Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rookie Stripe: The Rookie’s Guide to Buying NASCAR Tickets

By Logan Stewart

So you’re all set for your first NASCAR race but don’t know how to get tickets. Take a parade lap, rookies… this is your blueprint to making sure you’re dialed in and full-throttle with race-day tickets in hand.

Bristol Motor Speedway
Photo Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
Where to Start
Like almost any professional sport, you can find tickets across the web on different sites at a range of prices simply by searching for “NASCAR tickets” and the name of the track. But if you’re not sure what seats to choose -- and if you want to be sure your tickets are legit -- consider buying through the tracks for your first race. Individual race tracks sell their own tickets for NASCAR-sanctioned races, and has a comprehensive list of tracks and races with links to purchase tickets. Most tracks will offer single, double, weekend and premium packages with a variety of options, so it may be helpful to call the track directly. Some, like Charlotte Motor Speedway, even offer live online chat with a representative to help answer your questions.

View from the Seats
So where should you sit in the grandstands? Ideally, you’ll want to be able to see the front stretch and pit road as clearly as you can, because that’s where much of the action takes place. At some of the short tracks like Martinsville and Bristol, it can be fun to sit up high so you can see the entire oval.

Sitting in close proximity to the track can block part of the race from your view, depending on the seats. But at the same time, front row seats have other perks. The whirling vortex of wind and grit whipping into the stands through the catchfence is almost ethereal. In fact, my first experience with this phenomenon was at Richmond International Raceway, when I sat with my friend Ali. It was like being in a tornado, where you're pelted by tiny soft chunks of rubber each time the cars fly by.

Richmond International Raceway
Photo Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
As you go to different tracks, you’ll get a better feel for where you like to sit. In this article from USA Today, Jeff Gluck highlights some of the best spots at different tracks to watch a race, including Rattlesnake Hill at Phoenix International Raceway and Dover International Speedway's Monster Bridge. If you still can’t decide, call the track and ask for help.

Stop and Go: Other Options for Tickets
General seating for NASCAR is in the grandstands, which surround the outside of the oval track. But the spectacle of any race takes place on the race track itself, on pit road and the infield. If you’re willing to pony up some extra dollars for a pre-race pit pass, you can check out the infield and all its grandeur. Wander past the haulers, watch the pit crew at work and check out the cars as they go through inspection. You might even spot a few drivers. Passes don’t give you access to the NASCAR garage, but do offer a rare glimpse of the real work behind the scenes of a race that most of the public doesn’t see. You can buy pre-race pit passes through the track’s website, but do it early because they go quickly. In the infield you’ll also see people with “hot” and “cold” passes which are issued by NASCAR for team sponsors and other VIPs, and are only available for public purchase in limited numbers at select tracks.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Infield
Photo Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

If the mere thought of scouting and buying just the right tickets makes your engine idle, you can also consider joining a charter tour through companies like Star Coach Race Tours or There and Back Again Adventures. These pre-planned, all-inclusive options often include food and drinks, luxury accommodation and even infield access. Keep in mind they can also be fairly pricey.

And for the perennial last-lappers who tend to procrastinate, or perhaps just enjoy the thrill of the hunt, you can always go to the track and try to score a last minute bargain on tickets. At every race you’ll find people for miles around the track selling tickets, sometimes at face value, sometimes more, sometimes less. Oftentimes they’re fans who’ve purchased seats and decided not to go, but just want to recoup some money, so try your hand at haggling.

Whatever tickets you end up buying, hang on for a wild ride on raceday.