Talladega weekend is already off to a great start. In typical NASCAR fashion, patriotism has been on full display.
If you are a NASCAR fan like us, then you probably remember the man, the myth, the legend — Johnny Ray. There are few people more patriotic than he was. The sight of his iconic diesel big rig with an American flag flying out of the back has long been a sight for sore eyes. It has been an awesome display of patriotism that has been unique to Talladega since back in 2001.
Unfortunately, Johnny Ray passed away back in January of 2020. But he left behind one of the best traditions in all of motorsports. Ray and his gold, brown, and chrome-colored Peterbilt with an oversized American flag flowing in the breeze behind him quickly became a fan favorite.
And on Saturday, that tradition held true once again. As the national anthem was being performed prior to the start of the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series race, NASCAR fans were treated with a familiar sight.
Old Glory was once again taking a lap on the Talladega Superspeedway behind a big rig. Old glory, of course, is a nickname for the flag of the United States. Both that and the national anthem prompted loud cheers and applause from the fans in the stands.
The official Twitter account for the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series tweeted a video clip of the awesome moment. Have a look:
NASCAR Big Rig Tradition Started as a Tribute to 9/11 and to Dale Earnhardt
Who would have thought that a simple tribute would have turned into one of NASCAR’s biggest patriotic traditions?
It’s hard to say, but that’s exactly what happened with Johnny Ray and his diesel rig. He explained as much in a past interview with the Alabama Newscenter. He said that he wanted to help heal the nation after the attacks on our homeland and the death of legendary NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt.
“The 9/11 attacks had just happened, and Dale had passed away earlier that year. I had a crazy idea to run my rig out on the track with an American flag attached to the back. It started off as a tribute to the country and to Dale.”
Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch echoed that same sentiment. It was his goal as well to help boost the morale of American citizens after going through so many tough times.
“Johnny’s flag idea really turned out to be something very unique to Talladega. It has become one of the most iconic national anthem traditions in sports,” he said. “I’ve seen others try things similar, but here at Talladega, we have the biggest flag on the biggest track. It can be copied, but it can never truly be duplicated.”