Many of those fans set up campers, RVs and tents in a multitude of campgrounds within a three-mile radius of the track — some even make the track’s infield their home.
Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch said when the population reaches its peak, the area widely can be considered the fourth-largest city in Alabama.
In order to accommodate the various needs of the population, the Superspeedway maintains partnerships with Trinity Medical Center, multiple fire departments and area police departments to provide emergency medical, fire and law enforcement services during the frenzy-filled weekend.
“When you get 100,000 people together, especially when you have 40-plus percent of them camping with fires, equipment, wood piles and hatchets, you can have all sorts of accidents,” Lynch said. “Sometimes they’re having a few adult beverages, which can cause some issues.”
Available medical services include the J.L. Hardwick, M.D. Care Center, an infield medical center located near Turn 4 beside the Sprint Cup garages where four doctors and eight-10 registered nurses are prepared to treat injuries and ailments on and off the track. Three satellite care centers located in the grandstands each house a doctor and four nurses.
“Our medical care providers treat heart attacks, fire ant bites, (injuries requiring) stitches, really anything that can be treated at a 24-hour care center or emergency room we can see over the course of a weekend,” Lynch said. “(Women having) babies — we run the gamut.”
One of the biggest medical concerns Lynch said they’ve seen involves carbon monoxide poisoning cases.
“Somebody’s cold, they don’t think and they’ve had a few cocktails, so they say, ‘Well, that Coleman lantern is putting off some heat. Let’s put it in our tent,” Lynch said. “We’ve had a lot of carbon monoxide (cases). Out of all the issues we’ve faced, it’s probably the (leading) we’ve had with people passing away.”
Through a contract with Trinity, each care center maintains a healthy inventory of fresh medical supplies for each race.
“It makes us more cost-effective to work with someone to provide the medical supplies instead of purchasing them and storing them long-term,” the care center’s lead medical provider Dr. Bobby Lewis said.
The infield care center also boasts a helipad beside the center in case patients or race participants incur injuries requiring them to be flown to a hospital. Security manager Jimmy McKee added that ambulances, gurneys and other medical equipment are available as needed.
For fire emergencies, McKee stated the Superspeedway receives assistance from 13 volunteer fire departments for track-related issues and more than 180 firefighters for emergencies at the nearby campgrounds.
Race fans who get a little too rowdy may find themselves contending with officers from more than two dozen area police departments lending officers to help members of the Talladega County Sheriff’s Department.
Not only does the security building house a location to detain lawbreakers, but Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore said individuals are able to be booked and held until they post bond.
“We actually set up a booking operation on Friday and carry it through the weekend,” Kilgore said. “If it’s a misdemeanor charge, they can plead guilty before the magistrate and pay their fine on the spot.”
The most common issues Kilgore said he sees during the course of the weekend typically involve cases of disorderly conduct, public intoxication or public lewdness.
“We don’t let them break the law to the point where they’re endangering themselves or other people,” Kilgore explained. “We don’t go looking for offenses, but sometimes offenses find us.”
Kilgore noted arrest numbers have also decreased in recent years as the weekend now yields on average 25-30 arrests compared to 200 arrests when he first started working the races in 1988.
“The crowd is pretty orderly,” Kilgore said. “We mostly deal with isolated incidents.”
The team of medical, fire and law enforcement officers play an integral role in providing a safe environment for all race fans to enjoy, something Lynch said he takes pride in knowing the Superspeedway provides.
“I really believe if you’re going to have a medical, fire or police issue here, you’re as safe or safer being here than you would be anywhere else,” Lynch said. “If you think about how many people we have on property and the distance they would have to go here versus if you were at home or in a city somewhere, we can get a doctor (or emergency personnel to you) faster than you could somewhere else.”
Contact Shane Dunaway at firstname.lastname@example.org