Drivers take own cars on NASCAR track for tornado relief


The Associated Press

LINCOLN, Ala. — Levi Jennings drove his 1967 Ford pickup truck on the Talladega Superspeedway race track on Friday.

Retired truck driver George Calma, 67, of Albertville drove his 1974 little red Corvette.

Brian Feist stopped by on his way from Michigan to Orlando with a luggage carrier on top of his Chrysler Sebring and took his two laps.

Scott Davenport brought his dog, Belle, as his passenger in a Chevrolet Tahoe, taking Turn One at 84 miles per hour.

“I looked at her and she was sitting at a 33-degree angle,” Davenport said. “She loved it.”

It was that kind of day at Talladega Superspeedway, with drivers paying $50 for two laps, and all proceeds going to tornado relief. Some of them reached speeds in the mid-90s, although they were required to stay behind a pace car with no passing.

“It’s a chance for us to showcase the track for people who’ve never seen it,” said track spokesman Russell Branham. More than 330 pre-registered and paid the $50 donation to tornado relief, he said. Others showed up throughout the day. More than $45,000 was raised. The event was open from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday.

“That was terrifying,” said Lauren Sutter, 23, who drove two laps with her mother in an SUV. “I have a whole new appreciation for NASCAR drivers. “Their arm muscles must be really strong. It’s like a ride at the carnival that once it starts you regret getting on but once you’re going it’s too late.”

“It was so cool,” said her mother, Greta Sutter.

Just like on the highway, some drivers complained that the people in front of them didn’t go fast enough.

“You need to be speeding coming around the turns,” Cathy Freeman of Trussville said of driving on the 33-degree high banks. “You’ve got to keep pace. If you slow down, it’s scary.”

Her friend, Beth Stewart, texted her on Thursday and asked if she want to drive at the Talladega Superspeedway. “That was the whole reason we did it, is for tornado relief,” said Stewart, who also took a turn driving. They did it twice so both could drive two laps. They said they were driving over 90 miles per hour.

The fun was a bonus. “It was amazing,” she said. “I’m still shaking. We were both screaming.”

By Paul Wager