Cursed. Haunted. Not words you would normally use to describe a NASCAR race track, but these words occur often in the history of Talladega Superspeedway.
Intertwined in the spectacular moments of NASCAR history that were made at the track, affectionately known as Dega to most hardcore race fans, are stories of Indian burial grounds, ghost sightings and mysterious deaths.
Before NASCAR was officially formed, “Big Bill” France was already hunting for land to develop into race tracks. France had his sights set on Hillsborough, NC for the site of a new facility but the local religious leaders would have none of it. According to Racing vs. Religion by L.D. Russell, when France petitioned the locals with the idea of the race track, the ministers refused it as way of ‘preserving the sanctity of the Sabbath’.
So, France began hunting elsewhere and in the late ‘60’s discovered Talladega County in Alabama.
The land that makes up Talladega County once belonged to Creek Indians and it is rumored that when the local Creeks were defeated by Andrew Jackson in 1813 a shaman cast a curse on the area. Another popular legend is that the land on which Talladega Superspeedway, formerly Alabama International Motor Speedway, now sits was once used as an Indian burial ground.
Construction on the facility began on May 23, 1968 and was completed in time for the first scheduled event on September 13, 1969. Two races were completed successfully that weekend, but after the pole was set for the inaugural Cup Series race at 199.466mph, the Professional Drivers Association, headed by Richard Petty, refused to run in the next day’s event due to the unsafe situation. The tire companies were unable to develop a tire that would withstand the fast speeds at the new track.
But, the first Cup race was run as scheduled, without the PDA drivers and without any major incident.
However, as the years passed, and as drivers with names like Baker, Waltrip, Allison, Elliott and Earnhardt came to fame on the 2.66-mile tri-oval, strange occurrences began building on the legend of the Talladega curse.
Multiple drivers have lost their lives on the high banks of Dega in strange wrecks, innocent bystanders were killed in freak accidents in the infield and on the facility grounds, and one driver even claims to have heard voices.
In 1973, Bobby Isaac was leading the race and supposedly heard a voice that told him to pull off the track. He listened, and always believed that he escaped death that day by heeding the mysterious voice.
The heroic stories combined with the haunting legends give Talladega Superspeedway a unique history in this sport, albeit a spooky one.
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Alabama for this weekend’s AMP Energy 500 hardcore race fans can expect to witness a new and exciting chapter in Talladega lore, especially considering the race falls on Halloween weekend.
Talk about the perfect NASCAR ghost story.
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