I decided to go to a NASCAR race for the first time after taking the “Feel the Thrill” tour at Charlotte Motor Speedway when visiting Cabarrus County, NC a couple of years ago. We were moving at about 60 mph in a van for the 24-degree banking and the force was intense! At that moment, I truly appreciated the sport, and I knew I had to experience an actual race, something I had never thought twice about doing before.
The stars and my travel calendar finally aligned, and I came to Cabarrus County as a guest for the AllStar Race Weekend in May, and I had the best time! I loved it so much that I would go to another NASCAR race in a heartbeat.
To have the best race experience, attendees need to be prepared for the day, so I hope these tips based on what I’ve learned will help anyone attending a NASCAR race for the first time enjoy the event to its fullest.
Get the app – Race day events, schedules, guides, ticket info, maps and more are at your fingertips with the Charlotte Motor Speedway app.
Stay comfortable – You’ll be on your feet and walking a lot, so wear shoes that feel great all day long. There are shuttles that travel the perimeter of the speedway, but don’t count on catching one. Bring along a padded seat cushion as the seats can feel hot and uncomfortable. Bring plenty of sunscreen (be sure to keep reapplying it), wear sunglasses and a hat, and dress in layers you can add or remove since the weather can be unpredictable. Also, rain showers can pop up so bring a poncho. (Umbrellas are a no-no.)
Plan for parking – Lots get full quickly, so be prepared to walk a fair distance to/from your car. Camping spots on race weekends are available on a first come/first serve basis as well.
Arrive early – Plan to arrive at the speedway several hours before race time to enjoy pre-race festivities and get settled into your seats. Oh, and depending on the event, there may be a flyover right before race time, so look up!
Bring water and snacks – Although concessions are readily available, save a few bucks and pack your own drinks (no glass) and snacks in a cooler no larger than 14 x 14-inches.
Consider purchasing a pit pass or garage pass. Walking on the actual race track is a treat in itself, but with a pit pass you can get an up-close look at some of the cars and teams in action as they prepare for the big race. You can also get right up near the concert stage for the music events.
Ear plugs are a necessity – This is non-negotiable. A single race car is loud enough, but dozens of them at full speed can be deafening. And the jet dryers for the track are even louder yet, so it’s essential to protect your hearing. Ear plugs will muffle the sound to a point that it’s not dangerous.
Bring trackside scanners – Scanners can serve double duty as both noise-reducing earmuffs and a direct line to the action. You can listen to general race announcements, all driver-team communications or tune into a specific frequency to hear the transmissions of a single driver, spotter and pit team. Scanners are also available to rent at the track, but remember you have to return them after the race so calculate that into your time and exit strategy.
Watch for flying debris – The catch fences are protection from potentially large pieces of debris, but the drafts from the cars and trucks may carry tiny bits of rubber, dirt and grit through the fence and into your face. (This is another reason to wear sunglasses.)
Bring binoculars and/or a camera – There are tons of photo opps on race day, so be sure you have a camera or a phone with a good telephoto lens to capture it all. To zoom in the n up-close action all the way around the track, binoculars are a must. One of the best times to capture close-ups of the cars is during pace laps when all the cars are going around at the same speed.
Be prepared for race day traffic – If you followed the “arrive early” tip, you probably didn’t have much of a problem getting to the track, but leaving is another matter entirely.
Pedestrians have the right of way and police will hold cars for 20-30 minutes while those people walk from the stadium to their vehicles. By the time cars are allowed to move, those pedestrians are also driving, so it results in horrendous congestion. Traffic is blocked and directed in very specific ways and there’s no way to buck the system.
If your turn happens to be against the flow, you might as well pull over, park and wait. The police will not alter traffic patterns until they feel traffic congestion has been relieved, which can be about two hours. Fair warning.
For help in planning a visit to the area, reach out to VisitCabarrus.com