NASCAR tracks and the cities in which they are located know that race fans often plan their entire vacation around a race. They also know that fans want as much bang for their buck as they would get if they were going to one of the major tourist destinations in the country.
Race tickets, fuel, motel and food bills can quickly add up, so it is important for the fans to be able to enjoy some attractions and entertainment without having to dig into their wallet.
Daytona and Charlotte realize that there is no guarantee that the fans will keep coming back each year, so both take advantage of their unique two consecutive weekends of racing to give the fans a little more.
Daytona and Charlotte celebrate the sport with what they call Speedweeks, which includes two weekends of racing with plenty of opportunities for the race fans sandwiched in between.
Both cities can really give a race fan a heck of a vacation, but I wanted to take a closer look at the two and come up with the one that I feel gives the race fan the best experience. There is no scientific process involved here, just the individual likes of one man who has been a race fan for over 30 years.
The city — Anytime a city has a beach, it is going to be hard for another city landlocked in the Piedmont of North Carolina to get the nod. I know Daytona’s Speedweeks is in February, but when you escape from a cold and snowy Kentucky to walk along one of the most famous beaches in the world, it does feel like a little piece of heaven. Advantage — Daytona.
Special race — Daytona’s season opening Budweiser Shootout is a welcome sight after the long off-season but its excitement level doesn’t come close matching Charlotte’s Sprint All-Star race. The million dollar check waiting for the winner and the awesome job that the Speed Channel does promoting the race makes this one of the best events on the entire schedule. Advantage — Charlotte.
Qualifying — Daytona’s Gatorade Duels which sets all but the front row for the Daytona 500 is like getting to see two races for one ticket. The majority of the field is guaranteed a starting spot in the 500, but you still have a handful of drivers trying to race their way into event. Lowe’s Motor Speedway uses the same qualifying procedure that you see at every other stop on the schedule. Advantage — Daytona.
Entertainment — Charlotte’s Food Lion Speedweeks Festival takes over downtown, providing plenty of entertainment for race fans. Fans are treated to free concerts, free food and samples from NASCAR sponsors. In addition, its a great place to secure an autograph from one of your favorite drivers and to take part in a Sprint Cup pit stop. Advantage — Charlotte.
Day trips — I know Mickey Mouse is only an hour’s drive away from Daytona but race fans want to spend their time close to the sport. Charlotte is the hub of more than 90 percent of the race teams that compete at the Cup level. Hendrick Motorsports itself is only a couple of miles from the track. Advantage — Charlotte.
The owners — The France family rules Daytona and while no track can come close to the tradition of Daytona International Speedway, Lowe’s Motor Speedway is a fans’ track. Lowe’s owner Bruton Smith puts the fans first with all of the modern conveniences that makes for a great day at the track. Advantage — Charlotte.
When you add up my very unofficial scorecard, Charlotte gets the edge as providing the best experience for the race fans. You will not run out of race-related things to do even if you spend the entire week. This isn’t a slam against Daytona because if you attend either, you will go home with a huge smile on your face as both will provide you with enough racing encounters to carry you through the season!
Race Preview — Event: Autism 400. Track: Dover International Speedway (1-mile concrete oval, 24 degrees of banking). Date: May 31, 2 p.m. TV: Fox. Radio: MRN. Defending champion: Kyle Busch.