The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is set to return Sunday from its off weekend in a big way at Talladega Superspeedway, the gigantic Alabama speedrome that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary season this year. But as soon as Monday rolls around, with campers packing up the pieces of their revelry and other visitors making their way home, another race is set to begin.
Billed as “The Transformation: The Talladega Superspeedway Infield Project,” the roughly $50 million renovation of the 2.66-mile track’s grounds will enter its second phase after the running of Sunday’s GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). The initiative, announced last July, is due for completion before the circuit returns for its Oct. 11-13 race weekend in the NASCAR Playoffs.
The infield overhaul is the final major act of track chairman Grant Lynch, who plans to retire shortly after the project’s completion after 26 years at the Talladega helm. With plenty of earthmoving and hard-hat areas due up on the sprawling speedway complex, Lynch isn’t exactly coasting into his post-Talladega life.
“I’ll be going out in November, but I get to build one last big project for the Frances,” says Lynch, who received the 2018 Buddy Shuman Award for his efforts in advancing the sport of stock-car racing. “I got to build some others, but I’m looking forward to doing this as kind of my swan song. Then I’m going to go do what I want every day. We’re going to be very, very busy.”
The facility has already been plenty active in completing the first phase of the renovation project ahead of the circuit’s springtime visit. Among the enhancements in place for this race weekend: a new oversized vehicle tunnel, a revamped race control tower and additional premium RV parking. Lynch himself assisted with the final touches of the tunnel, helping to repaint stripes on the redone race surface.
NASCAR.com: Talladega tunnel construction
If Sunday’s race creates carnage — given the track’s tendency for field-thinning multi-car wrecks — there’s more demolition on tap for Monday, when construction crews plan to start leveling several infield buildings to create new fan zone amenities. Those improvements include new garage areas with fan viewing platforms, an open concessions plaza, garage and pit-road suites, plus a new, more accessible Victory Lane.
The re-imagined Talladega infield follows similar renovations at Richmond Raceway and ISM Raceway near Phoenix. Lynch says that his venue has been taking notes.
“You learn things from them about what they did and can put those things into your design, so I think we’ve learned a lot,” Lynch said. “I think the difference between us and them is that we’re so much bigger that we’ve got all this land that they just don’t have inside their facility. We’ve got 242 acres inside. You can do a lot of stuff with all that acreage. We’re excited about the project and looking forward to getting it done and running that first race.”
That first new-look race in October will come after the track’s 100th race for NASCAR’s top division. Lynch will provide the command to start engines as the event’s grand marshal.
Lynch has seen plenty since taking the superspeedway’s reins in January 1993, but one of the common threads has been the lengths that fans go to soak in the Talladega experience. Just more than 70% of the ticket buyers come from out of state, their average distance traveled hovering around the 290-300-mile range.
“That’s just amazing that the track has that much pull,” Lynch says. “Everybody calls it a ‘bucket list’ race track, and I say that may be true because it’s surely something you should go see.”
NASCAR.com: Talladega Then and Now