Thursday, September 19, 2013

NASCAR Raceday Checklist

So your going to a  NASCAR race? Whether it is your first race or your 50th race there are times when a checklist will help you remember things your supposed to have with you at the race. Just a simple list of things that make the race day go smoother and be more enjoyable. 

This is mainly for the items that you  will carry with you into the actual race event. For tailgating and the entire race weekend your going to need a LOT more stuff.

I will provide a link at the end of the article to a printable version of the list that you can save and print out before each race-day. You can also add your own items to the list to make it your own. Each person that enters a NASCAR track is limited by a list of items the they can bring and their sizes. At Kansas Speedway we are limited to "One (1) SOFT sided cooler or bag up to 14x14x14 inches (telescoping handles/wheels OK) and One (1) school size backpack" end quote. So we must pack accordingly, but keep in mind that it is per person, so each one can carry that much in.

The Basics

Race Tickets
The First thing you need are of course your race tickets. If your unfortunate enough to lose or forget your tickets you may find it very difficult to get replacements at the track. Especially if they are General Admission seats. PASS Seats and Hospitality may have a little better luck, just because there is a credit card trail with a registered name, but there is no guarantee you will get in.

Pass Holder
Many people avoid using the lanyards that hang around your neck to hold your passes and tickets for the fear they will look a little goofy. With the price of tickets soaring I will gladly look a little goofy with the lanyard than look really goofy at the gate trying to find my tickets. I also would look even goofier watching the race from the parking lot. Most trailer on the Midway sell the lanyards for under $10 with your drivers logo on them.

Track Passes and Parking Passes
Next are your track passes and your parking passes if you purchased them. Again if you lose them your not going to be a happy camper at the track. Even though it is a small portion of the expense for the weekend, our preferred parking passes are guarded like gold. They save us a ton of walking every race weekend.

Scanner and Headsets
Next most important on my list is a Scanner and Headsets. These can either be your own or ones you rent at
the track if your prefer. For about $40 for the entire weekend you can get a basis pre-programmed scanner setup. If your decide to purchase your own, which most long time racers do. We just upgraded to a scanner and headset combo that also has a built in intercom system so that we can talk to each other without yelling. It can even connect to our Cell Phone to make and receive calls with our headsets. Don't forget extra batteries for the scanner as well.

If you have never been to a NASCAR race it is LOUD. Did I emphasize that it is REALLY LOUD!! So at the very least your going to want hearing protection. Many places at the track sell the foam earplugs for between a dollar and two dollars. You will want the earplugs even if you have the headsets for when you leave your seat to make a beer run or to get rid of that excess beer in the restrooms.

Scanner Frequency List
I have 3 options for this portion of the list
  1. Then your going to also want to have with your either a list of the most commonly used race frequencies or a sticker on your scanner for a service like REI provides to program your scanner. You can also purchase a packet at the track for around $12 that has a Race-day Program and has the scanner frequencies for Saturdays race in it. Your must bring back a little ticket that they put in the packet the next day to receive the Sprint-cup Frequencies. They usually also throw in a little hot wheels car from the track, at least they do at Kansas Speedway.
  2. Buy a scanner programming service to match your scanner. Companies such as REI sell annual subscriptions to their scanner programming service for around $25. Depending on your scanner you will either hand it to them at the trailer and they will clone the frequencies into it for you or you will be given a list of the frequencies to program yourself. Some scanner even have lifetime wireless programming that allows you to simply walk up to the trailer and it programs it while it is in your hands. 
  3. The third option is to use the internet to get a hold of the frequencies yourself. do a search for "NASCAR Scanner Frequencies" and you will have to weed through dozens of pages but eventually you will find the scanner frequencies your looking for. I found all I could and combined them into one sheet and print it out and keep in in my scanner backpack. For the most part the drivers stay using 1 or 2 frequencies with 1 or 2 backups. So you may have to work a bit to make sure they are right but it is cheaper. Also if your scanner has the ability to be programmed using your PC this is the fastest way to do it. 
Cooler with Drinks and Food.
I know a lot of NASCAR fans would place this first on the list but I feel it is good here. We also know Drinks usually means beer at a NASCAR event.  But I highly recommend you load your coolers to accommodate your crew for the entire race. With Beer at the track going for $7 and Water for $4 a bottle your not going to want to buy very many of those at the track. Hot-dogs are $4 cheeseburgers $6-7. Your getting the picture.  Ok, so what can you bring? What surprises many new race-fans is that you can indeed bring your own alcohol into the track. Just not glass containers at all. If it fits in the coolers you can bring it. I have seen those mini Beer kegs inside them before. Below is a recommended list of items for your cooler. You may not use them all. 

  • Beer
  • Pop
  • Water (they do allow Camelbacks in as an alternative)
  • Small easy to eat snacks (granola bars, peanuts etc)
  • Sandwiches
  • Leftovers from the tailgate party  (wrap up them dogs in foil)
  • And of course Ice (frozen water-bottles work great in addition to ice, they keep it cold and when they melt you have a nice cold drink)

I see a lot of binoculars a the track ranging from small ones the size of  your hand to foot long monsters that smack the guy in front of your in the head when they lean forward. I have always carried a small pair of them that I was given from my local bank. They help to see accidents on the backstretch a bit better but that's about it. Whether you want to carry them is up to you. I have only used mine a couple times in about 5 years.

Flashlight (for night or evening race)
If the race runs late it is nice to have a flashlight for the walk back to the car. A small LED light work great for this. 

Blankets, Gloves and Hats
We always carry a couple of those small rolled up blankets you get at Walmart for $4 with us just in case. If we have learned anything, it is that the weatherman is full of crap on race-day. We have have freezing weather on one day to be followed by scorching heat the next. When the weather man called for fair skies and mild temps. So make sure your prepared. the blankets also work as a small seat cushion just in case it is not cold enough to need them. In the car we keep gloves, hats and scarves just in case we need them. You can usually  tell when you get to the track if your going to need them inside. 

A hat or visor with a brim is also a must a the track. Unless you like holding your hand over your eyes to see whats going on that is. 

Seat Cushions
There are several ways to go with this. We just use the blankets we carry to soften the seat. They also sell and rent inflatable cushions at the track. These range from a $5 mini mattress to a folding cup holder built in frame for $20. the truth is it is going to be up to your whether it is worth carrying around with you or not. I don't think it is but it is up to you. I have PASS seats which are pretty comfortable. If your in the actual grandstands or bench area then they might be worth the effort.

You can buy ponchos a the track and you will pay a premium for them if they are not sold out. You will also get the most expensive and flimsiest poncho you have ever seen in your life. We carry a couple of nicer though light weight ponchos with us in the car just in case. They only cost around $4-5 dollars and are nice for rain, and really windy days. 

I am a bit of a Photo-Geek as you can see from my site Str8Shot Photo, so I may have different opinions of what you should bring as a camera than most. But in general take a camera you can get the shots with. If your just wanting to take pictures of your friends and family at the track, and of people standing around, any old digital camera will do. I recommend at least 8 megapixel and above.

 If your wanting to take pictures of action then your going to want a decent DSLR that can handle the speed. You also going to need a lens that can do the job so your going to want to read my article "What Lens do you need to shoot a NASCAR race?"" Sorry about the shameless plug but it is a good article to assist you at the race. 

Backpack for your Scanner
I prefer to keep my hardware in a separate bag than everything else. It just makes it easier to organize things. So my Scanner and Headsets, Binoculars, flashlight and camera go into one bag. Blankets gloves etc in another. This way when I get to my seat I know I have the hardware and the wife has the software. Many people like to use the see through plastic backpacks and handbags so that they don't have to open them up when they go through the ticket gates. That is a nice feature but I have several reason why I do NOT like the  clear bags.

  1. Advertising to thieves "look at all my expensive stuff" is not a really good idea. Yes thieves go to NASCAR races too. 
  2. On very hot days I have noticed these bags tend to condensate, or draw moisture on the insides of the bag. I do not want that moisture around my expensive electronics, or soaking into my blankets etc.
  3. On very cold race days I have seen these bags split open like a dropped watermelon when they contact anything hard. This results in what we call in the mountain biking world as a "yard sale". You spread your contents all over the yard for everyone to take a look at.
So for my money I buy a decent cloth, water resistant back pack that has as few pockets to store extra items in and make sure they have nice shoulder straps.Even little bags get heavy after carrying them around for a while. 

I have told you how expensive everything is at the track, and most of the fan trailers do accept Debit or Credit cards. But Mister Pretzel vendor or the Program Sales Guy probably won't. So make sure you have some cash in your pocket to buy a few odds and ends. Also keep in mind, most of the food vendors are there to raise money for something.

Organizations volunteer to run the booths and provide them with all the supplies they need. They in turn get a percentage of the profit for the weekend.  This is especially true of the cart vendors. One of my friends and a crew of her people go down to Kansas Speedway twice a year to raise money for a new wheelchair for a crippled child. I will gladly give you $5 for a Hot dog if it is for a good cause.

Miscellaneous items
 I am sure there is an endless list of things I could add here and that you can tell me if you like in the comments. The great thing is that most of us men are blessed with wives that carry a lot of this stuff in their purses and always have it with them. So it may be redundant but I am adding them to the list anyway. 
  1. Aspirin or any headache/Pain medicine.
  2. Antacids (ever ate a track-side Gut Bomb Burger)
  3. Anti Diarrhea medicine ( get it at the track and ask me why again)
  4. Gum ( Sometimes you just need it. Also it helps with the Nausea some people get from watching the race)
  5. Wet-naps and Kleenex ( both small size to carry with you)
  6. Compact First Aid Kit (band aids, tape, antibiotic) might have a few of the items above in it. Keep a larger on in the car. They have first aid stations at the track, but be prepared to wait on very hot days.

Happiness, Joy and FUN!
I know you can't pack this. But if I can pass on just one thing to make your NASCAR weekend a better experience. Relax, take a breath and remember your there to have a good time. The weekend can become a stressful thing if you look at it all together. Just take each thing you want to do at the track on do it one at time. Make sure you allot yourself plenty of time to get to the track, browse around the midway, see your favorite drivers, enjoy the pre-race concert. But make sure you let yourself have a good time. 

Printable PDF NASCAR Raceday Checklist for your use. Just open and print then you can fill it out and place it in your backpack for future reference.

Have a great race.!!

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