How to Put Together a Trip to See the Country’s NASCAR Tracks and Races
With 23 tracks in 20 different states, following the yearly NASCAR racing season can be a challenge. For most of us, it’s a pipe dream, as the season is nine months long and scattered all over the country. While some can handle that type of road trip schedule, most of us have to settle for traveling to just a few of the races throughout the year. Even those can be difficult to plan though, as tickets sell out, hotels book up and you’ll need to rent a vehicle. And then there’s the race gear.
Planning travel around NASCAR races doesn’t need to stress us out, and here are some ways to make memorable family experiences without breaking the bank.
Book your venue tickets as far ahead as possible. Check out the track site as soon as you can to see what types of deals are available. Sometimes if you buy for both Saturday and Sunday races, you can get a cheaper rate as part of a package. Some tracks have increased rates for the seats in center sections if you only buy for Sunday and some even block those areas out unless you buy for both days.
Read up on the seating before you click that “buy” button. Some tracks still allow smoking in the stands, so if you don’t want to be near it, inquire. Some tracks have family sections that do not allow you to consume alcoholic beverages while in your seat; inquire about this ahead, too, so you don’t receive any surprises once seated, in the form of security asking to take that object from your hand. Some sections are a lot cheaper but on the other side away from all the pre-race activities, haulers and even the good food. If you don’t mind walking and want to save some money, those may be good options.
Sign up for the newsletters or any free lists/clubs the tracks have to offer online. These can result in special coupons, meet-and-greet autograph sections or other events, even package deals including reduced-rate hotel rooms.
Call hotel rooms directly as well as checking their sites. Aggregate booking sites can be helpful but they won’t always mention the packages that the hotels may be selling on their own. Some hotels offer shuttles, parties and other inclusions if you buy through them. There are hotels that will make fold-up chairs and umbrellas available for the weekend.
A NASCAR getaway is also a great time to think outside the box. Condos are available for rent overlooking the track, RVs are fun for weekend-long infield parties and houses are plentiful, particularly in the Daytona area. RV parks are another alternative, as infields often have wait-lists and the all-day, all-night parties may not be for everyone. Don’t be scared of infield shenanigans though, as most are family-friendly and something you have to experience to believe. Watching a race from the top of a motorhome is a blast and the friends you make can be lifelong.
Rent your car early. You can not only take advantage of lower rates but you’ll have a better chance of getting the vehicle you need. Remember you will possibly be tailgating before the race so an SUV can be very handy. If it’s hot out, an SUV with a raised back door can provide shade and a truck tailgate can provide seating. If you’re driving to a track in the country, where many are located, lowered vehicles may not be as easy to maneuver through hilly grass parking lots.
Some tracks are located in very unique parts of the country, away from the rest of the circuit. One of these is Sonoma Raceway. Located in Northern California, this track is a road course and lends itself to a very different style of racing, so it brings out some ringers, or drivers who fill in for others with less road course experience. Sonoma is a great vacation destination, so if you plan to visit that race, maybe add on a couple of days so you can take advantage of wine country. Napa is also close by, so whether you are more into reds or whites, you’ll find some places to relax outside of the track.
If you’re looking to save even more money on your seats, inquire about non-stand seating. Phoenix International Raceway has seats on Rattlesnake Hill and by seats, we mean places for you to put your chairs, an E-Z up and your cooler. There are no real ‘seats’ other than what you bring, and some people simply tote their soft-sided cooler and blank up for a good, inexpensive view of the race. The walk is not wheelchair- or stroller-friendly, so be prepared, as it’s a long walk from your car. It still costs to sit up there but if you’re unsure if it’s worth the money or the event sold out, it can still be a fun afternoon.
The Monster Mile, or Dover International Speedway, is next to a casino. Driving to Dover, you’ll be close enough to Washington D.C., NYC and the Chesapeake Bay for fun detours. We recommend driving through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a 17.6 mile long tunnel that takes you under water in two places. One of the sections of land offers a terrific place to park for photos and a good menu of authentic east coast sea food.
Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee, is snuggled up against the hills and if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t expect it…until you hear the roar of the engines. No seat at this track is a bad one, and the racing is unlike any other. The neighboring homes open their doors to share parking, southern cooking and maybe even a nip or two if you’re tailgating. The bluegrass plays loud and proud while you walk into this impressive structure. It’s a favorite of many NASCAR fans, with good reason.
If nightlife is more your style, don’t miss a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Stay in one of the many hotels in downtown Vegas and you’re only 20-30 minutes away from the track, making it an easy drive to and from the strip or airport. Take in a race then head back to town for a fancy meal, some gambling or one of the many shows. This track makes for another fun weekend that meets the interests of everyone in your party.
To make your racing experience the best, pick up a few things at a local store after you retrieve your rental car. A portable, cheap cooler for tailgating, some sunscreen and a clear backpack will be your most important purchases. Read up on track rules before you head to the gate, as entry lines can be long and you don’t want to be sent back to your car only to have to wait in the line again because you have contraband in hand. No glass, no hard sided coolers and most tracks require that above mentioned clear backpack. Atlanta Motor Speedway allows soft-sided bag coolers into the track, saving you money on beverage purchases by letting you enter with cans you buy for a lot cheaper outside of the venue.
If you’re parked close enough or heading to the track two days, scope out the NASCAR merchandise haulers as early as possible. Pick up your souvenirs and take them back to the car so you don’t have to carry them around; most tracks have the haulers outside the main entry gate so this is easier, but be careful, as some tracks like Darlington Raceway in South Carolina have very specific rules about re-entry. If you’re shopping for shirts and hats and other driver gear, the haulers do sell out so grab them as soon as you can, especially if you plan on wearing them that day. (Ordering online ahead of time can even be cheaper, as the haulers themselves are full-price unless it’s a clearance item like last year’s sponsor jackets, etc.)
Wear comfy shoes. Being able to walk back to your car after a long day is important, as some places you will be parked in the south 40 and it will be a trek. You also want to be able to sprint up and down stairs for a restroom break without missing too much of the race.
Stick a snack or two in your backpack if you have dietary restrictions. Some tracks have a lot more food choices than others. You also may want to consider a tiny container of something if you get a headache from the sun, heat or noise. You can always purchase first aid items at the track but the cost will be significantly higher than if you take them in yourself. Don’t forget head covering. Even if you’re not a hat person, you will be after a couple of hours in the sun or cold.
Plan ahead for your attire as well. Temperatures can drop significantly once the sun goes down so while shorts may be great at 2p, when the race is still going at 4:30pm and you can’t leave because you don’t want to miss the finish, you may be freezing.
Following the sport of NASCAR can be a great way to spend family time together while seeing the country. With some pre-planning and a little flexibility, you can enjoy it and you’ll be glad for the new experiences! Contact Fox to set up your cheap rental car and you’ll be on your road to the next race, fast!