Attending a sporting event is always entertaining. To get the most out of it, however, requires knowledge and planning. Motor races are no exception to this rule, and understanding what happens at a race is key to gaining the maximum enjoyment. Here are some tips.
1. Ear protection. A NASCAR race car at full throttle produces about 130 decibels. Just one car. Open wheel cars are even louder. Stadium circuits tend to be noisier than road courses, with the honor of ‘noisiest track in the United States’ going to Bristol Motor Speedway. If you are going to see an endurance race or a back yard series you might be able to get away with it, but all spectators at major series should wear ear protection. This is even more important for children. If you are an occasional race fan, a set of drug store ear plugs is sufficient. Consider ear plugs that have a strap attached to them, as it is easy to drop them. Another alternative is to rent or buy a race scanner with noise excluding headphones. Wearing ear plugs will prevent long term hearing damage and also stop you from leaving the track with a headache and temporary hearing loss.
2. Consider the heat. Most races take place in the summer, with spring and fall races taking place in warm climates. Stadium circuits have some shade, but general admission, and even most grandstand seating, at road courses is often right out in the open. Unfortunately, many tracks disallow outside food and drink and then charge excessively for water and soft drinks. Budget accordingly. It might be tempting not to drink to save money, but spectators end up with heat exhaustion at these events all the time. It tends to be hotter closer to the track. Gatorade is better than water. Emergen-C packets, which can be purchased at a drug store, can easily be smuggled into the track and then added to a bottle of water. If you start to get heat exhaustion symptoms such as nausea, a headache or fainting, then go immediately to the first aid station.
3. Know the track. Having a map of the track can be very handy for following the action. These may or may not be available on site, but can often be printed off from the race’s web site.
4. Know your drivers. On the same note, printing off the entry list, especially for second tier races, will help you keep track of who’s who. It’s often possible to get a race guide that includes pictures of the cars
5. Get there early, unless you’re going to a stadium. If you didn’t splash out for grandstand seating, then you need to be there a couple of hours before the race to stake out a good spot. Good spots are harder to find at street circuits than at permanent road courses. One person can keep the spot while somebody else in the group goes for concessions With road courses, the best spots are ones that have a good view of the course and also of a jumbotron. Areas close to the first turn tend to be very popular due to the disproportionate number of wrecks that happen there. Also, getting there early will allow you to catch lower development series, which can provide action at least as interesting as the main event.
6. Minimize the alcohol. Having a beer too many is always a temptation at an event, but if you are drunk, you are likely to enjoy the raceless If you drink too much, you are more likely to suffer from heat exhaustion or to do something stupid. One or two beers should be more than enough and on very hot days, consider eliminating alcohol altogether.
7. Rent a scanner. If you really want to be part of the action, rent a radio scanner at the event. These scanners allow you to listen in on the conversation between the drivers and their pit crews and spotters.
8. Be safe. Guard your personal property at all times, especially when entering and leaving the event. Pickpockets often work these areas So do ticket touts, who are best avoided, and vendors of over-priced ear plugs, flags and other souvenirs. Due to modern security concerns, unattended bags are likely to be confiscated. Never lean against or climb the ‘catch fence’ around the track. This fence is designed to reduce the risk of debris landing in the spectator area. If there is a barrier set back from the catch fence, resist the temptation to cross it to get a better view. If you have a pit pass, be alert and aware in the pit and paddock areas. Do not disturb or harass working pit crew or engineers.
If you follow these tips, you will have a great time at a motor race. The noise and excitement are hard to beat and the large crowds attracted result in a great ‘buzz’. But it is vital to stay alert and safe.