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One of the toughest things to decide before you get started on your trip is what track to select as your NASCAR destination. I always recommend selecting the track closest to you, especially if this is your first race. With twenty-two tracks to choose from scattered across the United States, you should not have a problem finding one within a few hours’ drive.
You might want to decide what type of track you would like to attend as well. NASCAR Sprint Cup racing hosts several different types of races, including superspeedway, short track, and even road racing. If you are looking for good old-fashioned racing, road racing might not be up your alley, but if you like the longer courses with lots of twists and turns, then Watkins Glen is the place for you.
Another thing to consider is whether or not your favorite driver will be racing at a certain race. Most of the full-time Cup drivers race every race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, but there are a few top name drivers who are not racing full-time anymore. For example, if you are a Kyle Petty or Sterling Marlin fan, you will want to check their websites for their race schedules. You would hate to drive all the way to an event only to be disappointed because your favorite driver is not there.
For those of you who have already attended a race near you and now want to venture out to a new venue, you can never go wrong with tracks like Bristol, Darlington, Daytona, and Talladega. These tracks are known for their great racing, but take note: these tracks also tend to sell out their tickets so always purchase in advance.
Because of the intense popularity and the jaw-dropping growth of the sport, the number of fans choosing to view NASCAR races live has increased tremendously. The impressive television ratings also help grow the number of fans worldwide. All of this popularity, however, has made it a battle getting tickets to a live race event.
A large number of tracks hosting the Cup series events sell out each race, making it even harder for the novice race fan to purchase tickets. The key to ticket purchasing is purchase early! Most tracks put the tickets for an event on sale for the next season the day after the event in the current season—basically about a year in advance. If you can plan that far ahead, guarantee yourself a seat in the house by purchasing then. Certain events, like the night race at Bristol and the Daytona 500, actually have waiting lists for prospective ticket buyers.
Almost all of the tracks require children to have a ticket to attend the event. Some tracks allow babies to enter without a ticket, but you might want to think twice before taking a little one to the racetrack. Always call in advance to the track you are attending to inquire about their admittance guidelines for kids. These guidelines tend to change from year to year and track to track.
There is no sure way of knowing whether the ticket you are purchasing is legit unless going through the official track ticket office. Web sales and scalpers are a sure thing, but the tickets might not be.
Tickets from Internet sites and scalpers may be counterfeited. Ticket counterfeiting is a problem in all sports, and NASCAR is not immune.
1. Always ask for discount information.
2. Ask about weekend ticket packages. Many times you can get a better rate if you buy the package deal that usually has a few bells and whistles. For instance, if you purchase a weekend pass versus a one-day ticket, the track may throw in pit and garage passes.
3. Ask for the last row cutoff on a certain ticket price. You can save money by sitting one row back from the higher dollar ticket just by sitting in the first row of the cheaper ticket area.
4. If you are planning to attend with children or if you have to use the bathroom more often, request seats at the end of the row.
5. If you are purchasing four tickets, request two seats on one row and two in the row behind, same seat numbers. This option keeps your group together, just not side by side. It is much easier to buy two and two than four in a row together.
6. If phoning in your ticket purchase, be very nice to your ticket operator—you would be surprised what they can help you with!
NASCAR racing is best viewed “from the top,” as they say. In many other sport arenas the better seats are close to the ice or field. Not with NASCAR. In most cases, the higher the seat, the better. The lower seats do not offer a full view of the racetrack, making it hard to see what happens at all times.
Many tracks have made ticket buying easy by adding an interactive option to their websites. This added bonus actually allows you to see what your view is like from the seats available. The virtual ticket experience is surprisingly accurate.
All tracks on the NASCAR circuit have reserved seating for wheelchairs and other special needs. Each track provides special handicapped parking areas to further accommodate visitors.
When traveling with someone who is handicapped or has other special needs, make sure you request track-specific information in advance to ensure the full advantage of all the services available to you or someone traveling with you. (See more on specific track special needs in Part Two.)
Some of the newer grandstands at different tracks like Talladega, Bristol, and Daytona are actually built on top of existing grandstands, making the older sections once referred to as “nosebleed sections” look like front-row seats. Seating such as this can be quite difficult for senior citizens and children to access. Always check with the ticket agent on other options available.
In many cases the hardest part of your road trip is securing a hotel room. Rooms book up months in advance with some fans returning to their hotel of choice year after year. The ever-growing number of race team members is also to blame for the shortage of hotel rooms.
There are many hotel choices in the track section, but you also may want to check with the area chamber of commerce for accommodation listings. Make sure you inquire about private home, condo, and apartment rentals. This works especially well for families traveling together or families with children.
Just because a motel has a business license does not mean you would want to lay your head on their pillow.
If you cannot secure reservations in the racetrack host city, try the closest larger city. I always tell people to check the closest airport location for the tracks that are farther away and make reservations in the city where the airport is located. You may have to drive a little longer, but you will have a place to sleep. For example, if you cannot find a room in Talladega, try Birmingham. You will have to drive forty minutes, but the rates should be lower and you will have more choices.
Many hotels gouge the race fans by insisting they buy multiple nights, even if they only stay for one. You can get around the minimum night stay and expensive rooms in most cases by just staying a little farther away from the track. Usually hotels twenty or more miles from the track will not have a minimum night stay. It is worth the extra drive time to save money on hotels.
Once you secure hotel accommodations you are pleased with, make sure you ask about holding your reservation for the next year. Many hotels give their current guests a courtesy “hold” for the next event. This is exactly why hotels are so hard to find. But make sure you find out the cancellation policy before you agree… just in case!
Most of the tracks on the NASCAR circuit have areas in which camping is allowed and, quite frankly, welcomed. Many retired senior citizens make their way from track to track throughout the course of the season. Some never walk through the gates of the track but are still proud just to make the NASCAR Cup rounds.
Most tracks have several camping options, from back to the basics with a tent to special RV spots with hookups. Depending on your price range you can get campsites with a view to kill but know you will pay the price. VIP camping areas range in price from event to event and also fill up very quickly. Your best bet is to call the track office in advance for your best rates and availability.
All tracks on the circuit have a variety of camping options available both on-site and off. The farther you move from the track, the less you can expect your overnight camping fee to be. The camping fees vary and tend to change from race to race. If you find a spot you like on a certain campground, always make your reservations for the following event if you plan to return. Many campsites are booked solid from year to year with the same folks who have been camping there for years.
When trying to decide what campground to stay in, first check location. The infield camping areas are wild and crazy and quite fun but maybe not the best place for kids under twelve. Most tracks on the circuit offer family camping areas just for the familes with kids. Take note and seek these areas out if you are traveling with kids. These areas are made available for a reason.
One other thing to keep in mind when booking your camping site is how crowded is too crowded for you and your family. Many of the tracks have both large and small camp areas to choose from. The larger the area, the more people to deal with. This also means more campfires (lots of smoke) and rowdier behavior. In fact, Talladega is known for being one of the smokiest campgrounds on the circuit. If you have a smoke allergy, you might want to stay clear of the infamous Talladega campgrounds.
It is a great idea to always contact the track you plan to visit in advance for fees, locations, and availabilities as these change from event to event. (See Part Two for more on track camping.)
INSIDER TIP—With non-track-owned camping you are taking your camping into your own hands. You might want to take a quick drive through the campsite before signing on the dotted line. If you are looking for a more family-friendly setting, always ask for curfew and family areas.
When going to a race, think comfort! You will be doing a lot of walking, so comfortable shoes are a must. Weather conditions change from track to track; whatever the case may be, dress in layers. Always, always check the local weather report before heading out for any race. Leave a few degrees on both sides for padding. There is nothing worse than being too hot or too cold at an outdoor sporting event.
It is a good idea to take along a fanny pack or small backpack to carry all of your track essentials. Always check the track’s website for any current backpack or cooler stipulations as the rules pertaining to these tend to change from race to race. Cooler sizes are in place for various reasons, including safety, storage in seating areas, and the fact that tracks make a huge amount of money off of concessions, which means they will allow you to bring a cooler but they also want you to make your way to the concession stand. (Also, see Part Two.)
Seat cushions are very handy and comfy for a long afternoon on the hard grandstands. Many race cushions have a handy clip to hook onto your bag or pants. Keeping your hands free is a must. You do not want to get caught carrying items around all day.
Remember… pack light, but do not cut back on your race day essentials. You won’t be sorry!
Cash (always carry some cash for parking, etc.)
Race scanner—rent or buy at tracks
Extra toilet paper (just in case)
Wet wipes—to wash hands, face, etc.
INSIDER TIP—There are many activities to do on race weekend besides the race itself. Many of the cities plan special events and festivals to coincide with the race. Cities like Talladega, Charlotte, and Daytona have special museums and exhibits for the fans to experience while visiting their tracks. It is a good idea to contact the local chamber of commerce (see Part Two) before taking a road trip. You won’t want to miss out on anything going on, from driver autograph sessions to festivals.
Excerpted from The Ultimate NASCAR Insider's Track Guide by Allison, Liz Copyright © 2010 by Allison, Liz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted February 14, 2012