William W. Moss
America’s Authority on the Engineering of Automobile Racetracks
Inducted in 2001
William Walter Moss was born in Birmingham into a construction family, the founders in 1939 of the Moss Thornton Company. Moss Thornton completed the first phase of the Red Mountain Expressway, recognized and respected as an engineering feat. The firm also carried out many interstate highway projects (including I-20, I-65, I-64, and I-459), as well as industrial, railway, and navigation projects.
Mr. Moss joined Moss Thornton in 1963, following graduation from The University of Alabama with a B.S. degree in civil engineering and three-plus years as a Corps of Engineers post engineer in Germany. Initially a project manager at Moss Thornton, by 1973 he was the company’s president. Under his direction, the firm became one of the largest earth-moving/construction firms in the U.S. It provided much of the earthwork for Disney World and built most of the park’s roads and parking lots.
Even before taking the wheel at Moss Thornton, Mr. Moss would take the turn that set his company’s reputation and his own, legendary one. Having raced cars as an amateur in the 1950s, he knew William H. G. France, “the father of NASCAR.” Seeking a leap
forward for stock car racing, France asked Mr. Moss if he could build a radically faster track. It was not yet 1970, and there was no book on designing roads for such speeds. Bill Moss would write it himself, innovation and ingenuity his paper and pen. And top speeds would suddenly go up 15 percent.
A chief challenge: smoothly paving the steeply banked track Mr. Moss designed. At race speeds, pavement imperfections of one-quarter inch over 100 feet will be detected. On a 33-degree bank, typical paving equipment will slip sideways. The 2.66-mile Talladega Super Speedway (now the Alabama International Motor Speedway) is a tri-oval with a four-mile road course. Its pavement mix set the standard for smoothness and durability. Two decades later it still supports 200-mph races. For 11 years it held the closed-course world speed record, 221.160 mph. It is the largest sports venue in Alabama, a boon to the state economy. Through the annual Race Fever Night, which Mr. Moss helps organize, it is a vital benefactor of the Alabama School for the Deaf and Blind, also located in Talladega.
The great attention paid to the Talladega speedway by the racing world means that, today, Mr. Moss spends much time studying proposed racetracks around the country. Moss Enterprises, the company that evolved to take on the specialized design and construction of speedways recently completed the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Kentucky Speedway. Additional short-track projects for NASCAR have also been completed.
In 1987, The University of Alabama Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering named Mr. Moss a Departmental Fellow. The University of Alabama College of Engineering honored him in 1994 as a Distinguished Engineering Fellow. He currently serves on the UA College of Engineering Leadership Board and the Civil and Environmental Engineering Advisory Board. He regularly visits his alma mater to lecture to classes or the ASCE student chapter, and each year he sponsors a field trip to Talladega. There he demonstrates for UA students his precast concrete plant, discusses the structure of the grandstands, and advocates career goal setting. Finally, and unforgettably, he invites the students to drive around the race track.
Mr. Moss and his wife, Marie, live in Birmingham, where he is very active with the Alabama Boys and Girls Ranches and the Salvation Army. They have three children and two grandchildren. He has been vice chairman of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, in Talladega, for a quarter-century and is lifetime chairman of its construction committee. He is also active with the Alabama Automobile Racing Pioneers.