TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Albany Marines recently visited one of the biggest races of the year at Talladega Superspeedway April 4-7.
These 23 Marines' mission was to raise money for the Marine Corps Birthday Ball by selling beverages for Americrown during the race. In the past Marines took on the hungry and thirsty crowds by operating vending booths. The Marines who attended this year's race faced a new challenge ahead of them.
The adventure started April 4 at 6 a.m. when the Marines loaded their gear and headed for Alabama. After about five hours of driving, they finally arrived.
The weather was a little wet so Marines set up camp on the infield as quickly as possible. After everything thing was set up the Marines had chow.
Gunnery Sgt. Richard Walker, school liaison officer, pointed out the Marines' objective: the rows of blue and white stadium seats around the speedway.
"Our objective is to sell as much as we can to those people who will be in those seats," Walker said.
The next morning the Marines' real work began. The races for the day were the Busch Series, which included the Aaron's 312 and the International Race of Champions, held solely for past champions of racing events from all racing series.
Dubbed "The World's Fastest Speedway," the Talladega track is the largest, fastest, and most competitive speedway in racing history.
The Talladega Superspeedway can seat approximately 160,000 people in the stands and literally thousands more in the 215-acre infield.
Before race fans began filling the stadium, the Marines stood in the stadium and surveyed the vast stadium that would their province during the day.
They loaded their beverage trays and began selling. It was not as easy as it sounds. They made their way through thousands of yelling people in the stands with their bulky trays.
Most Marines didn't mind the work because they were able to watch the race while they worked.
"This was my first time at Talladega, and I had a good time, even though there was a lot of work involved," said Lance Cpl. James Carter, administrative clerk. "The fact that we were able to watch the race while we worked was a good incentive."
According to Brian Crusan of Americrown, at the end of the first day the Marines had sold approximately $75,000 in beverages.
On the third day of their venture, the Marines prepared for the "big one," the
Winston Cup which was 499 laps around the speedway.
The race began with a prayer for all of the service members abroad and at home who were serving in this time of war. There was also a demonstration by the fans with cards that had letters on them that spelled out "God bless our troops".
According to track officials, Sunday's race attendance and concession sales were down from last year.
Despite the decrease in patron numbers, the Marines sold thousands of dollars of beverages to thirsty race fans.
"The mission was a success," Walker said. "After all, we have about $2,000 we didn't have and those Marines who have never experienced such an event had the opportunity to do so."
Although the Marines enjoyed the race and the festivities each day, they were ready to return home.