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.

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski