E.A. Sports Today

Lynch ‘ready’

Talladega chairman heads into final race weekend before retirement having overseen tremendous growth in quarter-century at the track

Retiring Talladega chairman Grant Lynch (L) and track president Brian Crichton (C) shares a story with Donnie Allison publicist Jimmy Creed prior to Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
TALLADEGA – Grant Lynch is in charge of the biggest and fastest race track in NASCAR, but, as strange as it may seem, he has never gone around the track any faster than he might go down his neighborhood street.
Oh, he’s been around it a time or two in his Suburban or pickup truck in his quarter-century as chairman of Talladega Superspeedway, but never – not once – has he gone around it at even pace car speed.


“I’ve never liked the speed aspect of it,” he said Wednesday after ribbon-cutting ceremonies to open the Alabama Gang Superstretch infield RV Lot. “I don’t have that gene that I need to go fast like some people do.
“I’ve also seen people go around who hadn’t done very well, so I’ve seen that side of the sport, too. I’ve never given pace car rides or anything like that. I have people who are trained to do that.”
He hasn’t been to Victory Lane, either. That, he figures, is the domain of the sponsor and the race winner.
Well, if he ever wanted to do either – for old time’s sake – the last chance comes Sunday in the 1000Bulbs.com 500 that will be his final race before heading into retirement, where he’ll occupy his time with a lot of hunting and fishing and all the community projects to which he’s devoted.
Lesa France Kennedy, International Speedway Corp.’s CEO and granddaughter of Talladega and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., called Lynch the “perfect fit” to lead the track these past 25 years.
Lynch came to the track as general manager in 1993 and steadily was promoted up the ranks of the company and the track. The facility has undergone several changes and upgrades, building garages, new grandstands with fold-out chairs, video boards and the latest $50 million infield transformation project that will be his legacy. On the asphalt, the track’s second major weekend was moved from the summer to the fall and the truck series debuted in 2006. It’s hosted some of the fastest and most thrilling races in the sport.
He’s been gearing for this day for the last 18 months, ever since he told ISC COO Joie Chitwood of his plan to retire. Now that the day is near he’s “ready to leave.” Still, there may be a tear to two when they turn out the lights Sunday night.
“I know what’s coming,” he said. And he knows what he’s going to miss.
It’s the fans that come from 22 countries and all 50 states to watch the racing here twice a year, making it consistently the No. 2 and 3 ticket sales event for ISC behind only the Daytona 500 and nobody is going to outdraw it.
“The fans are fun at Talladega; they seem to enjoy what we do for them,” he said. “Our place is for the fans. We don’t have giant suites lining the whole top of our grandstands. We’ve got the Big One on the Boulevard. We’ve got the new Big Bill’s. Everything we’ve done and built here isn’t for really that much the corporate people although we have a corporate side, it’s for the race fans.
“That’s what we did with the whole Talladega Garage Experience. Let’s immerse our fans into the heart of the sport, and we’ve done that with the two bays on both sides of Big Bill’s.”
The 35,000-square foot social club is parked between what will serve as the garage for the top 22 teams in the points standings when they come to Talladega, giving the patrons as close a look as they’ve ever had to the prepping of the cars.
The $50 million infield transformation project is Lynch’s legacy, but nowhere will you find his name on it. In fact, his name isn’t on anything out here, and that’s just the way he likes it.
“I don’t want any of that,” he said. “Nobody does this by themselves so you shouldn’t have some name up there saying that he built that, because I didn’t. There was a team that did it. It was the people we hired and everything else.”
One of those people is Brian Crichton, the track’s vice president of marketing and sales who has been picked to succeed Lynch as president. Crichton studied the nuances of Talladega under Lynch for nearly 10 years.
He has gone around the track at speed as a certified hot lap driver at the track. He has been to Victory Lane. But it’s not his aim to be a different leader.
With Talladega pointed in “such a great direction” right now, he says, there will be no “sweeping changes” forthcoming.
“The team here is 100 percent ready,” Crichton said. “My biggest responsibility is taking the wheel and keeping it pointed in the right direction.
“Grant is obviously a legend in the sport and what he’s done at Talladega Superspeedway with the team that’s here in place is phenomenal. We look forward to just continuing the traditions.”

Grant Lynch talks excitedly about Talladega’s infield transformation project when he introduced it in July 2018. The completed project will be open for business this weekend, Lynch’s final race before retiring.

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