TALLADEGA, AL (WBRC) - The Talladega Superspeedway’s 50th anniversary renovations marked a milestone Tuesday as one part of it is now finished.
NASCAR driver Jeffrey Earnhardt was among those hitching a ride in John Ray’s truck cab, itself a tradition at the track, as it became the first vehicle to use the oversize vehicle tunnel near Turn 3 at the Superspeedway. Ray’s truck is a fan favorite at the track, often being used as the National Anthem is being played before races.
Speedway chairman Grant Lynch waived the green flag, then the truck drove through.
Earnhardt, grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. and nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., will make his debut at the speedway next month during the spring race, and says he’s impressed by the big changes the speedway is making in time for its 50th anniversary this year.
“It’s something probably a long time overdue, I’m sure Grant will agree with that, but now they have it. I think it is only going to add to everything else they’re doing here at the speedway to enhance the fan interaction and the time the fans are going to have,” Earnhardt said.
The tunnel will be open 24 hours a day during race weekends and is expected to alleviate traffic congestion at the other tunnel currently used as the entrance to the infield.
A paved area for RVs, complete with hookups, was also unveiled.
Media assembled for Tuesday’s event were also shown some 3D animation of the new transformation fan experience center that will be built on the infield.
It is expected to be finished in time for the fall race and will allow fans to interact with drivers and their cars.
Earnhardt says he looks forward to it.
“When you hear how much these fans spend of their hard earned money, it’s like, man, the least we can do is stop and sign an autograph, or say hey, or you know, take a picture with them,” Earnhardt told reporters. “That’s our job as drivers. We have to do that. If you don’t want to do it, don’t sign up for the job.”
Earnhardt drives the #18 Toyota Supra for Gibbs Racing. His new sponsor is IK-9, a service dog foundation that trains its canines in Anniston at the former Fort McClellan.