Thursday, December 9, 2010

NASCAR relaxes dress code in garage, pits

The days of wearing jeans on a 90-degree day at the track are over. NASCAR is relaxing the dress code worn in the garage and on pit road during race weekends, according to Managing Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston.

On Tuesday, Poston tweeted, "NASCAR dress code in garage & cold pits now includes: shorts, short sleeve/sleeve-less shirts & open-toed shoes."

Cold pits refers to
being in the garage or pit area before the race starts (before the track gets hot). The former dress guidelines required individuals in the garage and pits to wear long pants, shirts with sleeves and close-toed shoes in the interest of safety. The stricter dress code remains in effect for when the track gets hot. 

Under the new guidelines, team members and industry employees would still be "expected to dress professionally," Poston said.

Why the change? Poston called it a "fan-friendly move." The reasoning behind it is simple: if fans are allowed to dress more comfortably in the pit area, they will be more likely to purchase pit passes. The weather can be unbearably hot at various races throughout the season, especially during the summer months, which makes the prospect of wearing jeans or other long pants, for instance, undesirable. When fans are paying anywhere from $50 to $100 for the passes alone, knowing they would have to ride it out in uncomfortable clothes all day may not have seemed worth it.

From speaking with other fans on Twitter, I'm not alone in being caught off guard in the pits when it came to the dress code. This summer at Pocono, I forgot about the guidelines
and wore a sleeveless shirt simply because I knew temperatures were going to reach into the high 70s or 80s. After being stopped by security, I had to buy a T-shirt at a souvenir stand in order to gain admittance into the pits. Other fans have had to do the same or, if they arrived wearing shorts, had to purchase pants at the track or nearby.

The change in dress code is a step in the right direction to cater to fans at the track. But while it grants fans more comfort, the issue of safety remains. It's been my experience in the pits and garage that fans are usually a reasonable distance away from the racecars, meaning the dress requirements could be eased while maintaining a safe atmosphere. But I would still encourage fans to keep safety in mind when deciding what to wear.

NASCAR's dress code has been a hot topic in the past.
Ashley Judd, the movie star wife of driver Dario Franchitti, created a stir when she wore a black dress and high heels on pit road during Daytona 500 qualifying in 2008. Her heels were close-toed and therefore within NASCAR's guidelines. But Judd's dress, which was low-cut and came to her knees, presented a safety issue. NASCAR let Franchitti's team know their concerns, which meant no more dresses for Judd at the track.


Note: Availability of purchasing pit passes varies by track. Garage passes, both hot and cold, are not available for sale to the general public.

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