Thousands come to party at 'Dega
Billy Phillips, Elizabeth Hobby, Jenna Murphy, Kenny Hobbs and Jim Murphy camping out in Mambi Bambiville, as they have for the last three years. The group of Georgia fans is part of a bigger group that started out camping in Atlanta, but now prefer Talladega.
TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY — It’s not just the races that draw thousands of people to the Talladega Superspeedway every year. The campgrounds around the track collective comprise some of the biggest parties anywhere.

Steve Snyder of New Orleans, compared the atmosphere to “Mardi Gras in Alabama. I’m actually not that big a fan of the big races. But I’ve been coming here for the last 10 years because of the atmosphere at the campground.”

Snyder was at the race with a group of friends from Texas, some of whom are attending their first, second or third races. The drivers they favor are all over the map, including Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and “Bobby LaBonte, but he won’t win.” One will be pulling for the M&Ms car or the DoubleMint car, and one said he’s rooting for Keith Mayfield.

Down the road, a group from Montecello, Ga. has set up in Mambi Bambiville, a tradition that started in Atlanta. Billy Phillips is the self-proclaimed president and “si-co” or site coordinator. “My sister-in-law is the mayor,” he explained. “Me and my friend Crazy John came up with the name. He had to have hip replacement surgery, though, so he couldn’t be here this time.”

Mambi Bambiville was a much larger operation in Atlanta, although the current party says they prefer Talladega. For one thing, much smaller campsites in Atlanta are ridiculously expensive, and the races are better in Talladega, also. They have been regulars at Talladega for the past three years.

“We got a really good package,” he said. “I’ve been on pit row twice, but none of them ever have, so that’s exciting, too.”

The group even had T-shirts and beer cozies for a while, although Phillips said it was unclear who paid for them and why they stopped.

“But it’s still a good way to find people in crowds,” he added.

”And we know the folks in the Talladega Walmart are always glad to see us,” Elizabeth Hobby said. And incidentally, Montecello, Ga. is the Deer Capital of Georgia.

Mike Dancy of Mississippi has been going to the races in Talladega for the past seven years, but Cynthia and Phyllis Dancy and Joe Morgan are all attending for the first time.

Mike said he’s here for the race. Cynthia said she loves the atmosphere so far, characterizing her experience as “really neat.” She has not settled on a favorite driver yet, although Mike pulls for Jimmy Johnson and Joe for Tony Stewart.

John Dwoark was camped out with half a dozen friends who all drove down together from Altoona, Pa. He has been attending races in Talladega for 20 years now.

“It’s a great time,” he said. “We love the race, but we also love the party and the camaraderie you find here. And of course, all the friendly folks down here.”

Again, the favorites in this group were all over the map. Naturally, there was a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, while others said they would be pulling for Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex and Mark Martin.

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