Talladega renames backstretch after NASCAR’s famed “Alabama Gang”

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Today, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will be racing at over 200 miles per hour through the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, which now includes a special tribute to NASCAR’s most famous figures from the Heart of Dixie, the “Alabama Gang.”

The back straight of NASCAR’s biggest oval was renamed “The Alabama Gang Superstretch” ahead of this weekend’s NASCAR festivities in honor of its original members, Bobby and Donnie Allison, and Red Farmer.

“No honor is too big for The Alabama Gang,” track president Grant Lynch said in a statement. “What we are doing in naming The Alabama Gang Superstretch is unprecedented in our sport. During our events, from TV cameras and still photography, fans will be able to see this accolade for some of our favorite people in the world.

“The gang has meant so much to NASCAR, Talladega Superspeedway and the state of Alabama, and this is just a small token of our appreciation.”

Talladega was often a successful track for both the original and later members of the Alabama Gang. Cheered on by the locals, Bobby, Donnie and Red combined for eight ‘Dega wins in their driving careers.

“When you won Talladega, there was something extra special about it,” Donnie said in his own thoughts. “It was a huge deal to us, our family and friends.”

Other Alabama Gang competitors that won at ‘Dega include Neil Bonnett and one of Bobby’s sons, Davey, who earned eight wins there (three in Sprint Cup, four in ARCA, one in IROC).

These days, up-and-comers Justin Allison (Donnie’s grandson) and Robbie Allison (Davey’s son and Bobby’s grandson) are continuing the group’s legacy.

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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