After Chase Elliott recently captured his first Talladega Superspeedway Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in the GEICO 500 (April 28), the second-generation driver from nearby Dawsonville, GA donned a construction hard hat and sledgehammer in Gatorade Victory Lane, signaling the beginning of demolition to part of the track’s infield to make way for the new, incredible Talladega Garage Experience, which will debut in October during the NASCAR Playoff doubleheader weekend.
Part of Phase II of Transformation – The Talladega Superspeedway Infield Project presented by Graybar, the all-new Talladega Garage Experience will allow fans to be immersed into the sport of NASCAR like never before – including access under the same roof where the race cars are being prepped by the race teams. It will feature “up-close” access, interactive attractions and enhanced amenities for fans, sponsors, teams and stakeholders in the iconic Talladega infield.
As part of the Talladega Garage Experience, a new Gatorade Victory Lane will be built, allowing fans to get just feet away from the drivers and teams who will add their name to the Talladega record book. For Elliott, his trip to the winner’s circle was extra special in the fact that his Hall of Fame father – Bill – christened it in spring of 1986 after winning the pole position at the 2.66-mile venue. However, for what the track is doing to elevate the fan experience, Chase is now ready for the future at the world’s greatest and biggest track, which is already known for the absolute best racing on the planet, and the experience of a lifetime off the track for fans young and old alike.
“I want people to come and just have a hell of a time at the race track,” said the younger Elliott, who gave team owner Rick Hendrick his record 13th triumph at the high-banked venue which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. “This is a great experience for them to do that. At the end of the day, you want to build a product that’s exciting and is exciting to watch. I think ultimately if something is exciting to watch, I’ll watch it. That’s the same reason I watch stuff. I find it entertaining.
“If you’re making something entertaining, somebody can come, have a great Saturday night, Sunday afternoon. Friday night, Saturday night, whatever it is, I think they will. That’s the big one, making a product entertaining.”
Elliott speaks from experience at Talladega. In addition to leading the way in showcasing one of the best races seen in years with constant three- and four-wide racing at over 200 mph, he was a part of the track’s “Big One on the Blvd.” driver parade and fan competition event on Friday night in the infamous infield this past ‘Dega race weekend. Saturday night’s infield concert has become a tradition, and the weekend programming for families with the Kids VIP Experience presented by Children’s of Alabama, along with other special opportunities for college students, military, first responders, teachers, educators and more, have made the fan experience second to none. With the grand opening of the Talladega Garage Experience on the horizon, Oct. 11-13 (weekend featuring the 1000Bulbs.com 500 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Sugarlands Shine 250 for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series), fans have even a lot more to look forward to.
After his win, Elliott, who grew up a little over two hours away from Talladega, said the fans “made me feel at home today, which was pretty cool,” as the thousands of onlookers and families stayed in the grandstands to help him celebrate his victory on the frontstretch, and then stayed to watch him celebrate in victory lane. “The biggest part of today is just how much of a home race it felt like after the race. I was blown away by the people, how fired up everybody was….an unbelievable experience. We are close to home….they made me feel that way.
“Couldn’t ask for much more. That’s one of the coolest moments I feel like of my racing career. Today is something I will never forget. Just appreciate all the folks making it feel like a home race.”
The reason Elliott felt at “home” is because the Elliott name is synonymous with the greatest ribbon of asphalt in NASCAR. Bill became iconic in 1985 when he made up nearly two full laps (over five miles) under green flag conditions in winning the spring Cup race at Talladega, which eventually led to him winning a $1 million bonus later in the year (and he became known as ‘Million Dollar Bill’). Two years later, he set the all-time NASCAR qualifying record of 212.809 mph, which still stands today. If Chase can win later this year, he would become the first driver to notch a Talladega sweep since Jeff Gordon in 2007. Incidentally, Chase replaced Gordon, a six-time winner at TSS, at Hendrick Motorsports after the 2015 season.
So, when Chase returns in the fall, he, along with all the other premier series competitors and fans, will see the most anticipated fan experience ever that will replace the current garage/pit area that stretches from the center of the Tri-Oval all the way down near the start-finish line. And, things are happening in a hurry. Since his triumph, workers have demolished many buildings to make way for the new, including the current NASCAR Xfinity Series garage, the Sunoco fuel station, the Paddock Club, and part of the media center.
The approximately $50 million Transformation Infield Project presented by Graybar is part of International Speedway Corporation’s (Talladega’s parent company) long-term capital allocation plan and reinvestment into its major motorsports complexes. Some items in the new Talladega Garage Experience (TGE) will include: a fan viewing walkway to the teams, cars and inspection stations during race preparation in the new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garage; New Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garages (44 stalls); New, modern Open Air Club (covered) with close-up viewing of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garage; Wi-Fi presented by Xtreme Concepts in all areas of the TGE; New Gatorade Victory Lane with fan up-close view in TGE; Pit Road Club to enhance the experience for fans and corporate guests; Exclusive Social, engagement areas with Concessions/Souvenirs/Restrooms facilities, Guest Services Center & First Aid facility; and much more!
DLR Group is the architect of the entire project while Hoar Construction from Birmingham will spearhead Phase II. GT Grandstands (Plant City, FL) will construct the new Pit Road Club and the Race Operations. Fans can learn more about the project by visiting www.talladegasuperspeedway.com/transformation. For ticket information on the track’s NASCAR doubleheader playoff weekend, and all things on Transformation and the Talladega Garage Experience, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-7223 (RACE).