NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace never won a race at Talladega Superspeedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. In fact, he was more known for his misfortune at the track that will celebrate its 50th Anniversary with the running of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 on Oct. 13.
On Wednesday, however, at the greatest track in the world, the 1989 premier series champion became the first to celebrate the track’s future Gatorade Victory Lane, and in the process, bring back a tradition that dates back to the first Cup race here in 1969 – the beautiful red, white and blue horseshoe-shaped, winner’s wreath.
Reminiscent of Richard Brickhouse donning the patriotic wreath and standing on the hood of his winged Dodge Daytona after claiming the first Talladega 500, Wallace stood on the front of Talladega’s Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car with the 2019 version of the wreath that the track announced will now go to the winner of every Monster Energy Series victor moving forward.
“I’ve always liked starting new traditions, and this is amazing,” said Wallace of the wreath that took more than 300 carnations and 33 yards of ribbon to create. “This is something that we’re bringing the past back with all its glory. Talking about the 1969 win here with Richard Brickhouse, and we’re here celebrating our 50th anniversary here at Talladega, I couldn’t think of a better way of bringing back the past, and now every single winner of the race will wear this wreath starting with the October race.
“If I was the October winner, I would be really excited that I was able to put this wreath on and be the first of a brand-new tradition here at Talladega,” added Wallace, who currently serves as the lead analyst for Motor Racing Network, the primary source for NASCAR racing broadcasts. In addition to ’69, Pete Hamilton sported the winner’s colorful wreath when he took his winged car to victory at ’Dega in 1970.
The new Gatorade Victory Lane will be a part of the all-new Talladega Garage Experience, which debuts as a part of Transformation – The Talladega Superspeedway Infield Project presented by Graybar. Fans who have a Talladega Garage Experience pass will be able to watch the victory celebration up-close for both the winner of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 as well as the Sugarlands Shine 250 for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – both NASCAR Playoff events.
Unbelievably, in 45 TSS starts, Wallace, who finished his career with 55 career triumphs, only had one top-five finish. Wallace, who did have two wins at Talladega – an International Race of Champions (IROC) race at Talladega in 1991 and a Grand American event in 1980 (at the tender age of 23 years old) while beating the likes of Harry Gant, Richard Childress, Sterling Marlin and Neil Bonnett, toured the entire Talladega Garage Experience and was absolutely amazed.
“This is like nothing I have ever seen before, it’s just incredible,” added Wallace, who is also a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, located next door to the 2.66-mile ribbon of asphalt. “It’s going to allow fans to get up close and personal with the drivers, teams and cars like never before, and I am super pumped for the fans who come here in October.
“The Open Air Social Club is going to be absolutely phenomenal, and just feet away from the garage bays of the teams. Then, the incredible value-priced concessions, free Wi-Fi, watch zones, historic cars, photo opportunities…..I can’t wait to get back here and see the finished product. It’s huge, and the fans who get here in person to see it will be elated. Photos on a computer screen or your phone doesn’t do it justice. Simply amazing.”
The Talladega Garage Experience is at the center of the $50 million endeavor, and will stretch from the center of the Tri-Oval down near the start-finish line. It will feature a host of activities and destinations, including more than 140,000 square feet of social and engagement areas, the new ‘old-school style’ Gatorade Victory Lane and the 35,000-square-foot Open Air Social Club, where fans will be just a few steps away and “up-close” from the fan viewing walkway (under the same roof where the race cars are being prepped by the race teams).
For every fan who purchases a Talladega Garage Experience admission, they will receive FREE Wi-Fi presented by Xtreme Concepts, Inc., and be treated to $4 or less Value-Priced Concessions (with the exception of premium specialty items like the $9 Big One Meatball). Other amenities inside the Experience include a Kids Zone, Watch Zone, a Courtyard, new restrooms, concession and souvenir stands, as well as a new Guest Services center.
The Transformation Infield Project presented by Graybar is part of ISC’s long-term capital allocation plan and reinvestment into its major motorsports complexes. DLR Group is the architect of the entire project while Hoar Construction (Birmingham, AL) continues to spearhead Phase II. GT Grandstands (Plant City, FL) is constructing the Race Operations tower, which, too, continues to see much progression high above the Tri-Oval, as well as the Pit Road Club Suites.
Fans can learn more about the project and view the progress 24/7 via the construction cam by visiting www.talladegasuperspeedway.com/transformation. For ticket information on the track’s NASCAR doubleheader playoffs weekend for the Sugarlands Shine 250 (NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series) on Saturday, Oct. 12, and the 1000Bulbs.com 500 (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series), and all things on Transformation and the Talladega Garage Experience, log onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-7223 (RACE).