I’ve had the pleasure of attending a race at Talladega on multiple occasions, and let me tell you this: it’s one of the greater phenomena of this world of ours.  Not just the race, which always shapes up to be an exciting event, but the whole Talladega experience is just out-of-control. 

You know when one of your buddies tells you about some place, and he says something like “Dude, it’s so awesome! It’s like, the greatest thing ever in the history of life, bro!” Yet, when you actually get there it’s a huge letdown, and it isn’t even half of what your buddy cracked it up to be? Well, to be honest, when I heard the stories about Talladega, I thought it was going to be another one of those situations.

It wasn’t.

Talladega is everything it is cracked up to be, I can promise you that. But just like everything else, it’s not exactly the same as you would imagine. When you hear a Talladega story, it’s most likely true, even if it is outrageous.  Some crazy stuff happens down there, just an hour east of Birmingham. The hype does not come from tall tales; it is deeply rooted in legendary truths.  Talladega is just something that absolutely needs to be experienced firsthand in order to be fully appreciated.

The only way to get the full Talladega experience is to camp out in the free camping areas.  Now, if you have the financial freedom to buy a parking spot on Talladega Boulevard (the camping area in the infield), then by all means, get yourself a spot there. However, the average race fan isn’t well suited for this. The RV/camper trailer/tent crowd generally takes advantage of the free camping section.  That’s where the rowdiest grassroots partying takes place, and they all know how to party down like champions.

As you get close to the Talladega facility, you’ll notice many of the locals selling bundles of firewood on the side of the road. That’s because firewood is the secondary lifeblood to the free camping area of Talladega, right behind cheap domestic lagers.  If you don’t have a campfire of some kind at your camp site, then you’re doing Talladega the wrong way. Everyone has a fire going when the sun goes down, which allows the locals to become entrepreneurs for the week by selling bundles upon bundles of firewood.

During the daylight hours, it’s almost like seeing a bunch of soldiers hunkered down in the trenches during a cease-fire. It’s temporarily calm, and folks that are sipping on beer are going at a relatively slow pace. You may even see some folks drinking coffee in #88 pajama bottoms, presumably because they are trying to shake off the night prior.  As you look around, you’ll see one of the most colorful campsites in the world.  Flags are raised to represent the various allegiances of the campers.  If you look at the skyline of the campground, you’ll notice that the largest group of fans belongs to the Earnhardts.  The blues of the National Guard and the greens of Mountain Dew products scatter the horizon, as well as some older Budweiser reds, and there are plenty of black and red flags waving a salute to the fallen Intimidator.  Tony Stewart’s #14 is well represented on the flagpoles as well, in addition to the outdated oranges of his Home Depot days with Joe Gibbs racing. Let’s not forget that most of these flags are waving beneath Old Glory or the rebel flag, or maybe even a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.  Talladega campers know their priorities.

The more passionate fans (and there are plenty of them) tend to decorate their campsites even more outside of simple flag-waving.  A pretty common occurrence in the campground is to see effigies of the less popular drivers standing guard outside of someone’s campsite.  These can range from modified cardboard stand-ups of drivers, all the way to adult novelty blowup dolls with the drivers’ faces pasted on the heads.  Sometimes, at Talladega, it’s not the drivers that you like the most that inspire your campsite décor; it’s the drivers that you like the least.

Rowdy groups of long-time buddies have gone as far as purchasing school buses and painting them with NASCAR-related livery, for use as epic camping/party wagons.

As you are taken by the whole scene, you realize that there is no rhyme or reason to the campground, and you simply park your tailgate setup wherever there may be room. 

You’ve officially arrived at Talladega when you open up your vehicle, remove the cooler, and crack your first beer.  It’s almost a cardinal sin, in my opinion, if you don’t crack a beer upon arrival. That first taste of beer, alongside taking in the scenery, is something you won’t forget. Look all around you, say “Ahhh…” after that sip of beer, and tell yourself “I’ve made it.”

While the daylight roams, it is highly recommended that you get to cooking your first meal on the grill. Talladega has an effect on a man’s brain that compels him to drink like a fish, and you don’t want to drink Talladega-style on a hungry stomach.  Your campground neighbors may even be nice enough to offer you some of their food, which is pretty common at ‘Dega. People are really friendly around the campgrounds, and it’s just good etiquette to offer a stranger a bite to eat, an extra fire log, or a cold beer. There is a sense of brotherhood in the free camping section at ‘Dega, and it’s unequaled by other race tracks.

The tides begin to turn rapidly as the sun goes down. The fire pits begin to rage and the groups of people around them begin to rage even harder. The pace of beer-drinking goes up substantially as the sun sets, and the piles of empty beer cans begin to grow exponentially.  Music begins to play louder, and it’s quite the eclectic mixture of tunes.  If you walk 100 yards, you’ll hear songs like “A Country Boy Can Survive”, David Allan Coe’s raunchier tunes, pop country, and even rap/hip-hop/R&B tunes that entice the women of Camp Talladega to dance. 

Around 9 o’clock, the party atmosphere is in full force.  Words like “WOOOOO!!!!” and “OWWWWWW!” become the major forms of communication.  The best way to experience this night, from this point forward, is to simply walk around the campgrounds, where you’ll find out which campsite has the most rockin’ party at Camp Talladega. Aside from beer, fire, and music, women are the most popular sight after sundown. Campsites that attract women are the ones that have the most visitors.  Well-prepared campers stockpile sweet liquor and beads for the ladies, and just like the old saying goes “If you build it, they will come.”



There is a well-known phenomenon at restrictor plate tracks known as pack-racing, and the fans love it. However, there is another form of pack racing at Talladega with which many people are unfamiliar.  It is the strangest of all phenomena in racing: The large packs of drunken men who follow small groups of intoxicated women. The wilder women of Camp Talladega do just the same as the men: they walk around the campground looking for the type of partying that is synonymous with the track. The most popular women of Talladega travel in groups of 2-4, and they meander around, looking for beads and free shots of liquor. Much like Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras, the ladies hold up their end of the bargain by showing the crowd what it wants to see. When the women get bored with a particular campsite, they move on to new campsites. The pack of dirty old men, ages 15-90, sometimes as strong as 40 people, follows the girls. That is the other type of pack racing at ‘Dega.

That is the part that is rarely discussed in conversations about Talladega. Yes, there are good looking girls exposing themselves to the masses, and yes, there are epic campsites that can be found only at Talladega. But the “pack-racing” situation is a little pathetic, to be honest. The ratio of men wanting to look at women versus women who want to show off to men has to be 9:1. That’s a stat that is not commonly included in Talladega lore. Nonetheless, it still happens to give off the New Orleans vibe with a NASCAR-tailgate-party at the heart of it.

Some other interesting sights that can be seen at Talladega:

-E-Z-Up tent canopies that have hundreds of unique bead sets dangling from the tent frames

-Makeshift dance floors covered with suds from bubble machines

-Large fishing boats towed into the campsite, exclusively for use as dance stages for brave women

-“Spin-the-wheel” games that dictate the actions of participants; some of these actions can get REALLY raunchy

-The largest piles of empty beer cans that you’ve ever seen in your life. It would be no shock to see a pile with 1,000+ cans in it

-A pirate radio station being ran out of an RV, with the “DJ’s” simply making commentary on what’s going on at the campground

-Members of campsites spending their entire night passing out shots of apple pie moonshine to strangers, male and female, because some campers are just generous people and expect nothing in return

-Full karaoke setups; with lights, fog machines, and large enthusiastic crowds

-Once again, the largest piles of beer cans that you’ve ever seen in your life. It would be no shock to see a pile with 2,000+ cans in it.

In short, this is how I feel about Talladega:

The air is smoky and the visibility is low. There is fire all around you. Every individual in the campground has committed at least 5 of the 7 Deadly Sins in the past hour.  Excess and self-destructive behavior become common themes.

The last time I was in the free camping area at Talladega, I thought “It looks like Hell. The actions committed on these grounds are the same actions that will send folks into Satan’s 9th Circle. To a young man with questionable morals, this could be Heaven.”

There is no question that ‘Dega is a place where the racing action is as thrilling as the nightlife, although the nightlife is not for the faint-of-heart.  I recommend it to anyone with an adventurous spirit and a willingness to let go of all good judgment.