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USA D9: Five hours across four states for NASCAR practice day

With a few hours of driving planned we didn’t want to muck around, especially if we wanted to get to the track by early afternoon. After giving the waffle-maker in the breakfast buffet another whirl we set off. Starting in North Carolina, we drove through South Carolina, then Georgia, before finishing half-way across Alabama.

Driving across state lines is always announced with a welcome sign; often you also see a change in the road surface (North into South Carolina was one example – suddenly it was like being back in NZ with patchy tarseal rather than concrete) or speed limits. You have to keep your wits about you with the latter as the speed will varying from 55-60-65-70 just depending, and what the satnav understands to be the limit is not always correct on account of the constant state of change with the big road developments that have been a feature all the way down.

Not that everyone is heedful of speed limits. Countless people blew by us today at 90-100mph despite the many signs that warn of electronic or plane surveillance, or that speed limits will be strictly reinforced, or that fines will be doubled if you’re caught speeding where there are road workers present. It’s rare to see the law out on patrol, though we did see several on the shoulders having snared some prey.

While the flow along the i-roads was pretty good today, getting through Atlanta was interesting. I appreciated the challenge of being in the left lane, as per the TomTom’s suggestion, to then be instructed to exit right, requiring the impossible task of crossing six lanes of fast, busy traffic, in half a mile. Fuhgeddaboudit.

The miles eventually counted down until finally we were in sight of the place we’ve been wanting to visit for a very long time: Talladega Superspeedway, the longest and fastest of the NASCAR oval tracks. Today was Friday, practice day ahead of the race weekend culminating in the 500 mile race on Sunday. We built our trip around being able to attend this.

Driving in you get a flavour of how big this place is and how popular events are (though perhaps this isn’t unusual with NASCAR tracks) given the multi-lane roads and massive parking and camping areas. Friday is a relatively quiet day – there were lots of people around and campers getting set up, but nothing close to capacity. By Sunday this place will be heaving.

One of many stalls along the main boulevard selling firewood for those people camping / campervanning

One of many stalls along the main boulevard selling firewood for those people camping / campervanning

We found a park with only minor difficulty and walked on in. I bought a t-shirt, Mike made a Skype call to his boys and we found the ticket booth. It was a tricky process collecting our pre-purchased tickets for Sunday, the country music blaring in the background made communication difficult and so I made a special effort to sound out the ‘r’s in my words. I hadn’t thought too much about it before but I realise that Kiwis usually don’t enunciate ‘r’s at the end of syllables.

Being a practice day the tickets are $15 for general admission so the grandstands are a free-for-all. Approaching one of the entry points the cars were out on the track and I couldn’t help but grin. That noise! We popped out into one of the grandstand sections and bam!, there it all was – the cars, the track, the speed, the sound.

Enjoying one of the highest points you can sit around the grandstands. We'll be sitting a bit lower down on Sunday

Enjoying one of the highest points you can sit around the grandstands. We’ll be sitting a bit lower down on Sunday

talladega practice day

talladega practice day

talladega practice day

talladega practice day

The infield was already pretty full of garages, transporters and RVs but will be chocka come Sunday

The infield was already pretty full of garages, transporters and RVs but will be chocka come Sunday

Last session of the day was qualifying for the NASCAR trucks

Last session of the day was qualifying for the NASCAR trucks

We stayed for two practice sessions for the cars and the start of qualifying for the trucks. Not all cars were out on the track, though many did still circulate in a pack, so we can’t wait until Sunday when we’ll see all 43.

From there we had another hour’s drive to get to our accommodation on the outskirts of Birmingham. We sussed out the local shops for dinner and other food supplies.

Inspecting yet another huge stack of pumpkins

Inspecting yet another huge stack of pumpkins

Unfortunately I managed to strain my back today (not lifting the pumpkin!) and my walk kind of resembles that of my 96yo grandmother, but hopefully it will settle down in the next couple of days.

Daily stats:

  • Time zones crossed: 1
  • Approximate no. of firewood vendors along Speedway Boulevard: 30
  • Number of days now without seeing a squirrel: 2
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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cool pics! We’ve been to Daytona and Phoenix. We sat a bit near the track at Phoenix and were deaf for a few days afterwards!

    20 October 2013
    • Thank you! I’d love to see them race at Daytona (actually it would be cool to take a year off and follow the whole show around) though we’ll have to be satisfied with just seeing the track on this trip. Not sure how I would have gone on Sunday if I wasn’t wearing earplugs!

      22 October 2013
      • Himself recorded the race, told me it had a very exciting last few laps, watched it while I was out, then deleted it! I’d like to have seen it. If you are into motor racing, watch the film “Rush” (out now!) about Formula 1 racing – excellent film.

        23 October 2013
        • How rude! 🙂 Yes we have seen that and agree – fantastic movie.

          23 October 2013
  2. Janice Strong #

    Wow Hayley this is an amazing trip just like the movies. Can’t wait to read and see the pics on Sunday. What a fantastic sight NASCAR!!!
    Those pumpkins look like the Halloween ones. Hope your back recovers quickly by Sunday let’s hope.
    Thanks for a great blog. Love Janice x

    21 October 2013
    • Hi Janice, thank you :). Yes we’re really getting around, and have been very fortunate with the way things have been working out. Just one week left now. Yes the orange pumpkins were for carving and actually quite light to pick up. My back is still causing some trouble but I’ll have to suck it up – we’re now in New Orleans and have lots of walking over the next couple of days. x

      22 October 2013

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