Jimmie Johnson Witnesses Race Like He’s Never Seen on the Campus of UAB and Educates Students on Talladega’s $19 College Ticket

UAB’s Homecoming Gurney Races Much Like Expectations of Oct. 19th GEICO 500, Fans Will See a Race Unlike Anything They Have Ever Witnessed - with NASCAR Chase Advancement on the Line

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BIRMINGHAM, AL – Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Champion Jimmie Johnson admits the upcoming GEICO 500 (Oct. 19th) at Talladega Superspeedway will be unlike anything fans have ever seen before. Added pressure, anxiety and the urgency to win and advance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be at a stressful all-time high. While promoting the much-anticipated event Wednesday on the streets of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Johnson witnessed another unique style of racing that he has never witnessed before – the Gurney Derby.  

Yes, a Gurney Derby! The 20th annual UAB Homecoming week (UAB will face North Texas Saturday) tradition featured retired hospital gurneys that were decorated and wheeled by students (four per gurney: 2 ladies and 2 men) in a 100-yard dash for glory. Johnson, a two-time winner at nearby Talladega Superspeedway, greeted a crowd of more than 750 students, staff and alumni. He was the event’s official flagman while also serving as a color analyst via microphone.

“I am a big fan of racing, but I have never seen anything like that,” said Johnson, who helped educate students on Talladega Superspeedway’s special $19 College Ticket offer to the GEICO 500. “When I was first asked about being a part of the gurney races I had no idea what they were about. Then, I saw photographs and watched videos of past events. There was so much creativity today in how they decorated each gurney, and the competition was fun but fierce. It gave another meaning to ‘rubber hitting the road.’

“I think the race at Talladega next weekend is going to be a race like never before, too. For the guys who don’t feel safe in the Chase, they are going to be really aggressive. If I don’t have a good run at Charlotte (this weekend) I am probably out of it with the points, so I will be really aggressive and go to get to the front because I have to win. Fans are going to get their money’s worth, especially the college students with their $19 College Ticket.”

Johnson took photos with the winning teams and later spoke to UAB business students on all aspects of the sport of NASCAR, which will speed back to Talladega Superspeedway in just nine days for opening practice on Friday, Oct. 17. It will be the most pivotal race of the Chase for many of the 12 drivers vying for the title – especially for Johnson - who got caught up in an accident last weekend in Kansas and finished 42nd.

In an unfamiliar spot, he sits at the bottom of the championship hunt with just two races to go in the Contender Round, in which the GEICO 500 is the anchor event. Only the top eight drivers will advance to the Eliminator Round after the checkered flag drops at Talladega. Johnson trails Jeff Gordon, who sits in the final transfer spot of eighth, by 27 points. There is a chance that Johnson will need to capture his third Talladega triumph in order to advance for a chance to claim his seventh (NSCS) title (if he doesn’t win at Charlotte).

“We’re coming to Talladega with one goal in mind and that is to win,” admitted Johnson, who won the closest finish in NASCAR history at the 2.66-mile venue in 2011 (.002 second) over Clint Bowyer. “It may be our only chance to make it. To say it is going to be nerve-wracking is an understatement. We all know Talladega is a wild card – this time more than ever with so much on the line. It’s going to be great for the fans but tremendous amounts of stress for the drivers, more so than in the past.”

Johnson’s visit to UAB coincided with Talladega’s continued promotions with the college student population. Over the last year, the track has taken several top drivers to various Universities to create awareness of the $19 College Ticket offer at NASCAR’s most exciting venue. Just take a stroll through the track’s campgrounds and infield where collegiate spirit flies high in support of many Universities. Along with the UAB Blazers you will see flags of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, Florida State and countless others.  

Not only are the droves of college kids getting to see the most competitive form of motorsports, but they come to enjoy the “Party Capital” of NASCAR – the perfect place for fans of all ages – especially college students – to have a great time. With the $19 College tickets, students get two fun nights of activities PLUS the GEICO 500. Friday’s “Big One On The Blvd” parade kicks off the weekend of enjoyment and entertainment on Oct. 17, with a mardi-gras style event down the infamous Talladega Blvd. in the track’s famous infield. On Saturday evening, Oct. 18, the track’s traditional Saturday Night Infield Concert, featuring country music star Thomas Rhett, will have the place rocking. The track even offers a special reserved area for college parking/camping, located across the street from the main entrance of the speedway.

Friday’s on-track activities consist of practice and qualifying (new rapid format) for the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) as well as practice sessions for the GEICO 500. Then Saturday, Oct. 18, the schedule will also include the rapid qualifying for the GEICO 500 as well as the fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola (NCWTS) race, which starts at 12pm CST. The GEICO 500 is set for a 1 p.m. (CST) start on Sunday, Oct. 19. To reserve a spot for this history-making weekend, call the Talladega Superspeedway ticket office today at 1-877-Go2-DEGA, or visitwww.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

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