TALLADEGA, Ala. (WIAT) — It is race week as the NASCAR Cup Series rolls into Alabama. After Bristol comes Talladega as NASCAR’s fastest track prepares to welcome fans back ahead of Sunday’s main event.

“It’s an exciting week. We’re welcoming the world back to Talladega Superspeedway,” said track president Brian Crichton. “It’s going to be a big big weekend here at Talladega.”

Crichton said this is what he and his team work all year for: a NASCAR race weekend. The upcoming race will be the first race since the start of the pandemic where the track is back to 100 percent capacity.

“We’re doing all of our activities. All of the things that make Talladega so famous,” said Crichton.

That means after a two-year break “The Big One on the Boulevard” returns Friday night with a Mardi Gras-style parade featuring NASCAR’s biggest stars. Also, there will be a Saturday night concert with country music’s Riley Green and more.

“Our Talladega garage experience, our brand new $50 million in-field experience is going to be wide open too. So we’re excited about just bringing everything back,” said Crichton.

Across from the main entrance in what’s now a wide-open field, fans like Brad Simms are thrilled to be back.

“This is a ritual for us here. Twice a year,” said Simms. “We sat in line for three days just to get this spot. There’s nothing that compares to Talladega.”

COVID restrictions kept Simms away the last couple of years.

“When you miss three races and you go 25 years without missing one it’s like missing home,” Simms explained.

Simms will call the field at Talladega home for the next week, living side by side with folks from all over who have become like family over the years.

“It’s become a great comradery between us and the trust. If we see somebody messing’ with their stuff, we’re neighbors,” Simms explained.

Old friends who will be talking about new things like NASCAR’s Next Gen car making its Talladega debut this weekend.

“Leave them alone. The more they change them the more they change NASCAR,” Simms said.

Crichton said the cars are testing well on other tracks similar to Talladega.

They raced at Daytona with the Superspeedway package and they also raced at Atlanta with a superspeedway package. Two great races. So, we’re expecting another great race here at Talladega with the Next Gen car,” Crichton said.

New cars aside, everyone at the track on Monday seemed to be focused more on just being back.

“The Lord blessed me to be able to be here,” said Simms.

The race starts at 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are still available. Click here for more information.