Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ten Race Day Tips from a Daytona 500 Newbie

This weekend, Mike finally got his Christmas present!  In December, I surprised him with Daytona 500 tickets, which was our first race ever.  We loved the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, so I figured it'd be fun to check another major sporting event off our bucket list.  We drove down to Ponte Vedra Beach on Friday night and played golf with friends on Saturday.  Sidenote: if you are in the Ponte Vedra/Jax Beach area, we found THE BEST Mexican street food spot: Cantina Louie - check it out!  We decided to stay over in Ponte Vedra on Saturday night instead of a way over priced Daytona motel and drive to Daytona Beach first thing Sunday morning.  We spent the whole day there and got back to Charleston around midnight.  It was awesome experience, and before we went down, we got tons ideas for when to go/where to park/what to do from everyone we knew, so I thought I'd shared the best ones and what I learned with y'all today.
Tip 1 - Get your tickets early: I bought my tickets in September, and some of the best seats were already sold out.  Contrary to other sporting events, you want to sit as far away from the action as possible at Daytona.  From the top of the stands, you get a view of the whole track, whereas, right in front, you only get a view of the cars right in front of you.  We sat even with the entrance to pit road, and it was a great spot to see all the garages, too.

Tip 2 - Splurge for Fanzone wristbands: When I bought the tickets for Mike, I just bought our seats, and he made some add-ons later, including in-field UNOH Fanzone wristbands.  I was so impressed with how fan-friendly the whole day was.  We signed the start/finish line, watched the cars get ready in the garage, and even walked up and down pit road.
We had fun chatting it up with Kyle Larson's pit crew - thanks for the souvenirs, guys!
Tip 3 - What to wear: Dress comfortable, bring layers (it can be colder than you think under the stands), and wear closed-toed shoes.  Click here to check out a full post on what I wore.
Tip 4 - Pack your cooler: Public service announcement: NASCAR races are BYOB.  You're welcome.  They let you bring in a soft-sided 14x14x14 cooler, so we carried in a 12-pack, a few bottles of water, and a bunch of snacks.
Tip 5 - Bring a backpack: In addition to a cooler, each person can bring in a backpack that's no more than 17 inches long.  Stuff it with binoculars, sharpies (to sign the start/finish line), ear plugs, ponchos (umbrellas aren't allowed).
Tip 6 - Get there early and pay to park: Now you've packed and you're ready to get to the raceway!  Morning of the 500, the gates opened at 8am.  Everyone told us that it gets packed, so we arrived at 7:30.  We were shocked to be one of very few people there.  We got off 95 at the raceway, drove past it with no traffic, and parked at a restaurant just after it.  I've heard that the free parking can be chaotic, plus you need a bus to get back to the stadium, so we opted to spend $40 and walk right in.  We were so glad we chose this option afterwards when we zipped right out when the race was over.

Tip 7 - Rent a scanner and headset: Mike pre-purchased our rentals (each scanner comes with a noise-cancelling headset, and we rented one additional headset) and saved $20.  There are rentals spots set up all over to present your voucher, and it was really cool to listen to the drivers and their spotters throughout the race.
Tip 8 - It's not just about the race: Like I said, we got there early.  Like, we went right up to our seats at 8am and were the only people in our section.  We dropped our cooler and headed right to the Fanzone.  I would highly suggest getting there early like we did.  We had the best viewing of the mechanics working on the cars, the pre-race events with Gronk, LT, and Owen Wilson and sat right on the track for the Lady Antebellum show and drivers' parade.  There's also a ton of do outside the stadium, in the Midway area, and you can even exit and re-enter the stadium as much as you want to take advantage of everything.  My favorite "extra" was definitely the Thunderbirds flyover right before the start!
Pole winner, Chase Elliott and Mario Andretti
Tip 9 - Reapply Sunscreen: The race began at 2pm, and by that time, we had been in the sun for 8 hours.  I brought two bottles of sunscreen in my backpack, and we probably used a whole one throughout the race.  You get extra sun from all the metal reflecting in the stands, so don't forget the 'screen!

Tip 10 - Stay until the end: Traffic might stink - it's a sporting event with 101,500 people, but please, please don't think about skipping the last few laps!!  If you take advantage of tip 6, it won't be that difficult to leave.  Drive East on International Speedway Boulevard to Route One, and you can easily connect back with 95.
Well, that's it!  Like I said, we had the best time.  I knew that I was going to have fun, but I couldn't believe how into it I was.  Those cars rushing by are exciting, and especially listening to the drivers and their spotters on the scanner, you can see how much goes into one race.  While the Daytona 500 was probably a once-in-a-lifetime, we look forward to another NASCAR race, hopefully in Charlotte or Darlington, in the future.


Ashley @ A Cute Angle said...

This looks so fun! My husband would love it! Great tips. I'm sure I will need to use them having a raceing obsessed husband!

Julie said...

NASCAR is awesome! Just like with our hockey love, we are trying to get to every NASCAR track as well. We have been to Charlotte (where I did laps in Dale Jr's car - eek!) as VIPs with my Dad's company, Indy, Kentucky, and Kansas..my sister and Dad have done Daytona. Nothing is more American than a Nascar race and while it might be crowded, the people are extremely nice. All your tips are awesome and I suggest all of them :)

Jen said...

I'm not a fan of Nascar but this definitely looks like an awesome experience. If you ever get the chance to check out an NHRA race, you should!!! They have 2 events in Charlotte every year and they are a blast!

Christina Lea Loves said...

An activity like this to look forward to is the best kind of Christmas gift! Looks like you guys had a blast!

Nicole said...

I think we are in Nascar heaven here! There are so many tracks within driving distance. We passed the track on Sunday coming home from Tampa. We didn't realize this was the big weekend. How exciting for you! I thought the track was an airport :)

Christine said...

I had no idea that you could use a scanner at these races! What a neat thing to do.

Brianne said...

That looks like so much fun! I'm really not into NASCAR but for awhile now I've really wanted to go to a race just because I think it'd be a fun experience. Great tips!

Chesson | Magnolia+Main said...

It's safe to say that I don't really have any desire to ever go to a NASCAR race (I did the All Star Cup 1 year and that was plenty for me) but you might have changed my mind about that! Looks like y'all had such a great time and that there was so much more to the day than just the race.

BLovedBoston said...

Pretty cool that you can listen to what the drivers are saying with the headsets!!

Kate at Green Fashionista said...

Such a fun present! The weather was perfection, and that sunset - gorgeous! And how fun that Owen Wilson was there, my neighbor saw him boarding her plane the other day leaving the area <3
Green Fashionista

Unknown said...

Never been to a car race of any kind. Looks like y'all had fun, though!

Anonymous said...

This was not what I expected from Daytona 500 - it looks so clean & fun! Glad yall enjoyed it!

Brenda @ Chatting Over Chocolate said...

Best Christmas gift ever girl! I'm sure Mike was thrilled to receive that and it sounded/looked like you both had a ball checking it off that bucket list! Growing up we went to the races a lot, but I've yet to go to a Nascar race. We surprised my dad with a tour of Daytona Speedway when my parents joined us for a WDW vacation a few years ago. It was amazing even not on a race day (lol) and fun to see all your pics with the stands full and all the action happening. :) You shared such great tips too! Fun, fun!

Jane Clifford | Typically Jane said...

This is totally on my Bucket List! It looks like so much fun. I had some other friends there and was sooo jealous of their photos. Awesome tips, I can't wait to use them one day!

hayjay99 said...

Thanks for the tips, we always go to the August Michigan race but this year we switched it up and going to the Feb Daytona 500 race, we will definitely use your tips.


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