annual tradition was held too. It was a 24-hour enduro race that was won by Bill Holland. The 24-hour event, which is still held today, was started back in the 1950s and is the longest-running 24-hour race in the country. The track holds two 24-hour races each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.
It was two years before the first of what would be multiple Twin Ring Malls at the track, which were actually called Twin Ring Malls at that time. In 1957, they held the Kentucky Derby Festival, which is today one of the largest festival in the country. In 1961, they added a fourth runway and extended the existing one. On October 17, 1967, a devastating flood hit the area. The next day, a car was pulled out of the water and it was revealed that the track had actually been built on swamp land. With the help of the local community, the track was eventually rebuilt.
1972 And 1974 Was A Bad Years For The Track
In 1972 and 1974, the track was in financial trouble. It had to be bailed out twice, in 1972 by the Internal Revenue Service and in 1974 by the Alabama General Fund. Both times, it was reopened via an emergency bill. In 1977, it was sold to International Speedway Corporation, which owned and operated it until 1993. The track was in desperate need of a face-lift and had to be renamed, which it was in 1980. In 1981, it was bought by Roebuck Auto Sports, which operated it as a drag strip until 1997. In 1993, it was sold to International Speedway Corporation and was renamed the Talladega Superspeedway.
The Track Continued To Expand
In the early part of the 21st century, the track continued to expand and add a few other cool things. In 2003, they opened the Bill Hollis Racing Museum, which is now one of the largest museums of its kind. In 2009, they opened the Talladega Arboretum & Park, which is a horticultural display that covers over 50,000 square feet. There are over 150 plant species on display, which is pretty cool too. They also have picnic areas, playgrounds, and a pond with over 100 lily pads. Around the same time, they also opened the Talladega Civil Rights Museum, which is dedicated to the memory of the many activists who were tragically killed in the 1968 bombing at the track. It is currently one of the largest civil rights museums in the country. In recent years, the track has continued its expansion, adding a second garage, a paddock, and two museums. In 2019, they will be adding a second deck to the grandstand and a new restaurant. The following is a current rendering of the track and its expansion plans. It is a work in progress and there is still a lot more to come!
Record-Breaking Attendance At The Track
In 2019, the track had an all-time attendance record. The previous year, they broke their own record, welcoming over 360,000 fans to the grandstands. In April 2019 alone, they broke their own record, welcoming over 375,000 fans to the track. That same month, they also set an all-time speed record for the quarter-mile, with a top speed of 199.8 mph, eclipsing the previous record by over 10 mph. This year, they hope to break that record yet again.
What Special Events Take Place At The Track?
Aside from the 24-hour enduro race, which is still going strong, the track hosts a number of special events, which is rather unique. In the spring, they have the Alabama Sprint Cup, which is an exhibition race for big dogs, where owners of German shepherd, Rottweilers, Saint Bernards, and Dobermans enter their animals in a race that is named after the original Alabama 400. The first annual running of the Alabama Sprint Cup was in 1969 and it continues to this day. Dogs and owners walk down the aisle to the sound of bagpipes in front of a sell-out crowd. Since 1969, the event has always been held in the spring. In 1974, they started the Fan Appreciation Day, where the fans get to meet the drivers, participate in games, and enjoy other fun activities. It is now one of the largest crowds the track sees during the year and it continues to grow each year.
In the fall, they have the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, which is the biggest and most prestigious event at the track. It is named after a popular beer and it is one of the biggest races of the season. In 2007, they were forced to reschedule the event, due to Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, they were hit by tragedy yet again, as a massive tornado hit the area, destroying parts of the track, including the grandstands. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the track was back up and running in a few months. The following is a current rendering of the track and its surrounding areas, showing some of its cool features. The track often times has “pink slime”, which is the official name of the gooey substance produced by the meat packing industry. It is often added as an ingredient to fast food and the like to increase their protein content. In 2019, the state attorney for Alabama’s Northern District filed a lawsuit against a fast food restaurant (Pink Slime-free version? We’ll see!) over claims that their burgers contained the slimy filler. If convicted, they could face a fine or even jail time.