No matter the geographical home of the fan, each share a common bond through experiencing the roars of the engine and the smell of rubber meeting asphalt.
Earl Ruark, a street commissioner for the city of Manchester, Ohio, stands with friends playing a friendly game of corn toss, more commonly referred to as “cornhole,” as they anticipate the running of the weekend races.
“This is my 18th season to come to the races,” Ruark said. “We come for the fall and spring races each year.”
Ruark supports all drivers under the Roush Fenway Racing banner.
“Jack Roush is from my hometown,” Ruark said. “He gives us pit passes when he comes back home each year for Jack Roush Day, which this year was the 11th year our town celebrated the day.”
Bill Carter, a Portland, Ore., native, will be attending his first spring race, but the retired detective for the Portland Police Department previously attended five fall races at Talladega.
“We don’t have any NASCAR tracks in Oregon,” Carter said. “Southwest Airlines usually has great deals on tickets, so I meet up with my stepson in Chicago and make the trip down to Talladega.”
Carter, a Greg Biffle fan, noted it was an adjustment preparing for Alabama’s spring weather.
“It’s definitely windier than it is in the fall,” he said.
Even in a sea of RVs and pop-up tents, it’s hard not to notice the trio of Cobra Trikes at the campsite of Richard Houchens, a retired logger from Glasgow, Ky.
Houchens, who also serves as director for District #9 of the Kentucky Motorcycle Association, has never missed a race at Talladega in 27 years. He proudly proclaimed he was diehard fan of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
“I was at Daytona when Dale Sr. was killed in his wreck,” Houchens said. “I’ll always be a fan of Dale Jr. even if he never wins another race. I’ll be down at every race in Talladega until I die.”
Some fans stake their claim to a location, seemingly annexing it as part of their own informal village for the race week.
That’s precisely what has happened under the big checkered flag in the North Park free camping area. Emmett Orr, a retired truck driver from Villa Rica, Ga., proudly displays a banner on the tent in front of his RV that says, “Welcome to Bubbaville.”
Orr, a Kevin Harvick fan, has been coming to Talladega for more than 20 years and established “Bubbaville” in 1998.
“This will be the 15th year we’ve set up camp in this spot,” Orr said. “I get to be the mayor of Bubbaville sometimes. Sometimes Chuck (Pierce) is mayor and sometimes Elaine (Pierce) is the mayor.”
Not all race fans are veterans of the Talladega experience. Self-professed “Winter Texans” Don Densmore and his wife, Pat, decided to make the stop at Talladega on their way back to their home in Camden, N.Y.
“We go to three to four races a year and this just happened to be the first time we were ever in the area,” Densmore said. “Every race is a fun experience.”
Pat, an Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth fan, said they couldn’t afford to pass up the chance to experience their first race at Talladega.
“We would’ve loved to have come to a race here before,” she said. “Since we were so close and only a couple hours away from the track, it was the perfect opportunity for us.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at firstname.lastname@example.org