Post written by Dennis Washington for Alabama NewsCenter
For the first time in the history of the Talladega Superspeedway, drivers and fans can now enter and leave the infield at any time they choose — even during a race.
“For the race teams and, more importantly, our infield guests, they are no longer ‘captured’ in here,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch.
Lynch cut the ribbon on the tunnel Wednesday morning with the help of drivers Jeffrey Earnhardt and Chase Briscoe, as well as Lance Taylor from Taylor Corporation, which managed the construction. They then waved to the first group of fans who entered the track’s infield through the new tunnel.
“I guess it’s ironic that the biggest infield in motorsports is the last one to get a full-sized tunnel, but we’ve got it and it’s here now,” Lynch said. “You saw the fans, how much they were enjoying coming through it.”
[RELATED: Facts about the new tunnel]
In previous years, large vehicles such as RV’s and car haulers could exit the infield only when the track was not in use. Drivers are excited about the improved access.
“I think it’s incredible,” Earnhardt said. “I’ve been in the situation where I might be in the XFinity race and you’ve got to wake up at the crack of dawn Sunday to get out before they close the gate before the Cup race.”
“It makes it way more convenient,” Briscoe added. “Not only for the teams, but also for the race fans.”
The completion of the tunnel marks the end of the first phase of a $50 million “Transformation” renovation project at the track. A new premium RV area and shower trailers were also added to the infield this spring.
“We’re changing the game again,” Lynch said. “We’re ratcheting the greatest infield in motorsports up another notch or two.”
As soon as Sunday’s GEICO 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is over, work will begin on the second phase of the project, which will feature a VIP “Talladega Garage Experience” where fans can interact with the top 22 drivers inside of a new open-air arena.
“What we’re going to build is going to be — no one is ever going to do it again because no one has as much land as we have,” Lynch said.
Earnhardt and Briscoe said they are excited about the opportunity to interact more closely with fans.
“If we don’t take the time to spend with the fans, then why would they want to come back?” Earnhardt said. “They’re spending a lot of hard-earned money they’ve made to come out and support us and watch us race, and enjoy the experience at the race track, so Talladega adding this is only going to improve the experience the fans have when they come here.”
“If we don’t have these fans, we don’t have a job,” Briscoe added. “With Talladega doing all of these renovations, I think there’s going to be more and more fans coming out than there’s ever been.”
Both drivers said one of their favorite new features coming this fall in the VIP Garage area will be WiFi.
“The WiFi is huge,” Earnhardt said. “You come to the race track and you can’t get a text to go out, you can’t a post to go up, and now they’re going to have WiFi in the Fan Zone, and that’s going to make people look through their friends’ posts and be like, ‘Man, they’re having a great time. I’m going the next time.’ I think that’s the kind of things a lot of these tracks are seeing they’ve got to do.”
“Talladega is already the best fan experience,” Briscoe said. “When you come here, you can hang out. It’s just a good time, and now, for all of the improvements we are seeing, it’s just going to make it even better. I’m looking forward to coming back in the fall and seeing the complete renovation.”
To learn more about the Transformation project, the Talladega Garage Experience or to buy tickets, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.
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