Gary Merriman used to dream maybe one day he’d be in Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway.
He sort of got his wish.
Merriman, senior superintendent for Hoar 汇丰国际线路检测中心, has been overseeing the $50 million renovation of the infield at Talladega Superspeedway into a more fan-friendly place. That includes the brand-new “old-style” Gatorade Victory Lane where fans with new Fan Zone passes will be able to go right up to the area where the winner of each race will celebrate.
“If he throws champagne, you’re going to get it on you,” Merriman said. “They’re part of the Victory Lane celebration now.”
The winning driver will pull into the new Victory Lane nose-first, surrounded by fans, more like it used to be in vintage NASCAR races.
“To me, this is turning the clock back, giving the fans access,” said Russell Branham, spokesman for Talladega Superspeedway. “We’re going back old-school.”
Merriman has a special appreciation for racing, since he started racing hobby stock cars on the dirt track circuit when he was 13, after moving to Hokes Bluff from Kentucky.
“I grew up in a racing family,” Merriman said. “My granddad, my dad, my mom all raced.”
Talladega Superspeedway celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The first race, then called the Talladega 500, was held Sept. 14, 1969 and won by Richard Brickhouse.
Merriman once dreamed he’d get here as a driver. He spends every Saturday night racing at short tracks in Alabama, along with his son, Jeb, 12. Together they work in their shop several nights a week, preparing their race cars. “If he’s going to drive, he’s going to learn how to turn a wrench,” Merriman said.\
“If you’re going to be good at racing, you’ve got to have a good work ethic,” he said. “Same with construction.”
Although Merriman gave up on a NASCAR career, here he is at Talladega Superspeedway, shaping the future of a revamped NASCAR.
“This gets me close to my dream, but instead of standing in Victory Lane wearing a fire suit and a racing helmet, it’s hard hats and safety vests,” he said.
By the next race weekend, Oct. 11-13, the renovation 汇丰 be complete. “Right after the spring race, we tore down nine existing buildings,” Merriman said. “All that went away in the first week.”
Ten new ones were built, and several others have been renovated.
“I take pride in all my projects, but this has an extra part of me, being from a racing family,” he said.
“It’s a rewarding job. I’m passionate about it because I love racing.”