It took two men of vision (William “Bill” France along with Bill Ward) to look beyond the bare dirt expanse and abandoned buildings that stood before them, to see the potential for what would ultimately become the biggest, fastest and most competitive super-speedway in the world – Talladega Speedway.
There were several possible sites in the Southeastern United States for the proposed speedway. Talladega, Alabama emerged as the top choice thanks to it’s accessibility to the interstate, and being in the middle of a population base of at least 20 million people within 300 miles. Over 20,000 acres of available land to construct on didn’t hurt either!
Back in 1969, the Super Speedway was called the Alabama International Motor Speedway, and in 1989 the name changed. But long before then, the track had surpassed every initial expectation in terms of sheer size, speed and competition.
With Bill France as the guiding force, construction began on the site on May 23, 1968, with the first race being the ‘Bama 400 Grand Touring race several months later 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 race – the Talladega 500 (now known as the UAW-Ford 500), edging Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott.
Putting that first race weekend on the record books wasn’t as easy as it may sound. The practice and qualifying speeds were so high (Charlie Glotzbach won the pole at 199.466 mph) that the tire companies – try as they might – could not in the time available come up with a compound that held together for many laps. The Professional Drivers Association (PDA), led by Richard Petty, declared the situation unsafe, and left the track Saturday afternoon.
It was not long before the Talladega Speedway came into its own with unprecedented speeds and unparalleled competition. The combination of the two also played a major role in the development of many drivers’ careers as they built reputations for setting records and taking wins at what quickly became known as “the largest, fastest and most competitive track on the circuit.”
The track at the Talladega is 2.66-miles long, four lanes wide and is banked 33 degrees on each end, with 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. This layout has produced some of the fastest and most competitive racing in history. The backstretch is nearly 4,000 feet long, and stock cars have reached speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour in competition.
The grandstands seating capacity at the Speedway is 143,231 including the most recent expansion of the O.V. Hill South Tower. The 212-acre all-reserved infield holds many thousands more.
Many stars have raced around the track’s challenging curves, but the track’s true dominator was Dale Earnhardt, who posted 10 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup wins at Talladega over the years. Earnhardt’s first victory was in the 1983 UAW-Ford 500, driving for Bud Moore. He won again the next year in his first season with Richard Childress. When he captured the 1990 UAW-Ford 500, he became the first three-time winner of that event, then added UAW-Ford 500 wins in 1991, 1993 and 2000.
Earnhardt also had victories in the 1990, 1995 and 1999 IROC races, as well as the 1993 Aaron’s 312 Busch Series race, to give him a total of 14 career victories at Talladega. That put him ahead of Davey Allison, who had four ARCA triumphs and an IROC win to go with his three Aaron’s 499 victories.
Fans know that flag-to-flag competition is the name of the game at Talladega Super Speedway, and the record book backs this up.
Competitive Edge Motorsports closed in 2006.
Joe Auer is the principle owner of Competitive Edge Motorsports, a team that was once a NASCAR Nextel Cup Series team. Joe has been involved with sports on a whole for nearly 50 years and is well remembered as an outstanding pro football player for the NFL. Auer was the one who took the opening kickoff in the first game Miami Dolphins had ever competed in. From there he became the dolphins first MVP. His pro career saw Auer play for the Atlantic Falcons and Buffalo Bills in various seasons. Later he turned his attention to car racing.
Joe Auer has been involved with racing for over 3 decades and continues to enjoy it. Auer also has interests in things besides sport and is owner and president of ICN, a very successful global technology consulting and training firm, which he founded in 1975. Competitive Edge Motorsports made its debut at the Coca-Cola 600 in 2004 with driver Kevin Lepage fielding the #51 Marathon Oil Chevrolet. Lepage finished 43rd at the race because of his car suffering from overheating failures. Lepage ran another four more races but with out much success, resulting in DNF’s for all of them. With the team not doing to well CEM had to replace Lepage with Tony Raines who from there took over as driver for the team. He finished 28th at Dover, his best finish out of all his races he had taken on so far.
The year 2005 saw another change in driver, with ARCA racer Stuart Kirby taking over. Kirby qualified for a total of seven races, with his best point position being 31st. The following year Mike Garvey drove for the CEM team but with four finishes all of which were 38th position or worse, left Marathon Oil, the sponsor, no choice but to move to Petty Enterprises. Competitive Edge Motorsports had full intentions of having the team perform full time in 2007 but that was not to happen. Later that year the team was made to fold and sell its equipment when it was unable to find alternative sponsorship to fund it.
The now very popular Richmond International Raceway started life as a little track known as ‘Strawberry Hill’. It was first used as a racetrack venue in 1946 when Ted Horn drove his champ car to victory on the 0.5-mile dirt track that came to be known as ‘Strawberry Hill Speedway’. These races were usually held once a year on the third Saturday of April. In the period that followed between 1953 and 2000, the track had three name changes and four configuration changes. The surface was changed from dirt to asphalt and lights were added to the facility in 1991. Ever since then, all races have been held ‘under the lights’ – something which helps make Richmond International Raceway somewhat unique.
Today the Richmond International Raceway is known for hosting some of the best NASCAR and IndyCar Series racing. The raceway features a D-shaped, 0.75 mile (1.2 km) asphalt track and is part of the 800-acre, multi-purpose Richmond Raceway Complex. Although the track is fairly short, it’s layout allows for excellent side-by-side racing and drivers are able to reach speeds similar to that of a superspeedway. This means that only the most skilled drivers can make their way to first place and there is plenty of action during the course of the average race. The Richmond International Raceway currently hosts the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, the Busch Series, the Indy Racing League, the United States Auto Club Silver Crown and National Sprint Car Series. The last 30 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races have been sold out and the track is known for producing some of the best racing in the sport.
In the past, Richmond International Raceway has been known as the ‘Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds’, the ‘Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds’, the ‘Virginia State Fairgrounds’ and the ‘Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway’. From these various names it is easy to tell that the Raceway complex is not only used to host racing events. It is also used to host a number of agricultural shows, expositions, sports and crafts shows and seasonal fairs. This means that the raceway complex is almost always busy with some major event but the most popular of these are the races.
Located in Fort Worth, Texas, the Texas Motor Speedway was built between 1995 and 1996. The original track featured a dual banking system with a 24-degree bank for stock cars and an 8-degree bank for open-wheel vehicles. The track is classified as a superspeedway as it is more than one mile in length and it is similar in layout to the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The track’s ‘Turn 4’ was reshaped in 1998 to make transitions from the turns to the straightway easier. Further renovations that same year eliminated the dual banking and resulted in the track currently in use today.
The Texas Motor Speedway measures 1.5 miles in length and features a quad-oval design. It has been banked 24 degrees in the turns to facilitate fast racing and the front straightway juts outwards a bit. It also has a seating capacity of more than 200,000 for NASCAR and IndyCar racing events. The track features tunnel bumps on Turns 2 and 4 which add to the its uniqueness. The track is currently owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. At one stage the Texas Motor Speedway was considered to be the ‘fastest non-restrictor plate track’ to appear on the NASCAR circuit. Qualifying speeds exceeded 192 mph and corner entry speeds were often clocked at over 200 mph. However, with the gradual wear of racing surfaces other tracks, such as Atlanta, proven to be faster. Currently the top qualifying record is held by Brian Vickers who posted a 196.235 mph speed in 2006.
The Texas Motor Speedway is home to two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races – making it a very popular racetrack with big attendance figures. The races which it hosts are the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 and the Dickes 500. It also hosts the O’Reilly 300 and the O’Reilly Challenge – both of which are Busch Series Races. The Bombardier Learjet 550 is the only Indy Racing League race that it hosts.
The nature of the sport of auto racing dictates that drivers need to be fiercely competitive on the racetrack – after all, there can only be one winner. NASCAR drivers are no exception to the rule and a competitive spirit is part of everyday life in auto racing circles.
The situation is very different off-track however, as drivers and their teams are united by the common goal of raising funds for charity through the NASCAR Foundation. The NASCAR Foundation reflects the compassion of the NASCAR family by actively supporting communities through a wide range of charitable projects and fund-raising events.
A major fund-raising initiative is “NASCAR Day” which is held annually in May on the Friday prior to the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. This is a one-day celebration of the NASCAR spirit, with participants receiving a commemorative NASCAR Day pin in exchange for a $5 donation. NASCAR Day is well supported by a host of corporate companies as well as individual fans. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of the State of California has pledged his support in acknowledgement of the good achieved by the NASCAR Foundation with regard to their charitable initiatives that are in the interests of children, the environment, welfare of animals and other worthy causes.
One of the charitable initiatives that benefits from the NASCAR Foundation’s generosity is the Victory Junction Gang Camp which aims to enrich the lives of children who suffer with chronic and serious illnesses. Exciting, fun and empowering camping experiences are offered in a safe and medically sound environment. Children who attend the Victory Junction Gang Camp have the benefit of a swimming pool, computer lab, games room and a large outdoor recreation area, as well as a medical clinic. The groups are kept relatively small in order to give each child personal attention.
The concept of the Victory Junction Gang Camp was initiated by Adam Petty, a teenage stock-car driver from a family with a long auto racing history. Sadly, Adam Petty was killed in a practice crash on 12 May 2000. His parents, Kyle and Pattie, resolved to see Adam’s vision through and after four years of fund-raising and building, the Victory Junction Gang Camp was opened on 20 June 2004. Fittingly, the address of the Victory Junction Gang Camp is 4500 Adam’s Way.
Continuing donations through the efforts of the NASCAR Foundation allow the Victory Junction Game Camp and other charitable organizations to continue bringing joy to hundreds of children.