Track walk at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600

Track walk at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600
Track walk at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca-Cola 600

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Coca Cola 600 weekend highlights 2015

This year's Coca Cola 600 weekend was another chance to make some great memories with the boys! The first highlight is our camping spot. Every year I work with our ticket consultant at Charlotte Motor Speedway to get closer and closer to the track, and we have finally found our sweet spot and I think we will be here for years to come. We are literally right next to turn four and close proximity to the bathhouse.  There was a little side road which had been blocked off and my oldest enjoyed using it for his "scooter races." Our neighbors were family friendly and were extremely hospitable and helped in times of need (my camper's battery died and they kindly jumped it). 

Our camper is right above my son's wrist
Ironically, this year a friend of mine randomly showed up with his family to the 600 race and, had I known, I would have sent this blog to help him prepare. One of the main things I stressed after the fact, beyond better ear protection, was that the kids LOVE the pre-race activities as much as they love the actual race. By far, my youngest son's favorite part of the weekend is waking up and wandering down to the vendors, grabbing a Krispy Kreme donut, and getting free stuff right when the vendors open. They got coke cans with their own names emblazoned on the side, Dippin' Dots at the Toyota tent (you need your Toyota key), and all the coozies and lanyards you can carry.  The people at the speedway  realize the importance of impressing kids, since they are the next generation of race fans, and my boys always get "extra attention." For instance, this time a random employee walked up to the boys and handed them awesome Kevin Harvick "rheem" cars. These are valued around $40 each (at least). Now we have to figure out how to get Kevin to sign them. He's actually one of the drivers we've never had the opportunity to meet, so this will have to be a future adventure and subsequent blog posting.

Boys and I with Sam Hornish Jr.
This year's "surprise" encounter was in the infield. I had always known that there was a Kangaroo convenience store toward the Northern section of the infield, but we never made it up that direction on race weekend, so, I lured the boys that direction with a promise of a cherry frozen drink. We made it to the store and noticed a line of 25 or so campers. I thought that it was a line to get into the convenience store due to overcrowding. After a few minutes I noticed that a guy toward the front was handing out t-shirts, and the girl in front of me was holding a "hero card" with a racer's image and name. I took a closer look, it was Sam Hornish Jr. Just when I noticed that, Sam Hornish walked around the corner. Within 5 minutes we were warmly greeted by Sam and had our hats and shirts signed. He even chuckled when I encouraged him to bring back the "chops." It was the highlight of our trip for sure!
NEWBS SUGGESTION: Always carry a sharpie and a plain hat or even a diecast car that does not have a racer's name on it. Obviously, if I had known we were going to bump into Sam I would have bought one of his cars to get him to sign it, but one of boys wore a plain "sprint" cap just for this purpose.

The Joe Gibbs pit crew for Kyle Busch
We were again blessed with "Hot" and "Cold Passes" and enjoyed the garage on raceday. The boy's highlight was literally walking along side Kyle Busch's pit crew, asking them questions, and getting their hats signed. They were super kind to my boys and I was humbled by their hospitality. Mine favorite garage moment was observing, in very close proximity, Tony Stewart's car as it was being initially inspected. I didn't realize all of the steps that needed to happen for each car to be cleared. The table behind the boys is where the inspectors placed all of their tools and slats for the inspection template.


Overall it was another successful weekend of intentional memory making, and again, isn't that what it's all about?

For more info, follow Dean +Dean Hardy and @NascarNewbs


Monday, December 15, 2014

Fans Can't Get Enough of Speedway Christmas!

         I was recently interviewed for Charlotte Motor Speedway's "Speedway Christmas" and the interview landed on the Charlotte Motor Speedway website. Here's the article in total, taken directly from here. I added some pictures from our adventure.

Also, they don't mention this on the page, but if you bring any coke product and show it to the cashier, they take $3 off your entrance fee!


______

Even though Christmas is still a few weeks away, the holiday festivities are already in full swing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Fans have been packing the speedway nightly for Speedway Christmas, and everyone has left filled with joy.

With more than three million high-efficiency LED lights twinkling in 800 unique displays, popular Christmas tunes filling the infield and a bustling Christmas village, Speedway Christmas is the best place to get your family in the spirit this holiday season.

The main attraction at Speedway Christmas is the array of bright and flashy lights that are strung along the 3.1-mile course. Visitors like Chuck Nellis were certainly impressed with the many magical light displays surrounding the famed speedway.

"It was really cool being at Charlotte Motor Speedway and seeing the Christmas lights," he said. "It's a really good family time and you get to drive on the track."

Speedway Christmas is a great way to spend time with your family, and many visitors, like Charlotte-area teacher Dean Hardy, are making a trip to the light show a new family Christmas tradition.

"This was our second year visiting CMS for Speedway Christmas. My boys (5 and 8 years old) really enjoyed the lights and the sights and sounds while driving through the infield speedway and wanted to do it again," Hardy said.

The sights and sounds are definitely worth experiencing, but if fans need a little something else to make it worthwhile, they also have the opportunity to drive on the track itself.

"The kids also find it intriguing that they actually get to ride on the race track for a portion of the viewing," Hardy said. "I had to drive up the banking a little bit in our 2004 Astro-van; that really gave them a thrill."

The Christmas village is also a great place to spend some time. Open every Thursday through Sunday night, fans will feel like they're 2,000 years in the past, right in the middle of Bethlehem. From baby goats and deer to gobbling turkeys, they're sure to get an authentic experience.

"For my children, their favorite part of Speedway Christmas was the petting zoo," Hardy said. "They are true animal lovers and we spent a half an hour visiting and feeding various kinds of animals."

The Christmas village also features a bevy of other activities, including photos with Santa, a kids' craft station, marshmallow roasting, food and craft vendors and other activities.

No matter what you're looking for this holiday season, Speedway Christmas has something for everyone. Charlotte race fan Arn McGovern came with several friends and said everybody left happy.

"I liked walking through the Christmas village," she said. "One friend loved the petting zoo, and another friend liked the lights. There was really something for all."

Speedway Christmas is open nightly from 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 30, excluding Christmas Day. Tickets are available online or at the gate. Admission is just $15 per car on nights the Christmas Village is closed and $20 per car on nights the village is open. Group rates are available.

Need details? Call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. For updates, connect with Charlotte Motor Speedway on Twitter or on Facebook.

- See more at: http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/schedule/speedway_christmas/fans-cant-get-enough-speedway-christmas.html#sthash.kIFXopPU.dpuf

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway!

Legends car (the YL is for Young Lions)
This past week I decided to take the boys to Charlotte Motor Speedway for one of their Summer Shootout race nights. I have to admit, we were total noobs when it came to this event. I didn't know the difference between a Legends car or a Bandolero, nor did I know the differences in the ages and how young these drivers can be to participate! No worries to you fellow Newbies, I have that information below.

For the legends car (from the http://www.uslegendcars.com website)
Bandolero!
"The Masters Division features drivers 40 years and older. The Semi-Pro Division is the novice class, featuring the drivers that are new to the sport or have been inactive in other forms of racing for a while. Then there is the Young Lions Division which is designated for the drivers between the ages of 12 and 16. Since the car stays the same from division to division, it is the driver that makes the difference!"

The Bandoleros are generally for the younger drivers, who can be as young as eight years old!!! (My 7 year old son got a kick out of that!) They start with beginner bandits, bandits, then outlaws.
Austin even let Caspian in his Legends car!

The boys with Austin Langenstein! 
Every shootout event, they have some sort of super strange race, like the night we were there all of the local mascots had a go-kart race and the previous week was a bus race with drivers who were principals of local schools.   Charlotte Motor Speedway does a great job with their kid zones, again with the tattoos that my boys love, the bounce houses, video games, and some promotional tents with giveaways. 

Legends Pro Driver Steven Cantrell! 
Just hanging in the garage!
We were privileged to get a tour of the garage from Motor Racing Outreach's own Scott Gentry and he introduced the boys and me to a couple drivers. The atmosphere in the garage was very laid back and it was interesting to see how the teams were working together to fix their cars (there had been a wreck just minutes before we entered the garage.) Everyone was super friendly and appreciative of the fan support.
Overall it was a great experience...what a great night of racing!


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The "TURN 4 boys" at the Coca-Cola 600!!!

I have always been a deal hunter, maybe even an amateur picker of sorts, so when I find value in something that's seemingly value-less I have to put it on a pedestal for all to see. In this case, it's turn four seating at Charlotte Motor Speedway. These are some of the cheapest seats in the whole track, but we love them. Why you ask? Of course, I'm going to tell you.

First, as said before, these are very economical seats. One of the driving forces for why these seats are so cheap is that the end of the section is labeled as "no alcohol" and it is strictly enforced. During the Coca-Cola weekend they even had troops stationed at these sections checking coolers for contraband. Of course, for some fans, alcohol is a big part of their Nascar experience and so they stray from these sections; but this is exactly what attracts me, a father of a 5 and 7 year old, to turn 4. There are less people, less craziness, cleaner bathrooms, and easier access to concessions. Who can beat that?

Secondly, turn four is the location of the kids zone. The concourse usually has a moon bounce, temporary tattoos, balloons, a radio controlled car/track, and sometimes even something extra special that is all FREE for the kids. This year they had a crew from Radio Disney that kept the young crowd entertained.  This kids zone opens up in the afternoon and runs deep into the race. The boys played here off and on for the whole race and is one of their favorite experiences of our entire weekend.

I have sat in many places in this speedway, but there's something about the wind generated by the cars while sitting there at the end of turn four that is unparalleled in any other seat. For the first few laps after a restart, the wind would literally knock you over if you don't brace yourself. We were about ten rows up and couldn't help laughing as we'd lean on each other (to the right obviously) as the cars shot by. It always made restarts even more entertaining than they already are!

Some people don't realize this, but there is a super-wide landing at the top of turn four. My boys love to walk up there at least once during the race and see if we can find our camper out in the turn four campground and get a crazy picture with the lit-up speedway in the background. It's a great spot that every spectator should visit at least once while at the speedway.






As for negatives for turn four, there is no view of pit road, and the sight of the huge HDTV is somewhat at an angle, but it is definitely still viewable. For us, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and so, for the time being, we will be "turn 4 boys."

Another blog on turn 4 camping and Nascar as "family friendly" here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Track Walk before the Coca Cola 600

Danica Speaks to the Crowd
Every time we plan on attending a race, we always try to do something a little different that we've never done before. This time we decided to do the track-walk on the Friday before the week's two races. There were supposed to be some driver appearances, a concert, and free Coca-Cola refreshment! At first, I thought it'd be a great idea, and the boys were gung-ho about walking the track, but then I realized that it was a 1.5 mile track. This was not going to be a cake-walk with a 5 and 7 year old kids. 
Bubba Wallace
and Elliot Sadler



We got there just before the walk began, and joined the group of a few hundred. They had a Coca-Cola truck on the track with an emcee who had access to quite a few t-shirts to throw. He also interviewed the drivers as they appeared from the innards of the truck. As we leisurely walked around the track, we heard from Danica Patrick, Bubba Wallace, Elliot Sadler, and yes, my favorite driver Smoke was present. While they did a good job keeping the crowd away from the drivers, it was still great to hear from them and get a few photos as they spoke. Bubba and Elliot were kind enough to sign some autographs and get photos with some of their fans. This made the walk go by so fast- before we knew it, we were in turn three!



We've actually driven the track in my 2004 Astrovan before (see here), but the boys were really surprised how steep the banking was on the track. Once we'd gotten to turn 4, the boys and I ventured up to the top of the track. One of them dropped their water bottle and it quickly rolled to the bottom spraying all of it's water as it hit the interior wall, and thankfully, missing the other walkers as it rolled by.


After the walk, the people at Coca-Cola had tubs full of all sorts of Coke products for the walkers to enjoy, games to play, as well as freebies to hand out. The boys and I sat on the green grass right outside of pit road and enjoyed our drinks and the concert. 






Picture Scavenger Hunt at Charlotte Motor Speedway Coca Cola 600 weekend!



This weekend my boys and I decided to do something a little different at Charlotte Motor Speedway's Coca-Cola 600 weekend. We picked some people we'd like to meet (some drivers, executives at SMI, and on air personalities) and decided to try and get the boys to take a picture with them! (You can read more about it at the bottom of this blog!)  


Marcus Smith

First, we ran into Marcus Smith, President & COO at Speedway Motorsports, at the Track Walk on Friday! I was pleasantly surprised to see him walking with us over at turn 3! Who would have thought he'd be doing the track walk as well? (I'll blog about the track walk later)


Donald Hawk

Friday night we were blessed to be hanging out with some friends over at the dirt track (I will blog on that amazing experience elsewhere). I took my sons to the restroom and when I returned, there was Donald Hawk, VP at Speedway Motorsports and twitter guru, standing there speaking with modified driver Steve Park! Hawk looked shocked because he thought that I had tracked him down in the suite, when I was just as surprised as he was! We have interacted multiple times online, and it was great to finally meet him.


Matthew Dilner

We knew that Matthew Dilner, on-air personality and host of Garagecam, is never at any one place for long; he's a man on the move! We actually saw him in the grandstands at the dirt track, but didn't want to rudely leave our seats in the suite with our friends. So we were thankful to see him outside the media center walking briskly to his next shoot! We asked nicely if we could have a pic and here he is! He apologized for having to get a picture and run, but we were more than happy with this great pic. Thanks Matthew!


Jeremy Clements

It wouldn't be a NASCAR weekend without us getting to visit the most friendly driver in the sport: Jeremy Clements. He's always been so gracious to my boys, even when he is having problems with his car. Here was right after qualifying, and Jeremy took the initiative to walk over and talk to us. What a GREAT guy!  He really is the fans man! #thefansman 


Sam Bass

Both of my sons are budding artists, and we'd never had a chance to see Sam Bass' museum right next to the track, so we added him to our list! We stopped by on Saturday afternoon and Sam was there signing autographs! He even gave the boys a couple matchbox cars and signed them as well! The museum was amazingly well done, not only highlighting Sam's talents as a Nascar Artist, but also museum quality pieces of Nascar history. I don't know why we'd never stopped by before. If you ever come to a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, this is a must-see visit!


Brad Keselowski signed hat!

The highlight of the weekend was running into Brad Keslowski on pit road on Saturday. Yes, he was on our "scavenger hunt list" but so was Dale Jr and a few other "long-shots."  While on pit road, I looked over and saw someone being dropped off from a golf cart. It was Brad. My son instantly thought to get his hat signed and asked Brad who gestured to Thaddeus and said "walk with me." I fumbled to get out my phone but by the time I got it out Brad was gone, but my son had a huge smile!  Here's a picture of the signed hat, and we got a retweet from Brad! 


Scott Gentry from MRO

Last, but definitely not least, we got to visit with our bud Scott Gentry from Motor Racing Outreach on Saturday! While we didn't get to have a hotdog with Slawsa topping, we did get to see some great dirt track racing and enjoy pit road for a few minutes together! Great to see you again Scott!


Rick Dale

I know he wasn't on the list, but we had to mention this picture for extra measure.  I recognized Rick Dale from American Restoration, in, of all places, the restroom. I told Thaddeus, who was walking out of the restroom, that we should get a picture with him and he gave me a thumbs up. Unfortunately, my youngest was taking his time and Dale beat us out of the restroom. When I walked out with my youngest, there was Rick standing with Thaddeus. He apparently asked him to wait! Rick graciously obliged and we have this awesome picture to show for it. Thanks Rick!


If you have any suggestions for our next picture scavenger hunt, we'll add them to the list of the people we "missed" from this last one!

Monday, May 19, 2014

2014 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway!

         We were surprised by friends with tickets to the All Star race and the boys and I couldn't have been more elated to be able to attend. This was Caspian's (5) first All Star race and he was super excited to see Kyle Busch do his thing. We've met Kyle more than any other driver (see here) , and the boys have gained an affinity for the M&M car. 


We got to the track about 5 PM, which is really late for us, and I'd encourage any first time Nascar newbs to go a little earlier, but we still got a great (free!) parking spot out by the Zmax drag way, we set up some chairs and had a little tailgate. We did a quick walkthrough of the vendor area and got our customer package from the people at Sprint (a cool camo hat!), and of course we had to stop at Toyota and see the M&M car and we met Kyle again (sorta).


Chrysler section

Thaddeus and Caspian hanging
with Kyle Busch
Our seats were over in the Chrysler grandstand, section K. It was a great spot because you have a great view of turn 3 and turn 4, where a lot of the action happens, but you also have a view of pit road.


This years race was a little different in that they had the qualifying right before the All Star Race. The qualifying was unique because the driver would take a warm up lap, a green flag lap, pit at full speed, then one more lap. The full-speed pit made it interesting because the drivers usually struggled to slow down, causing seasoned veterans like Tony Stewart to fish tail as he tried to stop, and many missed their pit stall altogether. After qualifying there was a concert by Train, and then the introductory festivities began. 


Thaddeus reads jokes to
gracious stranger
Brotherly love.

The crew at Charlotte Motor Speedway know how to put on a show. The intros were started and concluded by the singer Jake Owen, and were finished off with a fireworks show to the delight of my boys.  We were impressed with the people in our section. This part of the seating was labeled "no alcohol" and I found it very family friendly. The man next to Thaddeus was so gracious. He even tolerated the recorder Thad decided to take out and play while AC/DC's thunderstruck went across the PA system, as well as the jokes he decided to read to him during some downtime. 


 The only bad part of the race was the major wreck. The boys watched in abject horror as their hero got knocked into the wall at turn 3 and into 4.  I wish I had taken a picture of their faces at the M&M cars was dragged by us by a tow truck. Instead of their faces, I got this picture:  (no I WASN'T smiling on the inside) ;)

Kyle Busch's M&M car gets towed to the garage


Needless to say, the boys had a blast and they are looking forward to camping at this weekend's History 300 and Coca Cola 600!  This year I'm going to do a "scavenger hunt" to see how many pictures I can get the boys with Nascar celebrities/personalities. If you don't know who these people are, you probably should get to know them. I'll also put their twitter handle as well. Here's my wish list:


Marcus Smith: president & COO at Speedway Motorsports @MarcusSMI (and his wife @gassigirl88) 


Donald Hawk: VP at Speedway Motorsports @HawkSMI 


Sam Bass: Renowned Nascar Artist! (Both my boys love art!) @sambassartist


Matthew Dilner: host of Garagecam @MatthewDillner 


Jeff Gluck: Nascar reporter at USA today @jeff_gluck


Jamie Little: ESPN reporter @JamieLittleESPN


Jeremy Clements: Fav. Nationwide Driver @JClements51


Darrell Waltrip: HOF driver @AllWaltrip


Tony Stewart: SMOKE @TonyStewart


Brad Keselowski @keselowski


Dale Jr.  @DaleJr 



S/O to MRO's own Scott Gentry- we better get a picture with you and the boys eating a hotdog with Slawsa on it!!!   @SGentry_MROA