NASCAR 2012: Upcoming Events Around the South
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series are coming soon to a southern city near you and each track offers affordable travel packages, weekend event packages and single-day tickets. Kids usually get in free or discounted.
The next southern race on the schedule is the massive all-star extravaganza at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, the very heart of NASCAR country. All three series will be “under the lights” (night races) during this week-and-a-half-long showcase. After practices and qualifying come the Pit Crew Challenge ($25.00+) May 17th and the Truck race on the 18th. The 19th offers the weekend’s main features: the Sprint Showdown (a qualifying shootout race) followed by the Sprint Allstar Race, a non-points-paying, winner-take-all exhibition race featuring the best Cup drivers battling in a series of heat races for a million dollars. The following weekend the Nationwide cars will fire ‘em up on Saturday night and we’ll see Cup’s longest race of the year, the Coca Cola 600, run well into Sunday night. You can start building your weekend with tickets to all three races for $99.00, which includes all daily festivities on and off-track, and you can upgrade your experience by tacking on the Pit Crew Challenge, race shop tours and a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Next we go to Daytona International Speedway in July for the Coke Zero 400 night race and Independence Day celebration at the legendary superspeedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, featuring 31-degree banking on a 2.5 mile asphalt track capable of speeds over 200 miles per hour. The action starts with practice and qualifying for the Nationwide and Cup races to be held on the 6th-7th. Be sure to check out the Sprint Fanzone ($60.00) which features a bistro, inspection viewing and driver autograph windows, up-close access to driver introductions and the pre-race show, guided pit and garage tours and more. Tickets for the 400 start at $75.00.
The southern races continue throughout August, September and October, first when the Truck and Cup series stop at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile”, the .533-mile, 36-degree-banked Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee August 24th-25th for the famous night races at the world’s largest active coliseum-style sporting arena, which were sold out years in advance before recent economic conditions caused some people to give up their seats, allowing the rest of us a chance to experience the occasion first-hand.
Historic 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway will offer a Trucks/Nationwide/Cup triple-header August 31st-September 2nd; the following weekend sees Nationwide and Cup at another short track, Richmond International Raceway in Virginia, where some of the best racing in the sport can be seen under the lights. October 6th-7th will see the Trucks and Cup at the longest track on the tour at (2.66 miles), Talladega Superspeedway, another 200+ mile-per-hour track that delivers thrilling pack racing similar to Daytona. Then it’s back to Charlotte for the Nationwide and Cup night races October 12th-13th.
The flat, paper-clip-shaped Martinsville Speedway, the oldest and shortest track on the circuit, is just .526 miles long. Built in 1947, it pre-dates NASCAR itself by several years and is the only current track that was featured on the Cup series’ first tour. It will host its final races of the season for Trucks and Cup October 27th-28th.
Finally, NASCAR’s three premier series will crown their champions November 16th-18th during the Ford Championship Weekend at my home track, the 1.5 mile, 18-20-degree variably-banked oval of Homestead-Miami Speedway. The fan festivities begin with the Ford FanFest on Las Olas Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale, a street party with driver appearances, food, and music. The usual travel packages and in-track RV camping are available as well as accommodations in nearby Homestead, Florida City, South Miami and Key Largo, with a slew of good restaurants nearby, such as the Mutineer at end of Florida’s Turnpike. Turning east at this restaurant will take you the back way into the track (it’s also the RV lot entrance) and turning west will take you to Everglades National Park, where you can find more camping and outdoor entertainment. A half-mile south is where Card Sound Road splits off of U.S.1 at the Last Chance Saloon and Jack’s Bait and Tackle. This area marks the gateway to the Florida Keys as both roads lead directly to Margaritaville.
As you can see, there’s more southern racing action this summer and fall and lots to do inside and outside the tracks. Some tracks offer driving experiences, where you can drive a real Cup car on the track by yourself at nearly full speed (take my word for it, it’s the most fun a fan can have). So grab a cooler and a portable grill and tailgate party your way around the south before the season ends!
Photo credits: Brian Best
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