Why every NASCAR fan needs to go to a short-track race for the full experience – USA TODAY
RICHMOND, Va. – The NASCAR schedule takes drivers all over the country, and each track provides its own unique challenges. But the fan experience changes at each track too.
“Racing is a different product based on the track, especially if you’re used to watching on TV,” said lifelong NASCAR fan Jennifer Barnhard, who’s from Columbia, South Carolina. “Different tracks provide another dimension of racing.”
This weekend, NASCAR is raced the ToyotaCare 250 on Saturday and will have the Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday at Richmond International Raceway, a .75-mile short track that is a drastically different experience compared with Talladega Superspeedway, a 2.66-mile track where NASCAR’s headed next weekend for the Geico 500.
Barnhard – who joked racing fandom is in her DNA – has been to several NASCAR tracks, including Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, which both have about 1.5-mile tracks. The bigger tracks, including Talladega and Daytona International Speedway, get a lot of the attention, have more activities in addition to the races and draw gigantic crowds. But she said there’s something special about the self-contained intimacy smaller tracks offer.
To compare, the Daytona track’s infield is so large there’s a lake with bass fishing in it, while at smaller tracks like Richmond and Bristol Motor Speedway, the team’s haulers have to be precisely stacked.
“You’re not watching a race from two miles away,” Barnhard said. “You see every bump and run and just more activity. It’s just fun to watch with the noise of the cars echoing in your blood.”
Aside from the race experience, short tracks also provide fans with opportunities they’d never get at the longer ones.
NASCAR fan Thomas Sankey said he got a once-in-a-lifetime experience when he went to Martinsville Speedway – a .526-mile track in southern Virginia – earlier this month for the STP 500. Not only did he meet the track’s owner, but he also said he was able to drive his personal truck on the track one night under the speedway’s new lights.
“Smaller tracks are more personal because things aren’t so spread out,” said Sankey, who’s been a racing fan since the 1970s. “You actually get to see the whole race.”