Race Weekend Central

A Day at the Track Without Breaking the Bank

$100 for a ticket to a Sprint Cup event.  $5 for a soda.  $20 for parking.  A T-shirt, hat and die-cast just ate another $100.  You splurged and added-on the pre-race pit pass. Hotel and meals and beer. The total creeps up toward a cool grand for a day at the track.  It’s insane!  How can NASCAR think that they can sustain a fan base when they are charging us a mortgage payment to take the family out for an adventure?

The answer to this corporately motivated question is simple:  Because they can.  Enough fans cough up the cash that the price remains high year after year, even when the stands appear empty on camera.

Today I’m going to work on finding the bargains that do exist at many tracks and how you can take advantage of seeing your heroes on the track, but maybe for a fraction of the cost of the all-out Sunday ticket.

The real deal here is planning ahead.  If you wait until the last second, the bargains for tickets tend to disappear.  For example: Michigan International Speedway was offering up until Sunday a Family Four Pack to the August 17th race for just $119.  This special price included tickets to the Sunday race, four hot dogs and four Cokes.  For $299, they were offering a Camping Getaway, which included a camping spot for the entire week and four tickets to the track good Friday through Sunday.  These are outstanding values, but they are not offered at the last second.  If you’d like to visit a particular race during the season, call the track to get on their email/mailing lists and follow them on social media.  Ask for special packages and to be notified when such offers become available.  Don’t just click on the BUY TICKETS link, some of the promotional offers won’t be listed and Ticketmaster doesn’t always give you the best seat.  By the way, Atlanta still has some great two and four-pack packages available for the end of the month.  Richmond is offering $19 student tickets with ID and a Papa John’s 4-pack for $199 (includes ticket, pizza, soda for 4).  Don’t let those get away!

Parking is generally free at most of the tracks.  However, the free lots tend to be on track property and the last lots to empty after the race.  If you’re saving dollars, leave plenty of time to spare, drive past the pretty houses that are selling their front yards and park where you’re not shelling more cash out of your pocket.

Food and drinks!  Bring your own as small, soft-sided coolers generally are allowed into the grandstands.  You need a couple cans of your favorite beverage, a sandwich and a couple bags of chips.  Had you stopped at the concession stand, your cooler contents would’ve just cost you $20, let alone if you’ve got the kids with you…sheesh!  Where does it all go?

Souvenirs. This one takes a little more time and effort. There’s always the buy-nothing strategy, but let’s face it, you want something as a memento of this special day.  Magnets, hat pins and stickers can be found for $5, and sometimes less.  Hats and T-shirts take a little more specialized shopping.  Be aware of what drivers are leaving their teams at the end of the season.  Stop by their souvenir truck.  You may find hats and shirts marked down as low as $3.  These are not knock-offs or irregulars, simply left-overs.

And there’s the free stuff!  Don’t fool yourself into saying it always costs something to participate in NASCAR activities.  Bristol hosts the Hauler Parade on Thursday night.  It’s free and a ton of fun.  New Hampshire hosts a Thursday night FanFest, which often includes driver appearances, music, cars, vendors and the hauler parade.  Come race week, there will be an avalanche of display cars visiting local retailers near the track, and the drivers often stop by.

Maybe you’ve got to see the cars in action, but just can’t swing enough cash for the Sunday ticket.  Some venues offer Qualifying Day tickets for as little as $10.  Or what I consider the real bang-for-your-buck day is Saturday.  For half to a third of the price of the Sunday ticket, you get Happy Hour and a Nationwide or other supporting race.  Bristol has Friday night tickets available for $38–the Saturday night Sprint Cup race starts at $75.  Traffic is lighter, no lines at the souvenir trucks and there’s plenty of wiggle space in the stands.  Sometimes kids can come on Friday and Saturday for free or $10.

Yes, NASCAR can break the bank, if you let it.  However, if your passion is seeing stock cars in action, don’t be fooled into thinking that a day at the track is out of your price range.  Make the call to the real person working at the track to find the best deals available.  Be willing to carry more than your wallet with you.   Most of all, plan ahead and have a wonderful time!

P.S.: If your favorite track is one that only offers weekend ticket packages, tell that live person on the phone that if they had more flexible pricing schemes, they would’ve gotten at least some money from you, instead of none.

2014 Sonya Strictly by the Stats

Top Three Rookies for 2014 GoBowling.com 400

1.) No. 42 Kyle Larson Started 1st Finished 11th (1st in RoTY standings)

2.) No. 3 Austin Dillon Started 11th Finished 15th (2nd in RoTY standings)

3.) No. 51 Justin Allgaier Started 22nd Finished 16th (3rd in RoTY standings)

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