BUSCH: Alabama Mardi Gras

Talladega has a reputation of being the wildest party on the NASCAR circuit. You know it's going to be an interesting weekend when the infield has its own jail. With 212 acres of infield, race weekend camping areas swell to the size of a small...

Talladega has a reputation of being the wildest party on the NASCAR circuit. You know it's going to be an interesting weekend when the infield has its own jail.

With 212 acres of infield, race weekend camping areas swell to the size of a small county. No race fan is as determined to have a good time as the faithful in 'dega. Beer flows, Lynyrd Skynyrd blares, and Mardi gras beads are distributed in exchange for showing various body parts.

It is an experience unparalleled in not just motor sports but most sports. Forget tailgating this is a four day frat party that culminates in a 500- mile race. A race where there is usually a great big wreck and at least one flipping car. Say what you say about race fans, as long as no one looses an eye they still want to see someone head-over-tail coming down the front stretch on the last lap.

"That's good stuff," says Marcia Long from Birmingham, Alabama. "You don't want anyone to get hurt or anything. But at Daytona and Talladega you are waiting for that big wreck. There is something pretty awesome about seeing that many cars get into it. Especially near the end of the race. Anyone who says they are not waiting for the big one is a liar."

Before fans settle into the racing, they've got four days to party thoroughly through Talladega, taking in the various cultures of the infield.

Beyond the luxury rides parked in the driver/owner lot lays Eastaboga Boulevard where everything from million dollar Prevost's to makeshift camp sites litter the stretch nicknamed 'chicken bone alley'.

"There is nothing like this anywhere in the world," said Mike Stager, who travels to this race twice a year from Ohio. "It's crazy. Totally nuts. I love NASCAR but there is nothing like coming to Talladega. It's NASCAR's answer to Hedonism."

Here is where you realize when you crossed the Alabama state line that not only did you lose and hour you lost about twenty years.

Confederate flags bluster in the wind, women parade around topless draped in Mardi Gras beads grasping their beers like their favorite 'woobie'. Men sport their favorite driver t-shirt and often let out a guttural yowl of "JUNIOR" when someone passes sporting the No. 8 logo. There is an inordinate amount of mullets.

For these fans, it's less about the racing and more about the experience of communing for four days with fellow NASCAR addicts. They sit around on lawn chairs reminiscing about their first race when they saw the legendary Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty or Cale Yarborough drive.

Race aficionados that hide their unadulterated love of Jeff Gordon Monday through Friday as they slog through their daily routines can let it rip in Talladega. The feeling of being a stranger in a strange land vanishes with the first drink passed and the first tale told.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup , NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Richard Petty , Cale Yarborough