Race Weekend Central

Some Safe Tailgating Tips for Your Next NASCAR Race

While the Sprint Cup Series was sorting out the new configuration and pavement of Kentucky Speedway on Saturday evening, the fans were momentarily distracted by a truck bursting into flames in one of the track parking lots.  While initial conjecture had the fire starting in the BBQ that was tied to the pickup bed, track workers reported it really began in the passenger compartment.  A person was pulled from the truck, but no injuries were reported.  Despite the terrifying prospect of somebody being harmed in the flames, ultimately the story was the sad tale of a few people looking for a different ride home after the race.

Perhaps what grabbed our attention was the fact that we can easily see a fire starting in a BBQ in one of the crowded lots while everyone is sitting in the grandstands.  In light of this fact, here are a few safe tailgating tips to make sure all our future visits to the track have happy endings.


1.) Turn off the grill and disconnect the propane thirty minutes before heading into your seats.  Give all the hot surfaces time to cool before moving and securing your barbeque. By disconnecting the tank from the grill, there will no possibility of forgetting to turn off the burner.  While you are the host for your tailgating party, it is easy to get distracted and forget a few basics, so make turning off the stove more of a chore and less of hitting a switch.

2.) When wearing the chef’s hat, hold off on downing the six-pack.  It’s fine! You can still get down to partying once your responsibilities at the stove are over.  With your perceptions intact, not only will you be able to safely operate the grill, food will more likely reach safe serving temperatures and fewer hot dogs will end up on the ground.

3.) Set up the kitchen as far away from the truck as possible. The tight confines of a parking lot always offer challenges in where to squeeze your pop-up canopy, but think for a moment of the consequences should your fuel supply actually catch fire. How many vehicles could be taken out? Search out a secluded corner of the lot and spread out.

4.) Bring a fire extinguisher. You can pick one up at the home improvement store for around $20.  Add it to the tailgating supplies and leave it there.  Read the instructions and share the knowledge with your entire family.

5.) Wait to tie down the barbeque to the truck bed until after the race.  While most straps are made of fabric that is more likely to melt than burn, why take a chance? If you strap the hot grill down while it is still sizzling, just think of those Kentucky truck fire images and consider the possible consequences.

6.) Help your neighbor breakdown before the race. Hey! Why not?  He’s a fan, too. It wasn’t just the single truck that burned over the weekend; the vehicles on either side of it were damaged as well.  While running your safety list, it won’t take long to check and see if his set up is stored safely, too.

While the fire at Kentucky was decidedly a curiosity, it was a good reminder that when we are parked in the massive lots at large events like a NASCAR race, it wouldn’t take too much for a small problem to turn into something much more devastating. If we remember our scout training and use it, we’ll all have a safer and happier day at the track.


A little bit of American creativity was used to rubber up the brand new surface at Kentucky Speedway. Instead of dragging tires around on a long chain in the tried and true tradition, they rigged up a tractor and called it the Tire Dragon. With the tires rotating in reverse at one mile an hour, the tractor pulled them forward at five miles an hour, literally ripping the rubber off the Goodyears and rubbing it into the racing surface.  180 tires later, we were ready to race.


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