10 Tips for Your First NASCAR Track Side Experience
This past weekend, I went to my first NASCAR track. That's right folks, I had never been to a track before the Dover race last week.
After my experience, though, I've decided to share a list of things for others who are getting ready to go to a NASCAR track so that they can avoid the troubles I ran into.
Some of the things on this list may seem obvious, but they are key things to remember to fully enjoy the experience.
Not only did I go to the race, I was lucky enough to get hot passes to go into the garage and pit area.
I wondered around the track for over an hour and eventually made my way into the pits to watch the race, as I tried to take in everything I could.
And this was just the Nationwide Series on Saturday.
By the time Sunday came around, I thought was a seasoned track veteran, but I still had a few things to learn.
These 10 tips can help you fully enjoy your NASCAR experience the next time you make it to a track.
10. Bring Good Shoes
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it's still something that needs to be considered before heading to a NASCAR track.
After all, I saw a woman walking around in high heels during the Dover race.
That's right, high heels in the pit area.
As for guys that were wearing boots to the track: How does that not kill your feet?
More than likely, you will be doing plenty of walking, so make sure to bring a good pair of shoes. Your back can thank me later.
I wandered around the entire outside of the track twice, and even though Dover is a smaller track, it was still a lot of walking.
Just imagine how much you would need to walk to get around one of the bigger tracks like Talladega or Daytona.
Good shoes are key and play a big part in helping you enjoy your first NASCAR track experience.
9. Get to the Track Early
Getting to the track early is a big key to enjoying a Sunday NASCAR race.
NASCAR has a lot of fans, and most tracks open hours before the actual race starts.
There's usually something going on before the race, too, such as Q&A with drivers or other events (depending on what track you go to), so make sure to go early.
Of course, you could wait until the race is going to start and try to find parking then, but getting to the track early also lets you beat the crowds at the gates.
If it's your first time at a NASCAR track, get there hours before the race starts and take in all the sights and sounds. You won't regret waking up a couple of hours earlier than normal, especially if it helps you get a decent parking spot.
8. Stay the Weekend
Before I headed to Dover for the race this past weekend, I debated going down early on Sunday, or staying overnight from Saturday to Sunday.
Dover is only about three and a half hours away, and driving down isn’t an issue.
Booking a hotel was.
I got lucky, though, and never stopped looking for a room to open, and when one did open and was only 15 minutes from the track, I was sold.
Going down early turned out to be a smart move, and going to the track for the Nationwide race also helped me prepare for Sunday.
Not only did I get to the track before it got crazy with all the fans from the Sprint Cup Series, I was able to buy souvenirs without waiting on line and figure out the best spot to park for the Sprint Cup race.
If you get the chance, go the weekend and enjoy the Nationwide race while planning out your return to the track for the Sprint Cup Series.
7. Don't Pass Up on the Extra Events
Speaking of all the events at a NASCAR track, Dover had plenty of extra things to do and see before the race started.
From the Fun Zone area to the Monster Mile statue itself, Dover offered a lot of extra activities at the track, and most of them were free!
There was a concert by Thompson Square, and you could even be in the audience for the Fox Sports One race preview that morning.
The Monster Mile statue is covered in plaques from past winners and filled with NASCAR history.
Every track might not have all the stuff going on that Dover did, but make sure you find out about everything that will be happening on your race weekend and take in everything the track has to offer.
6. Bring Earplugs
I never knew how loud the cars could be at a NASCAR track.
And during the Nationwide race on Saturday, I didn't think about bringing earplugs or a noise reducing headset.
My ears were ringing after five minutes.
These cars are loud, which of course we all know, but when you finally attend your first NASCAR race, you'll hear just how loud they are.
I would recommend bringing earplugs or buying a pair at the track, and prepare for the cars to be so loud that you can feel the vibrations from them.
You can also forget about trying to talk to your friends while the race is going on.
The noise isn't as bad when the caution flag comes out, but even with noise reducing headphones, by the time the Dover race ended, my ears were ringing.
5. Get Ready for Jr. Nation
I have always known that Dale Jr. is an extremely popular driver.
But when I went to Dover, I witnessed just how real Jr. Nation is. It seemed like every other person had an 88 t-shirt, and when it looked like Jr. could pass Jimmie Johnson at the end, every fan in the grandstands was basically on their feet.
Prepare yourself for Jr. Nation when you go to your first NASCAR track. Dale Jr. fans weren't rude (or if they were, I didn't run into them) but it was still somewhat of a shock to see how many fans Dale Earnhardt Jr. really has.
4. Get out of the Way!
If you're lucky enough to get hot passes or even cold passes, you'll have access to pit road and the garage area.
Viewing the race and pre-race activities from the pits and the garage is a great experience, but one of the most important things for fans to remember is to pay attention!
There's a lot going on in the pits and garage area, and you can get lost as you're taking it all in.
However, pit crew members are working in these areas, and it's key to remember to pay attention.
Guys are constantly moving tires back and forth and are in a rush to get to their teams, so be conscious and pay attention when you think you see a pit crew member working and remember to step to the side.
3. Consider Leaving Early
This one comes from the experience I had leaving Dover Downs.
I stayed for the entire race, saw Jimmie Johnson do his burnout, and made it back to the car at about 5:45 p.m.
I didn't get out of Dover Downs until about 6:20 p.m.
Then, once I hit the main road to go back up north to New York, traffic was still bad.
It took me over two hours to just get out of Delaware. Mind you, it took me about three and a half to complete the entire drive on Saturday.
Now granted this was not only because of the traffic from Dover, but an accident blocked off one part of a highway I needed to get on.
Still, traffic out of Dover was one of the worst I've experienced from a sporting event.
If you live close enough to a track you could probably stay for the entire race and leave without having to deal with much traffic. However, if you live more than a couple of hours away, you might want to leave a little early to try and beat the traffic. Of course, it could always depend on the track, but leaving early might just save you from a major headache trying to get back home.
2. Don't Waste Time
NASCAR is a busy sport.
People are always rushing around the track, trying to get from one place to another.
And drivers are no exception.
Drivers are moving from one place to the next, so if you get the chance to walk up to one, don't be shy! Most drivers have no problem with fans going up to them and asking for an autograph, but they are usually heading for an appearance or an event, so make sure to walk by them and not get in their way!
I ran into Kyle Busch and he signed a hat for me without question, but he was on his way to driver introductions, so I made sure to stay close to not slow him down.
If you run into any drivers, ask them to sign something for you, but remember that they are always on the move and might not have time to stop and have a chat.
1. Bring Your Own Drinks
Unless you're Scrooge McDuck, you should consider bringing your own food and drinks to a NASCAR event if the track allows it.
Food and drink prices are expensive, and I easily spent $50 on drinks and a funnel cake to get me through the day (there were two of us though).
The lines to get something to drink or eat were pretty long, as well, and could hold you up from getting to your seats.
If you can, make sure to bring a cooler and stack it full of whatever you want to drink (beer is always a plus) so you don't have to worry about staying hydrated through those hot race days.