Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, October 23, 2015, 9:03 a.m.
Talladega. It must be more than “border town” in Creek, which is the official explanation. According to no less a source than Wikipedia, the Creek (and/or Muscogee) word is “Tvlvteke.”
Tvlvteke Superspeedway! Who’s with me?
It’s a long way from Tvlvteke to Talladega, or home to “Starwood in Aspen,” but that’s not important.
Talladega must mean “ball of confusion” in some American Indian tongue. Allegedly, it was built on a burial ground, and that explains everything. If you were an Ancient American spirit, back before Native was cool, you’d be seriously annoyed twice a year when a bunch of loud contraptions start hightailing it around, disturbing the peace.
White man’s revenge? Why would the white man seek revenge? He won!
Good, bad, and merely vivid, I had a proportionally higher range of memories from Talladega Superspeedway than most tracks:
The day Jimmy Horton’s red Chevy sailed out of the track, and there was so much smoke that very few noticed it. The telltale sign was an even higher cloud of smoke that rose behind it. It was a red-clay cloud.
The brief era of maniacal bump-drafting, when everything was two by two, and the end was blockers versus jammers, just like roller derby. Every time the rules change, something unforeseen occurs at Talladega. I wasn’t particularly fond of the tag-team derbies, but they were … interesting.
Raucous stories from a time when sports writers didn’t just have a drink. They drank.
Ah’ight, now. Thassa damn nuff. I gotta write about a #$%&*@! race tomorrow. I can’t be hung over, y’know. Gotta get some #$%&*@! sleep. Enjoyed it, y’all.
Aw, hell, don’t run off, son. We gon’ cut a watermelon here in a minute!
Fortunately, it was also a time when sports writers mostly stayed in the same quaint lodges, back before Marriott Points contributed to the general breakdown in camaraderie and esprit de corps.
Today’s media contingent is more fueled by energy drinks, meaning they lack the patience inherent in other vices that will also kill them.
The time David Poole was detained by an Alabama state trooper for driving down the shoulder of a road where a sign had been posted advising motorists to do so.
“Why do you think no one else was driving down the shoulder of the road, Mr. Poole?”
“Because it’s … Alabama?” replied the North Carolinian.
Back to the actual racing, Talladega being one of the venues where on track was even more colorful than off.
The day when a NASCAR judgment call put Jeff Gordon in victory lane instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the Junior partisans, good and true, pelted Gordon’s car with beer cans, exploding against the sides and top of his Chevy like a fireworks display. A festival of suds! Suds and Stripes Forever!
Ten thousand fans mooning Tony Stewart during driver introductions. Stewart had been quoted as saying there were more “rednecks” at Talladega than anywhere else, so they rose, turned their backs, and squatted, in righteous indignation to prove him … right?
The wrecks people survived there. Not death. Death defied. I’d have hated to be a driver during the 1990s. Being a sports writer scared me.
Now I watch from a safe distance of two states over. What I earn from NASCAR is more spending money than livelihood. Take my books. Please. http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1