The Ice Bowl
I made my first visit to the Talladega Short Track and its 30'th Annual Ice Bowl. This is a 4 day event (1 practice and 3 racing) and the 2021 edition attracted.....are you ready?......352 cars!
Not sure how many classes were involved, but there were 6 features run on Sunday, the final day. I believe they ran 4 cylinders and a few local classes on earlier days, but it was clear that every class had 35-45 cars.
TST is a great little place! It is a dirt paperclip with around 20 degrees of banking in the turns. They had not turned the track over, and even after a day or two of racing, but it had no holes or jumps at all. Early in the day, the racing was very good, although it took so much rubber from so many cars that it became like a one-groove pavement track.
The surface is great, and I bet the Saturday night show is too. The difference between running the bottom or running the cushion produces a big speed change, so it keeps everyone from running the same speed.
I liked it!
Otherwise, the facility is very dated. Concessions were tiny; I believe they left a ton of money on the table. There was one concession line for a crowd of 1000+ on a very chilly day. They could have sold hot chocolate and coffee by the barrel...
The bathrooms were small and primitive too. The first time I went in, I thought "great, no place to pee." There was nothing hanging on the wall, but then I saw I was standing next to a trough. I understand that is how they do it in the mideast; Mumbai Motorsports Park for example, or maybe Tehran International Speedway. Oh well, ya gotta just use your imagination.
The fact that they drew 352 during cold and rainy weather is amazing. Sunday was the best day by far: 41 degrees and some sun. Otherwise the night events were very cold and wet.
I saw something amazing: there were so damn many cars that dozens of teams were pitted across the street ON THE HIGHWAY SHOULDER. Not just last minute teams either, there were toters and stackers parked right next to the road. Imagine having your racecar on stands, trying to change tires, with TRAFFIC wizzing by 2 feet away!
After two full nights of preliminary events, you would expect the line-ups to be set, and for Sunday to be main event day. No so. I watched almost 3 hours of B mains and hot lap sessions before the first feature rolled off at 3 pm. This race took an hour, and the SLM 50 was not much faster. The point is that they organized the show for the benefit of the racers, and with little consideration of the fans.
But they drew 352 and made, I expect, a ton of money.
I got to see 88 year old Red Farmer in his Crateracing USA LM. Red did not transfer in his B main, but I suspect that the 70 year racing veteran got a provisional or something. I missed his race and only got to see 2 features in the 5 hours I was there.
Overall, I a give them a huge pat on the back for their outstanding turnout! The race director needs a talking to about keeping the show moving quicker, but at least the annoucer was excellent and the place was well run overall.