Disclaimer: On or off track, participation in either “Big One” at Talladega Superspeedway may not be voluntary.
The on-track “Big One” is obviously a large wreck that happens during the race. The off-track “Big One” is essentially an infield party. Both can scoop up the willing and unwilling.
“So, it was a good time. (Ryan) Blaney and I just did like the pillow fight on top of the balance beam or whatever, and that hurt,” Bubba Wallace said. “I think I pulled a muscle trying to keep myself on top of that thing.”
Because the “Big One on the Blvd” returns Friday after two years away due to COVID-19, here‘s a video @bobpockrass shared with me of @Blaney and @BubbaWallace pillow fighting at the @TALLADEGA event in 2019. (There‘s a “Big One” story coming; this isn‘t random.) pic.twitter.com/FqbUwNriXm
— Terrin Waack (@TerrinWaack) April 20, 2022
That was in fall 2019, the last time Talladega hosted its biannual infield party.
Well, let the good times roll once again.
RELATED: Complete Talladega weekend schedule
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Big One on the Blvd” returns Friday to kick off NASCAR‘s race weekend. Festivities will begin at 7 p.m. CT (local) and wrap around 9 p.m. CT. Unique to this spring, in honor of the event‘s resurgence, a firework show — estimated about 12 minutes in length — will follow for everyone in the area to see.
“We‘re extremely excited about it,” track president Brian Crichton told NASCAR.com. “It is a tradition at Talladega, and it‘s so good to have that tradition back.”
The “Big One on the Blvd” begins with a mini parade inside the track. Drivers ride on a 53-foot flatbed trailer that doubles as a makeshift float equipped with lights, microphones and speakers down Talladega Boulevard, starting on the Turn 3 side. They toss swag — T-shirts, koozies, beads or whatever is handy — out to the crowd.
The journey, but not the fun, ends at the intersection of Talladega Boulevard and Eastaboga Boulevard, right by the “Boulevard Bar.” This is where the games take place.
“I‘ve always been a part of the ‘Big One,’ ” Blaney said. “Because it‘s a great event for fans and it‘s a really fun time. I‘m happy it‘s able to come back, and I‘m probably gonna sneak out there and see what I can get into.”
Blaney and Wallace aren‘t the only drivers who have made an appearance. William Byron, Daniel Suárez, Ty Dillon, Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Corey LaJoie and many, many more are listed as attendees on Talladega documents.
Clint Bowyer was one of the original masterminds behind the “Big One on the Blvd,” which debuted in 2014. He, along with Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., were present at the inaugural throwdown.
Speaking of the first-ever, one of the games from that year is making a comeback Friday: barbecue-sauce wrestling. Fifty-five gallon drums of barbecue sauce have been brought in from all over the state of Alabama.
“The barbecue-sauce wrestling was just … it was electric,” Crichton said. “People had so much fun with it. I‘d have to go back to that one (as most memorable) just because the referee got dragged into it and the contestants were just having a lot of fun with it.”
Talladega put out an online “Pick ‘Em Fan Vote” to determine Friday‘s games. Along with “BBQ Sauce Wrestling,” fans chose “Oh Sit” (musical chairs, but with balls), “Rubber Pull” (a tug-of-war tire in a Jell-O pit) and “Slopfest” (three “tasty” delicacies).
There are two ways to gain access to the “Big One on the Blvd.” First off, all infield passes are guaranteed admission. Then, as an incentive, guests who renew their tickets receive a special renewal ticket that grants entrance.
“All my friends ask me like, ‘Where should we go watch a Cup race?’ ” Bowman said. “And I‘m like, ‘You either gotta go to Talladega, rent a camper and camp on the Boulevard, or you gotta go to a road-course race.’ I feel like those are the two things that I would want to do, so definitely excited to get back there. It‘s a cool place.”
Talladega was the first venue to allow NASCAR fans amid COVID-19, selling up to 5,000 tickets for the June 2020 weekend. Ticket sales were limited that October, too. Attendance was better in 2021, but mask and social-distancing regulations were still in place.
The revival of the “Big One on the Blvd” truly checks the final box. Talladega is 100% operational.
“Looking out into the infield and not seeing a RV or camper that June, it wasn‘t right,” Crichton said. “It just didn‘t seem, you know… It obviously wasn‘t Talladega.
“Talladega, it‘s like we say: This is more than a race. This is Talladega.”