For the past five years, truck drivers have come together at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama to watch the races and enjoy one another’s company. This community of race-loving truck drivers was the idea of Tom Altom, an owner-operator and lifelong racing enthusiast, and they have gathered again for this weekend’s GEICO 500 race.
His truck, a 2016 Freightliner Evolution, is a tribute to his love of NASCAR. The truck is named Digger, after the unofficial NASCAR mascot, an animated gopher. His truck features Digger graphics. Altom, who is leased to Prime, had a vision of building a community of truck drivers who love racing.
Altom has been visiting race tracks his entire life, and he’d always see trucks bobtailing here and there at different races. He thought, why not try and bring those drivers together?
“About five years ago I was leaving a race and I saw some more bobtails. I’m going down the highway and I’m thinking, you know it would be really cool if drivers got together and camped together and sat together and made friends that are into car racing,” Altom said.
It occurred to him that he could be the one to make that happen. Altom began reaching out to different race tracks to try and get something set up, and the track in Talladega was the first to embrace the idea. By partnering with the track, Altom was able to organize discounted group tickets and parking for the group.
In the Annual Talladega Drivers Group’s first year, nine drivers participated. In its second year, just three drivers, including Altom, came out. But in its third year that number bumped up to 17, and in its fourth year, last year, the number of participants exploded to 50. For the race this weekend Altom is expecting 60 people with about 30 trucks. The drivers will park and sit together.
“Last year they came back and our (Talladega) representative informed us that we were the third largest group at the track. They came back and said we were the only group like the one that we had,” Altom said, because their group was comprised of individuals. The two largest groups were corporations that had provided tickets to their employees.
“We’re different. We don’t know each other,” Altom said.
Altom goes out of his way to provide his fellow truckers, who he considers to be his guests, with a great experience. He uses money out of his own pocket to provide a full-size kitchen, a lounge, and a full sound system. He covers all ticket fees for his guests, so they just pay the reduced face value prices for tickets and campsite parking. He coordinates a potluck and treats all of his guests to breakfast the Friday morning before the race kicks off, among other perks.
“Sometimes I just stand there and watch all of them having fun and making friends, and I love it,” Altom said. Seeing his fellow truckers bond over racing and form new friendships makes all his effort worth it, he says.
“That’s why our numbers are building up, because they’re coming back so they can hang out with their new friends that they’ve talked to all year while on the road,” Altom said. “I see their pictures of them meeting up and having dinner together, and they never would have met each other if it wasn’t for this group.”
Altom wants to see the group continue to grow and bring drivers together. Drivers interested in more information on how to participate can reach out to the group via Facebook.
“To see that this is because I brought everybody together, it’s exactly why I do this. I just absolutely love it,” Altom said.