As the Transformation Infield Project presented by Graybar continues at Talladega Superspeedway, Gary Merriman, Senior Superintendent for Hoar Construction – the company leading infield construction efforts – works tirelessly along with his crew to pull off the largest renovation in Speedway history.
For 39-year-old Merriman, however, this particular project is very near and dear to him. You see, as a kid, being from nearby Hokes Bluff, AL (40 miles from Talladega Superspeedway), he was an avid NASCAR fan and attended events at the 2.66-mile venue. Now, it’s under his watch to oversee the biggest renovation project to the track since it was built by William H.G. (Bill) France in 1968-69.
The $50 million revamp, which will be completed in time for the track’s NASCAR Playoffs doubleheader weekend (Oct. 11-13) as part of the venue’s 50th anniversary celebration, will consist of a complete infield makeover including a more than 140,000 square foot social and engagement area and the highlight of the project – the Talladega Garage Experience, which will stretch from the center of the Tri-Oval down near the Start-Finish Line.
This incredible space includes a 35,000-square-foot Open Air Social Club, four new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garages where fans will receive “up-close, locker-room” access inside each garage bay, an all-new Gatorade Victory Lane, Kids Zone, Game Zone, and a host of other amenities for fans – including FREE Wi-Fi and Value-Priced Concessions – to enjoy in the iconic ‘Dega infield.
“I think this job is really neat, extra special for me personally,” said Merriman, an avid Harry Gant (former Talladega winner) fan back in the day, and also a third-generation dirt track racer who had hopes of competing in NASCAR. “I look forward to seeing how the fans interact with the drivers through the new Talladega Garage Experience. For so long in this sport the drivers have kind of been off limits. The teams have been off limits. The garages have been off limits. It’s going to allow fans to get a different view of racing that they’ve never seen before, and I for one can’t wait.”
Merriman believes that his experience made him view the Transformation Infield Project presented by Graybar, nearing the halfway point of completion, a little differently than anything else he has worked on before.
“There’s a personal level that I got to work on it and build it and see people enjoy the facilities, so for me, I think it’s a marriage of the two,” said Merriman. “Getting to see people enjoy the facilities we worked so hard to build, and then at the same time, getting to see a whole new side of racing that maybe a lot of them have never seen before.”
Merriman, along with the rest of the construction crew, began working on the infield project immediately following the checkered flag of the GEICO 500 on April 28. However, there was much effort put in before construction ever actually began. In order to pull off this large scale project, Merriman said many pre-construction activities were necessary for all the materials to be at the track ready for the team to begin the job.
Only appropriate for the fastest race track in the country, when discussing the project, the Hoar senior superintendent said, “This is the most fast-paced job I’ve been a part of.”
After three months of construction, the steel is erected on all ten of the new structures and the exterior roofs and skins have been applied on all the buildings.
“We’re on schedule,” said Merriman, who has been with Hoar Construction for seven years. “A good superintendent will never tell you he’s ahead of schedule. We’ve got a very short time frame between the April race and the October race to build a lot of construction in a short amount of time, but we will have it done and ready for the fans.”
The crew has put in many long hours in the infield at Talladega including 16-18 hour days on some occasions, but all of the effort put into the project is not the only thing that has made the infield project meaningful for Merriman.
With a grandfather, father, and mother, who were all involved in racing, Merriman can recall many late nights and weekends that were spent at a dirt track. Growing up racing all over the Southeast, he said that his dream was to be a NASCAR driver. “I have been involved in racing all my life and love it,” he said.
Although he only raced full-time until he was 35 years old, Merriman now shares his passion for racing with his son, age twelve, who began the sport this year. “We bought him a car, and we built it,” stated Merriman, who also began racing at 12 years old. “He and I together….turned every wrench on it.”
The father/son duo have taken a lot of time working on their project together. Merriman says more often than not they will spend around three nights a week perfecting the car until eleven or twelve o’clock at night, but although the hours are long, Merriman believes nothing can compare to the quality time spent with his son.
“He thinks he’s going to win a race this year,” said Merriman. “I told him to have realistic expectations, but he’s not lacking confidence, so that’s great. He may be a natural. Who knows, maybe he will compete at Talladega Superspeedway one day.”
Although his own dreams of being a NASCAR driver have faded, Merriman still feels his family’s support through his own construction projects. “My wife likes to come out and see everything I’ve ever built, so right before we turn it over to the client, she usually comes out, but all my family is big race fans, so this is big for them,” said Merriman.
As the fall race weekend quickly approaches, Merriman is confident that his team’s work on the infield renovation will make him look at the races at Talladega with a changed perspective from here on out. Although he won’t be in the middle of the pack going into Turn 1 during the fall race, for Merriman, working on this project at Talladega has been a dream come true.
“To me this is the greatest track in NASCAR,” he concluded. And, with his guidance, the track, which has had a glorious past since that first race back in September 1969, just got better and has set the stage for the next 50 years.
The Transformation Infield Project presented by Graybar will be showcased for the fall weekend which will feature the 1000Bulbs.com 500 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (Sunday, Oct. 13) and the Sugarlands Shine 250 Gander Outdoors Truck Series event (Saturday, Oct.12). For more information on the project, fans can visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com/transformation. And, for ticket information to the NASCAR Playoffs doubleheader, call 1-855-518-RACE (7223).
ABOUT HOAR CONSTRUCTION
Hoar Construction, established in 1940, has offices in Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston, Austin, Orlando, Nashville, and Washington, D.C. The firm provides professional services in general construction, construction management, design/build, and program management, serving clients in government, healthcare, retail, commercial, multifamily, and industrial markets. Hoar currently has projects in 12 states. For more information about Hoar Construction, please visit www.hoar.com or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Google+.