Talladega, AL emerged as the top choice among several possible sites in the Southeast, with the main criteria for selection being the availability of land, access to the interstate system, and a population base of at least 20 million people within 300 miles. Anniston insurance executive Bill Ward, a racecar driver and fan himself, helped NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation founder William H.G. (Bill) France find the land in Alabama following a casual conversation with France in Daytona in the mid-1960s.
Ward found what he thought was the perfect site in north Talladega County near an airport that the U.S. Government had sold to the City of Talladega after World War II. He set up a meeting with then-Talladega Mayor James Hardwick and other city officials, and in a restaurant in Anniston in 1966, France got the group to consider the idea of putting a major track on the site. After a trip to the Firecracker 400 in Daytona to observe first-hand the potential economic impact, the group was sold.
Several obstacles had to be overcome, including financing. With France as the guiding force, however, construction began on the 2,000-acre site on May 23, 1968, with the first race being the ‘Bama 400 Grand Touring race on Saturday, September 13, 1969. Ken Rush drove his Camaro to Victory Lane in that event. The next day, Richard Brickhouse won the first Grand National (now the NASCAR Cup Series) race, the Talladega 500 (now the traditional Fall race), edging Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott.