‘Super moon,’ Cinco de Mayo and ‘Dega make for unusual weekend
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
May 06, 2012 | 5651 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo by Trent Penny
Photo by Trent Penny
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TALLADEGA --- Every once in a super moon, the Talladega Superspeedway chairman and his wife head to the track to look up at the sky.

“We got a bottle of wine and went up in the South Tower and watched the moon come up --- because I'm a big romantic, you know,” Grant Lynch said. “It was awesome. Coming up over Cheaha, it was just huge. It was really impressive.”

Thing was, that last full moon didn’t coincide with race weekend at the track. There weren’t thousands of NASCAR clientele reveling around the campgrounds.

But there were at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday, when the so-called “super moon” --- object of fascination and folklore ---- beamed its girth and pumpkin-colored glow through a break in the clouds to the southeast of NASCAR’s biggest track.

This wasn’t just any full moon lording over the Talladega faithful, and the track’s president wasn’t exactly feeling so romantic about the prospect.

Oh, did we mention that Saturday was also Cinco de Mayo?

“Every night is the perfect storm at the infield of Talladega,” Lynch said of the weekend.

Indeed, try to add up the elements. Super moon plus Cinco de Mayo plus, ahem, well-supplied NASCAR fans equals … do we even want to go there?

What a combination. But let's focus on the first of those ingredients:

The super moon occurs when the moon becomes full at its nearest point in its elliptical orbit of Earth. Because it’s closer, it looks 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than the standard full moon.

Though scientists have tried but never conclusively linked full moons with unusual behavior, count some police as believers. Anniston police Sgt. Chris Sparks said he believes “100 percent.”

“It typically brings out the craziness in everybody,” he said. “We handle calls that we wouldn’t handle on a normal night, and the oddest things occur."

The sergeant didn't want to go into too much detail about those "odd" occurences but did mention the local bar scene is "a lot busier."

And it seems "like we always have bad things happen," he said.

Now, let's turn to the biggest of full moons shining down on a race-weekend crowd at Talladega.

“The social atmosphere of the infield is something we take a lot of pride it, separating us from a lot of tracks out there,” Talladega spokesman Andrew Smith said. “There’s always a lot of superstitions that go along with Talladega --- the haunted infield and being built on an indian burial ground.

The full moon can be a factor in those kinds of superstitions that "run around Talladega," Smith said.

And that doesn’t begin to address the reveling. Talladega draws from around the Southeast, Smith said, and the average track camper drives 300 miles to see a race.

“The way I’ve always described it to people is: The infield at Talladega is like going to Mardi Gras with a race breaking out around it,” Smith said.

Speaking of Mardi Gras, there’s a large Louisiana contingent at the track.

Some fans are famous, enough so that other fans seek them out for pictures.

Take Chelsea’s Chris MacNicol, also known as “Talladega Tire Man.” He wears a tire, hanging by suspenders, around his midsection and nothing else.

Well, he does wear an undergarment.

The muscle-bound sales rep for ICU Medical looks around the infield and sees a lot of people doing what he’s doing, just more fully dressed.

“It’s just a lot of people with no inhibitions and just having a whole lot of fun,” he says with a chuckle.

He offered some advice to a Facebook friend about to visit Talladega for the first time about how to approach life in the infield.

“They asked me what to expect, and I wrote them back,” he said.

"Pull your straps back and hang on," MacNicol wrote back. "Don’t question anything on Monday, because nobody else will remember, either.”

MacNicol said he once saw a fan dressed in full sniper camouflage, sneaking up on other patrons and scaring them.

Now, add a super moon to all of that.

“We’ll probably jump on top of the bus and take a peek at it,” he said. “It’ll be a good night.”

Lynch hopes to wake up to a stress-free Sunday.

“I just hope we still have the deed to the place in the morning,” he said.

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or jmedley@annistonstar.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.

Assistant Managing Editor Bran Strickland contributed to this report.

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