The White Zone: It’s good to be back at Talladega


TALLADEGA, Ala. — I turned left onto Speedway Boulevard and drove east towards Talladega Superspeedway. About a mile from the main entrance, I came upon a backlogged line of vehicles.ย After a few minutes, it crept forward.

Finally, I turned right at the main entrance and went to cover my first NASCAR Cup Series race in over two years.

As I passed the time before the drop of the green flag, I took in the sights and sounds.

I took in the fans strolling up and down the grandstands of Talladega. Sunday’s YellaWood 500 was the only race this weekend that fans were allowed to attend.

I took inย Jimmie Johnson‘s Daytona 500 winning car from 2006 that was on display in the concourse.

And I took in crews pushing their driver’s car onto the grid.

It’s the stuff that I’ve missed so much in the last two years away from the track.

Furthermore, I’ve missed the comradery with my fellow beat writers.

For the Cup Series race, we organized a friendly little pool on who wins. I pickedย Brad Keselowski.

Then the race went green, and didn’t make it a lap before a wreck happened.

As the laps clicked by, I watched fans jump out of their seats and wave their hats at their favorite drivers. Two men — one in a red, white and blueย Kevin Harvick shirt, pounding, and the other in aย Chase Elliott shirt — pounded back cans of Budweiser and Michelob Ultra.

One woman in an orangeย Martin Truex Jr. shirt flashed her cap at him, every time he passed by her seat in the tri-oval.

Yes, this isn’t unusual. But I’ll take any semblance of normalcy in this pandemic era. That includes the aforementioned Harvick fan flipping offย Kyle Busch when he drove by.

During the red flag for a multi-car wreck at the start/finish line, I canvased the concourse to see what the fans were doing.

Some smoked. Some went to pee. Others got in line for the concession stands.

The timing of the final caution, prior to overtime, turned the run to the finish into a fuel mileage race.

Then it turned into a shitshow, complete with controversy on the final lap (a Talladega tradition).

When all was said and done, trails of speedy-dry laid strewn on the track in Turn 4, along with the tire marks from the multiple wrecks at the start/finish line.

As the waning Sunlight coated the clouds above the track in hues of warm colors, mixed in with blue shading, and haulers departed Talladega, one thought crossed my mind.

It’s good to be back.