After completely leveling expectations with the building of Daytona International Speedway, Bill France Sr. decided he still wanted more.
Not satisfied with already being acrediteded for creating the largest and fasteset track in racing, France began itching for another only few short years after opening the gates of Daytona.
The checklist for his new track was short, simple and to the point. The track had to be #1: Bigger, and #2: Faster. The other things he considered was location in proximity to an interstate, and a local population of 20 million within a few hundred mile radius.
Apparently the leader of NASCAR still had something he felt they left out of Daytona. He wasn’t about to quit till he felt as though he had built the perfect beast.
The only issue remaining was; Where? With that question looming in the back of Bill France’s mind, he decided to sit on his new vision of another Superspeedway until a later date.
The Insurance Man That Changed The Plan;
It was 1965 and things couldn’t have been much better for Bill France and NASCAR. Fans were cramming into cars and traveling all across the eastern U.S. to buy tickets for NASCAR events.
Bill France was sitting back watching his superspeedway, Daytona International draw record setting crowds. Everyone remotely involved with stock car racing was making money and was absolutely estatic about it.
From a little area called Anniston, in north Talladega County Alabama. There was an insurance executive named Bill Ward. He loved NASCAR and even drove race cars locally in Alabama.
Just by chance, during a conversation with Bill France at the Superspeedway in Daytona, France happen to mention he would hope to one day build another Superspeedway that would have no rival, nor equal.
Ward left France that day and traveled back to Alabama. However, France’s words kept spinning through his mind. So later that week, Bill Ward, an insurance man from Anniston, Alabama took himself on a hunting trip. The object he was hunting was land, and a whole lot of it.
Not Much Could Come Between Bill France and Anything!;
In an area near Lincoln, Alabama, also located in Talladega County, was then a home for Anniston Air Force Base. Long since abandoned, the land was sold to the town of Anniston not long after World War Two by the U.S. Government.
When Bill Ward came across this massive spread of land in 1966, he almost exploded with excitement. He contacted the Mayor of Talladega, Jim Hardwick and then made a call to the soon to be second largest and fastest track, Daytona Superspeedway and set up a meeting between Bill France and Mayor Hardwick.
In the early summer months of 1966, Bill France, Bill Ward, Mayor Hardwick and 8 other city leaders met in a little resturant in Anniston, Alabama.
Throughout the meeting, Bill France kept his foot on the throttle trying to convince the Mayor and other city leaders that building another superspeedway would benefit all involved and the sky was the limit for growth potential wothin the area, if only they would agree to let him build a track.
The meeting ended and Bill France left the resturant still witout a place for his track. However, he invited everyone at the table to come down to Daytona for the annual “Firecracker 400″ at the Superspeedway in July. They all agreed to show.
That July, with grins on all their faces, the Mayor and the 8 city leaders watched a spectacle unlike anything they had ever seen! Long before the checkered flag fell on the “Firecraker 400″, Bill France had a grin on his face as well. He had his land for the new Superspeedway, just as he expected.
He Not Only Broke Ground, Bill France Shook The Grounds of Talladega;
On May 23 1968, Bill France began laying the track that would have no equal. After over $4 million and tons of asphalt, on Saturday, September 13th, nearly a year and a half later, Bill France’s new superspeedway was open to the public.
That day, Ken Rush, driving a Camaro, won the first ever race on the 2.66 mile, four lane track. It was the first of two races to be held that weekend at Talladega.
The second race was to be held the very next morning and was to field the biggest names in racing, including Richard Petty. However, due to speeds reaching 199 mph, drivers feared that the tires could not hold up to the speeds.
The tire manufactures tried, yet could not create a quality compound in such a short time. With that, the Professional Drivers Association, with their leader, Richard Petty, chose not to race and immediately left Talladega, less than 24 hours before Sunday’s race.
Bill France Put On A Show;
With the drivers in a boycott, and the stands about to fill, Bill France hired drivers from Saturday’s race, along with drivers that chose not to follow Petty, and put on a race that set the tone for every Talladega race to follow.
The very first fans to watch a major event at the largest and fastest superspeedway in racing, saw a three wide finish, with Richard Brickhouse winning by inches over Tim Vandiver and a mere foot ahead of the third place driver, Ramon Scott.
Since then nearly every type of racing record held, involving speed, has been set or broke by drivers at Talladega Superspeedway.
Bill France finally got his itch scratched. He created the largest and fastest superspeedway ever. After 43 years, nothing still equals it.
Filed Under: TRACKS