5 Things to Know Before Your First NASCAR Race

Yay! I am so glad you decided to go to a NASCAR race. I recently had my first experience, and had such a fantastic time. If you are like me, you probably thought that motorsports just isn’t your thing, and are a little worried about what to expect. Enter me, to tell you why you are in for one amazing sporting event. 

Please note, this is based off my trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway. From what I have heard from many fans, each track has its own culture. Some of these will mostly likely apply to all tracks, but probably not all.

1. It is loud. Very very loud.

Safe to say this one probably applies everywhere. The noise factor didn’t even dawn on me until I looked around and saw headphones and earplugs for sale all around the track. I thought to myself, “really, how bad could it be?!” The noise won’t kill you, but it will make it hard for you to hear yourself think. The sound of their engines adds to the excitement, but it also doesn’t hurt to grab yourself a pair of earplugs.

2. You can listen to the race through a scanner

Instead of earplugs, opt for a scanner. They are like noise cancelling headphones, but they have the radios of the teams and crews. You can easily rent them at the track if you don’t own a pair.

What I love about the scanners is that they are a great way to hear what is going on during the race, as there is a lot that we don’t get to see. Additionally, you get to hear the personality of the drivers (which is admittedly my favorite part). Listening in can help you learn about the sport in general. While I thoroughly enjoyed the adrenaline rush of just watching the cars whip by me at 200mph, I wanted to know more about what was happening during the race. The best way to do that is to listen in with the scanners.

3. TV does not do it justice

I have seen NASCAR on TV a few times, and watching it there never completely sold me on the sport. I knew that the drivers have a lot of skill, but I never really appreciated the high intensity of a race until I saw one live.

First, going back to point number one; the noise. It fills your body and gets your heart pumping. This is something that you just cannot get from watching on TV. Second, watching it at home makes it look so clean and seamless. You don’t get a full appreciation of the movements during a race. You see just how close the drivers are to each other, and one very tiny move can cause a disaster. Finally, the speed. TV just doesn’t show how incredibly fast the cars fly by you; the cars come in and out of you frame in a matter of seconds. While you watch at home, they stay within your vision, so you don’t get the full feeling of how fast they drive during a race. For me, it didn’t get old even after watching it during the longest race of the year.

4. A lot of the sport involves what happens outside the track

Well, technically on the inside of the track in the infield too. When you make your way to a race, one thing that may come as a shock is the span of the entire event. Typically, sporting events and the majority of the action happen in a close radius to the stadium itself like tailgating in a parking lot of bargating at nearby establishments. It feels like everything is within in reach. When I drove into Charlotte for the weekend, the scope of the race hit well beyond the reach of the track. There are campgrounds located throughout the area – from miles away the track to right on the inside of the infield – and fans spend their time there camping out from anything to just a basic tent to a full blown RV.  

By the time I made it to the track on Thursday, some fans arrived there since the weekend before! Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the All Star race the previous weekend, and then the Coca Cola 600 the following weekend which is Memorial Day Weekend.

There isn’t always action on the track while fans are there, so people spend a lot of time in the teams stores or hanging out with their neighbors in the campground. Charlotte is the home base for many of the drivers, so the teams have their stores there. Lots of fans spend their time checking out the gear there, but this is unique to Charlotte.

Aside from the team stores, many people expressed to me that community is what keeps them coming year after year. Not that they don’t love the sport, but the friendships that they have built are just that important to them. They spend so much time together at the track during a race; often times eating meals together and indulging in a few drinks at night. You might imagine a party atmosphere, but it feels more like you are down at the beach: relaxed, no rush, and just enjoying the time spent away from reality outside of the campground.

5. The fans are a tight knit community

This one probably stuck out the most to me during my time in Charlotte. Every year around Memorial Day weekend, people from all over the world come out to Charlotte Motor Speedway and set up camp. Whether it’s in a tent or an RV, they come together and make a campground community. They spend their days chatting with each other or even running errands together, and at night sit around and listen to music while drinking and playing games. For so many, this is the family that they have chosen. Some feel closer to their friends here than their actual family. They keep in touch throughout the year. When tragedy happens, they drive across country to go to loved ones funerals. They look forward to coming back all year.

The camaraderie reminded me a lot of the soccer supporters groups I have met with over my travels. They stand up for each other, they support each other in times of need, and they enjoying watching a sport they love together. Most importantly, they welcome you in with open arms.

Have you ever been to a NASCAR race? What was your experience like? What would you want to know before you go?

One Reply to “5 Things to Know Before Your First NASCAR Race”

  1. I’ve only been to the Indianapolis 500, but can relate to the atmosphere that you described here at Charlotte Motor Speedway. I was going to ask if you went for the NASCAR All Star Race or the Coca-Cola 600! The friends I went to Indy 500 with also want to see these two races in Charlotte sometime in the future. Based on what you have heard from the locals, which of the two races is better – All Star Weekend or Coca-Cola 600? And why?

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