Talking Talladega with Waltrip, Marlin and Charlie Daniels

Larry Woody • Updated Apr 7, 2017 at 8:30 AM

A Charlie Daniels concert will be part of a big May 5-7 weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Mt. Juliet Country Music Hall of Famer last week was featured -- via video -- at a kickoff luncheon in Nashville that included some Talladega reminiscing by retired NASCAR greats Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin.

The Charlie Daniels Band will perform an infield concert May 6, on the eve of the Geico 500. Information about tickets and times is available on the Talladega Superspeedway website.

Daniels, a long-time racing fan, once recorded a song about the late Dale Earnhardt. "The Intimidator" lyrics describe Earnhardt winning a thrilling race at Talladega.

"Charlie's song captures the thrill of racing on NASCAR's most exciting track," said Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch. "We are honored to have him performing on Saturday night prior to our feature event."

With a nod to Daniels, Waltrip said there's no fiddling around when the green flag drops at Talladega.

"Talladega is an animal unto itself," said Waltrip, a Franklin resident and three-time NASCAR champion who will call the race for Fox Sports.

"It is the ultimate in pack racing. The cars start bunched up and stay that way all day long at over 200 miles per hour. For drivers it's nerve-wracking. But for fans in the stands, and for our TV audience, it's the most thrilling race on the circuit. There's not another track like Talladega."

Waltrip, who retired from the Cup Series after the 2000 season and shifted gears to TV broadcasting, won four races at Talladega. At least that's what the record book says.

"I really won five," Waltrip said. "I won one relief-driving for Donnie Allison. I had dropped out of the race earlier and was on my way out of the track when someone ran up to me and said Donnie had gotten sick in the car and they wanted me to take over."

Waltrip chuckled at the memory:

"Man, the inside of that car was a mess. I thought I was going to get sick myself. But the car was fast, and before long I had it out front and went to win the race. So as far as I'm concerned that made me the winning driver, no matter who they put in the record book."

Another amusing memory:

"My first trip to Talladega was in '71 and I was driving an old Mercury with a set of used tires still on it from the previous race," Waltrip said. "As it turned out, the new tires Goodyear brought to the track that weekend weren't as good as the old tires on my car, and suddenly I found myself out front -- a rookie, leading his first race at Talladega.

"Eventually the old motor blew, and I finished 'way back in the field. But it sure was fun while it lasted. I made $650 for the finish."

Marlin also shared one of favorite Talladega tales. The Columbia resident, who started racing in his teens, had won three track championships at Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway when he and his father Coo Coo decided to give Talladega a try.

"We knew my mom would hit the ceiling," said Marlin, grinning. "It was one thing for me to race on the little track at Nashville, but it was something else for me to race on the biggest, fastest, most dangerous track in NASCAR.

"Daddy and I didn't know how to break the news to her, so that night when we sat down for supper he said, 'Pass the potatoes Sterling's racing at Talladega.' It took a minute before it sank in for my mom. Then, of course, she hit the ceiling."

Marlin won two races at Talladega during a career that also included two Daytona 500 victories. After retiring from the Cup series in 2010, Marlin returned to Daytona in February to receive the 25th annual Living Legends of Auto Racing Award.

Although he retired from the big leagues, Marlin, 59, continues to race at Fairgrounds Speedway where he got his start decades ago. He won a race last year, and plans to run a full schedule this season in the track's Pro Late Model Series.

"I still get a kick out of it," Marlin said. "Whether its Nashville or Talladega, I still enjoy being on a racetrack."

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