The thrill. The excitement. Boogity, boogity, boogity! I was ready for it ... or at least I thought I was!
I’m not a huge race fan, but for some reason I couldn’t wait to check out Pocono Raceway for myself. I heard lots of rumors, and was a little nervous, I must admit, but very intrigued at the same time.
So here are the 12 things I learned about my first NASCAR experience at Pocono Raceway:
- There’s gonna be traffic. Heading in … and, heading out. So, just prepare for it! Make sure your bladder is empty, because the trip is going to be a little longer than the GPS might tell you. The track holds 76,812 at its fullest capacity! Even at an average of three people per car, that’s a lot of cars. (25,604)
- Pocono Raceway is also known as “The Tricky Triangle” and it is 2.5 miles in length. If your seats are high enough, you can pretty much see the entire track. Also note that while you can see most of the entire track, more than likely you won’t know what’s going on at any given point, minus the leader pole that tells you the top six drivers. You can also rent scanners to keep you informed while you’re there. With your scanner in hand you can tune into your favorite driver, or just pick one and have a little fun listening to what happens.
- You can bring your own food and beverages into the track if you have grandstand seating. Coolers can’t be larger than 12”x12”, but that can be a huge savings for a family. No glass allowed though. And, if you’re bringing a child and want to stay away from the people who might be indulging in a few alcoholic beverages, there is a special seating section for families, so be sure to ask for it when buying your tickets.
- Wear sunscreen and bring a hat! It can get very hot in your seats. And, if you’re tickets allow you onto Pit Row, it is even hotter. By the way, you should definitely do the Pit Row experience. It’s pretty neat being up close and personal with the crews and cars. Tip: the highest seats are mostly in the shade, such as the Donahue Tower, where my seats were located. And, as a special bonus, they had several private bathrooms on this level.
- Bring earplugs! Wow, is it loud. Each time there is a restart, it is extremely loud. When the cars are spread out a bit, it seems like a constant whizzing by. I have to admit, my favorite part of the race was the restarts.
- The bathrooms are super clean. I was very impressed by this after attending many events with lots of people. They had attendants in the women's and men's rooms to make sure they were fully stocked and maintained. Nice touch, Pocono Raceway!
Prices are pretty typical for a major event. About $8 for a beer, $4 for a water. They also have a lot of food options to choose from like nachos, soft pretzels, ice cream, pitas, etc.
- When there is a caution, and a restart is needed, as soon as the crowd knows it is coming, they all stand up and watch. It's kind of like watching a tennis match with heads bobbing back and forth. It just so happens there were about seven cautions the day I went, which is typical for this track (averaging a little over 6 per race), so I was up and down all day long.
- Bring a cushion or blanket or something that has a seat back. The grandstand has metal-type seats, which can be uncomfortable if you’re there for a while. They do rent cushion-backed mini chairs at the track.
- Tailgating happens. Everywhere! Including the infield … where you can camp overnight. Just go with it. There is plenty of security making sure people don't get out of hand. So, pack a folding chair for yourself and have a little fun. You'll see people with grills, games, bikes, etc.
- Parking is free! That was a super nice bonus, as most major events charge in excess of $25.
- Speaking of parking, remember where you parked! The area is not numbered or signed in any fashion and there is a sea of cars!
So there you have it. I am crossing it off my bucket list. I encourage everyone to step outside their comfort zone and just check out at least one race in their lifetime. Now, I’m curious to see the difference between NASCAR and IndyCar! Do you have any other tips for the newbies out there?