Top tips for your first NASCAR experience

With Charlotte Motor Speedway right down the road in Concord, getting to a NASCAR race seems like an essential bucket list item if you call the Queen City home. But unlike football or baseball, which you usually learn about through osmosis even if you don’t have an allegiance to a particular team, NASCAR can feel more unfamiliar.

Fast approaching are the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race May 21, the Coca-Cola 600 May 29.

What can you expect at your first race? What should you bring? Here are a few tips on maximizing your first NASCAR experience:

“Be prepared for excellent people watching. Sunglasses, earplugs, beer. Jacket for a night race.” — Nick Hlavacek @NickinNC

“The number of first-time fans visiting races is pretty major, I think it’s between 25 and 30 percent, so we’re making a concerted effort to make sure they have a great experience. Rent a scanner, which lets you listen to the radio broadcast or the driver’s in-car radio. This way you can hear the strategy, much like if you were to sit on the bench during a timeout of a basketball game. If you want to come to a race and aren’t sure what kind of tickets to get, call a ticket agent. You can describe the experience you want and they’ll get you to the right spot. Besides All Star weekend, the Bank of America 500 in October is another great race to attend. It’s a night race and the temperature has cooled off. It’s also right in the middle of our playoffs. Just like any other major sport, we have the regular season and the playoffs, so it’s a good one to see.” — Jonathan Coleman, Communications Manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway

“Bring headphones, padding/blanket to sit on, hat and sunglasses. Wear closed toe tennis shoes! Concessions and stands get GROSS.” — Charlene Dangler

“Sunscreen, earplugs, beer cooler, done.” — Andrew Jenkins @HiAndrewJenkins

“Bring your own cooler with food and drinks (no glass) just make sure the coolers are 14 x 14. The fan zones give away lots of free stuff, so go visit them. Download the Charlotte Motor Speedway app and you’ll get times for driver appearances. There’s a concert before each Sprint Cup series race. If you buy a pit pass you can get right up to the stage.” — Trey Stafford, intern at Charlotte Motor Speedway/NASCAR fan

“Bring all of the sunblock if it’s a nice day. Layer because it gets cooler as the sun goes down. Sandals for tailgating and tennis shoes for inside. It’s shocking how gross your feet get.”– Jaci Slone

“Wear literally anything you want. Pace yourself drinking. A race, not a sprint. (All puns intended.)” — Luke Flint @InLikeCoolHand

“Race fans are friendly. Asking someone ‘how’s your driver done this season?’ is a neutral conversation starter.” — Scott Lundgren

“Make sure to bring a raincoat. Pack light, and if you’re sitting close to the fence, hair up!” — Megan Poling @meggydub

“I highly recommend tailgating. If you want the hard core experience, set up a tent for after the race. Wake up hungover in a large field the next day. If you drive, I recommend paying for a premium spot. There are tons of options inside for food, including vegetarian! There are plenty of bathrooms and they’re pretty clean. It’s loud, it’s hot and the people watching is amazing.” — Kseniya Martin @birchcollective

Photo: Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer