Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: Questions Asked by 1st-Time Racegoers

For the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Richmond Raceway two weeks ago, I briefly traded in the media hat for a fan hat and got to see the race through the eyes of three first-time race attendees.

I brought three friends of mine to the track on that rainy Saturday (April 1), and instead of watching the race from the media center or the press box, I watched with them in the grandstands. Don’t worry, I still ran down to pit road in the closing laps to grab some post-race content for the Frontstretch YouTube, such as this interview with Chris Hacker on his top 15 after not having a ride two weeks prior.

Not only had all three never been to a NASCAR race before, but none of them had ever even watched a full race on TV before (I’m still waiting for NASCAR to send me a check for getting them new fans, especially in a time when ratings are down).

With new fans with little to no knowledge about the ins and outs of NASCAR came plenty of questions. Unfortunately, the loud sound of Air Titans drying the track prevented them from asking even more questions before the race started, and of course it was too loud during the race to ask a lot of questions, but I jotted down as many questions asked by these first-time race goers as I could.

Here are their questions.

1. Where can I find a schedule? It’s not really clear online.

On Richmond Raceway’s website, it is hard to find a rundown of what’s going on each day at the track. Sure, it’s easy to find the race dates and times those races start, but where do you find the schedule for the midway or the schedule for practice and qualifying sessions?

I’m sure those things are probably on that site somewhere, but it takes far too much digging for a first-time race attendee. The home page is instead crammed with ticket specials, PR stories and pictures of people having a good time at the track.

See also
NASCAR 101: 2023's Biggest Storylines So Far

2. Is tailgating allowed?

I might’ve laughed at this question because what sporting event doesn’t allow tailgating? They were pleasantly surprised to find out as well that most NASCAR tracks (Richmond being one of them) allow outside food and drinks. They didn’t even think to ask that question because it’s such a foreign concept after going to football, basketball, etc., games that don’t allow outside food and beverages.

That is certainly something that gives NASCAR a leg up on other sporting events. Everyone who has followed NASCAR for some time already knows this policy, but it would benefit the series to spread that news.

3. What happens when it rains?

This is one I answered and then felt like an idiot after I did. NASCAR introduced a rain tire for short tracks this season, so I told them that they’d pull that out if it rained.

But practices and qualifying were canceled and the Xfinity race was delayed 45 minutes because of rain. Apparently, they won’t race in the rain at short tracks and will only use the rain tires if it has stopped raining and the track is a little damp.

4. How do they know when to pit?

Longtime race fans already know it, but first-time fans might not know off the bat that each driver has a crew chief figuring out their fuel mileage and tire wear.

5. How do they know what lap they are on?

This one has the same answer as above except add in the spotter and scoreboard. If you’ve never watched a race, you don’t instantly know a driver has people talking to them on a radio.

6. What’s the capacity?

I felt embarrassed for NASCAR when I had to explain that Richmond used to have over 100,000 seats but now seats less than Lane Stadium (Virginia Tech’s football stadium). Tracks are so much bigger than fields, so many probably assume there are way more seats.

7. Does the heat affect the tires?

I was taken aback by this suddenly deep question that you’ll even hear regular NASCAR analysts and columnists talking about. It’s a great question from a first-time fan.

8. What do you wear?

In hindsight, I should’ve told them you wear suits and dresses nice enough to go to prom in. But it is a good question in that at other sporting events you’d usually wear the home team’s jersey. Unfortunately, the rainy weather limited attire options.

See also
Revving up the Betting Game: How Bitcoin is Changing Motorsports Betting

9. Why does the leader lose his lead when the caution comes out? That’s not fair.

This is a hard one to answer except for saying entertainment purposes. When you think about it, it’s not really fair that the leader could be 15 seconds ahead of second and that lead is completely evaporated when a yellow flag flies.

But this would’ve been next to impossible to keep track of in the early days of NASCAR. Heck, even with advanced technology now, NASCAR’s officiating would find a way to screw it up. And can you imagine how boring and strung out races would get if everyone kept the same intervals between themselves during cautions?

10. How do you know what order the cars start in?

Had qualifying not been rained out, this would’ve been easy to explain. Instead, it was rather difficult and I intentionally didn’t fully explain the equation because it would’ve been a chore.

11. (During the pace laps) Have they started yet?

They do run a lot of unnecessary amount of pace laps. Caution laps too.

12. Do the leaders have to yield to cars coming off of pit road?

Not unless Kevin Lepage is in the race (I didn’t actually answer them with that).

13. Do they keep going after the stages?

What they meant by this is does the race keep going after a stage ends or do the cars come down pit road and the drivers get out for a break?

Before the race, I asked each of the three what their biggest surprises were and the answers varied from how loud the Air Titans were to the fact that Toyota was such a major sponsor (Toyota is the title sponsor for both spring Richmond races).

The whole day was a learning experience for me, as those of us who have followed the sport for a long time have all these rules and racing terms that are common knowledge to us but completely foreign to those on the outside looking in. It was refreshing to take a step back and see the series from that viewpoint.

And I was having this kind of difficulty explaining just events that were going to happen within one singular race. I couldn’t imagine trying to get a new fan to understand the points system, playoffs, playoff points, charters, Next Gen cars, third-party vendors or all the inconsistencies with officiating and appeals boards.

It just shows that 2023 NASCAR is the boiling frog apologue, where a frog that jumps in boiling water will jump right out but a frog that’s in water that gradually gets warmer will stay in the pot. Fans are the frogs in this scenario, and NASCAR’s addition of rules and complexities is the water temperature increasing — we’ve now got the water at a full boil and it’s scalding to new fans. It’s time for NASCAR to get back to basics.

About the author

Michael.massie 113x150

Michael Massie joined Frontstretch in 2017 and has served as the Content Director since 2020. Massie, a Richmond, Va., native, has covered NASCAR, IndyCar, SRX and the CARS Tour. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad and Green Bay Packers minority owner can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies and Packers.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bill B

Seriously, no one asked “the bathroom” question?

Of all those questions, the one I had the most problem with when I started following racing was #9. I still don’t like it, but it has to be that way.

Share via