Talladega — it's the legendary superspeedway immortalized in the Will Ferrell comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." But the blockbuster just scraped the surface. Talladega is hard-core, high-speed racing — and a nonstop infield party that will make your mother blush.
The lure of Talladega is undeniable and irresistible for NASCAR fans. More than a hundred thousand people from all corners of the country make their way to this Southern racing haven and once they arrive, there's no telling what they'll do.
"NASCAR in Primetime" follows a group of die-hard fans on a 900-mile road trip to Alabama, then stays up all night with the infield revelers to reveal what really goes on when the sun goes down. And on race day, the on-track drama will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Talladega is 2½ miles long, allowing drivers to build up serious speed. It's also the site of some of the worst wrecks in racing history. The track was so fast that NASCAR had to slow the cars down. Several years ago, NASCAR introduced restrictor plates — a way of capping the cars' top speeds — in order to reduce the number of crashes and keep racing as safe as possible.
Restrictor plates even out the playing field, but there's debate about how much safer they make racing. With every car going about 200 mph, the drivers tend to bunch up on the track. That means if there's a wreck, it will probably involve multiple cars. At Talladega, the destiny of every driver at this race is in the hands of his competitors.
Driving too aggressively can lead to massive crashes and while the fans may get a rush from seeing wrecks, the drivers and their families fear them. Racing at Talladega is dangerous and no one is more aware of that than the wives and girlfriends of the drivers.
But the drivers say that they can't think about such things — sure, it's in the back of their heads, but during the race, nothing but winning is in their thoughts. They enter a different mental realm.
Juan Pablo Montoya is back again this week and ready to raise more eyebrows. After wrecking Tony Stewart out of the race at Texas the previous week, Montoya has made it clear that he's willing to do anything to win. Winning is everything in NASCAR, but does Montoya know where to draw the line?
Jeff Burton has been racing NASCAR for years, but his wife, Kim, still gets nervous when he climbs into his car. Burton and Kim were high school sweethearts and Kim has always stood by her man when it comes to racing. Still, it's clear that the high-stress lifestyle takes it toll on Kim and she knows that Talladega can be especially unpredictable.
Johnny Sauter's girlfriend, Cortney, faces her fears head on by watching Sauter's 2002 Talladega crash over and over. It was one of the worst wrecks in NASCAR history, but Sauter emerged unscathed. He's back this year to prove that he can run a clean race and his performance shocks even his own pit crew.
Sauter is stubborn and defiant, but his irreverence masks a sense of disappointment in his career. Deep down, he thinks he can make it to the top on his own, but in Talladega, being a loner may hurt his chances. Can he fight his way to the front of the pack or will he be shuffled to the back?