Wow what a weekend! 4 races in 3 days plus practices and qualifying. The 600 is also the longest race of the season….. 400 laps, 600 miles and average time to complete the race is around 4 1/2 hours. The other 3 races were the https://www.arcaracing.com/ which is a NASCAR sanctioned stock car series that travels all over the US to race, the https://www.nascar.com/nascar-camping-world-truck-series and the https://www.nascar.com/nascar-xfinity-series which is known as a stepping stone to the NASCAR cup series.
We pulled into the track late Thursday night. Most tracks have camping on site, some you can camp inside the track in the infield. When camping at the track, the cost usually depends on how much or how little sleep you want to get. Free or a minimal amount of money will end you up in a camping section where there is no noise restriction or minimal restriction. We booked our camping late so we ended up in a family campground. The cost was around $120 and that allows you to camp for the week leading up to the race and the race weekend. Checkout is usually the Monday after the race. We pulled in late, found our site and set up for the weekend. We were all pretty tired so we headed to bed to rest up for the rest of the weekend.
We awoke the next morning with plans to head into the track shortly as there was practice and qualifying on that afternoon for the ARCA and Truck Series, as well both would have their races later that evening, but first our friend Reg was anxious to go and find the Gypsies. Now the Gypsies vary from track to track in size and location. At Charlotte they were set up across the road from the track but still on CMS grounds. Now what are these Gypsies that Reg was so anxious to find? They are a group of tents set up and they sell shirts, hats, flags and some very cool merchandise all NASCAR related. Going through each tent you can find some very cool pieces of history or just some very neat souvenirs. Some tracks like Charlotte the area is quite large and you could spend hours going through the tents. Other tracks the Gypsies are in gas station parking lots around the track and there is only a few tents. Regardless, they are very cool to spend time going through to see what you can find. Cleve and I left Jamie and Reg there to head into the track to get the lay of the land since this was our first time photographing here.
Cleve and I headed into https://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/ to find the media center, check in and get our vests that identified us as media. The staff at CMS were so helpful and friendly. We found our way to the media center in the infield, checked in, got our vests, were assigned a work space for the weekend and shown were we could find food for our lunch, dinner and evening snacks! BTW the food was delicious and the work space in the air conditioning came in VERY handy through the weekend!
We decided to take a walk around the infield and find the areas where we were allowed to stand to take pictures. I haven’t done an event like this in a few years and I forgot how much walking we had to do. We found the fenced off area at turn 4 where photographers could stand and take pictures basically right behind the safety barrier so close to the track. We decided to stay there for a bit as the ARCA practice was beginning. Now Cleve and I have been to many NASCAR races but to experience and see things from this angle was very cool. You don’t realize how banked the track is etc until you are right there. We watched some of the practice from there and then went to walk down pit road to see some of the teams in action.
After practice we headed up to the stands to find Jamie and Reg and watch the races from there. Both were great races. I am a huge fan of the NASCAR Camping World Truck series and haven’t watched a live race since Daytona in 2018 and this race did not disappoint! One of my favorite drivers won the race! Ross Chastain is not a regular driver in the series but he ended up with the checkered flag. They call him Watermelon Boy, as he and his family grow and sell watermelons. When Ross wins a race they bring out a watermelon and he smashes it at the start finish line and then grabs a piece to eat! Due to a slight mishap by Cleve’s photo editor we lost our pictures from both races! (ooops that would be me!). When the races were done we headed down to the https://www.charlottesgotalot.com/events/festivals/circle-k-speed-street. This was a first for us at a track. Usually most of the major sponsors have tents and activities set up, but this time there was concerts each night, a huge Ferris Wheel, The Globe of Death, food trucks, drinks and many more events. It was great after being on a high from the races to come down there and continue the excitement and fun! Again due to the photo editor mishap we have basically no pictures of these. Day 1 was quite long so we headed back to the campground to have an early night.
Campgrounds and tailgating at a NASCAR race is a whole experience in it’s self. Most tracks divide the camping depending on how much sleep you want to get. We booked our camping late so we ended up in the Family Campground which had been pretty quiet the first night. We grab some drinks and went for a walk to see who was around. One of my favourite parts of NASCAR weekends in the people we meet. That night we met a group of guys from Vermont. We sat with them for hours just chatting. The following night we met a much rowdier group from South Carolina, but again spent hours talking, singing, dancing (they had me two-stepping and I don’t know how to two step). The races are amazing to attend but the people you meet and the activities that happen make the memories even better. The Bama Boys ( my nickname for them) are trying to convince us to bring our car to South Carolina in November to race dirt track at their local track. We will see???????
Day 2 Cleve and I decided to see what else we could find. We headed upstairs towards the press box and ended up on the roof with the spotters and tv crews. It was a great view of the track, surrounding area and downtown Charlotte. We ended up heading back down to the pits for the Xfinity race and found a spot in one of the pits that wasn’t being used. What a race and Josh Berry for the win! After the race we ventured down to https://www.charlottesgotalot.com/events/festivals/circle-k-speed-street and seen an awesome concert by Steve Millar Band. They had the crowd rocking!
Sunday brought the longest race of the year in the NASCAR schedule. 600 miles on a mile and a half track makes for a long day. The Indy 500 is also run that day in the morning. The are a handful of crazy NASCAR drivers that have run the Indy 500 in the morning and then flown to Charlotte and ran the 600 later in the day! Insanity is a word that comes to mind! The 600 is also ran on Memorial weekend. Now I have always said we Canadians could learn a lot about patriotism from the Americans. The amount of pride they show for their country, flag and military is amazing and the pre-race show was no exception.
Most NASCAR races have a fly over of military planes during the National Anthem, and this weekend was no exception (it is actually one of my most favourite part of the races). This weekend they had a fly over and a very cool display from a military helicopter. There was a parade of military vehicles and military members, military singers and of course Lee Greenwood singing the iconic “God Bless the USA”. You can’t help but feel patriotic after the pre-race show. Oh did I mention that Lynyrd Skynyrd performed before the military display???? Amazing show to kick it all off!
Now on to the race. As I said earlier this is the longest race of the season. Longest distance and usually the longest running time. It typically takes around 4 1/2 hours to run the race, but this one was around 5 1/4 hours which set a new record. Cleveland and I wandered down through the pits and found an empty pit and that is where we decided to set up for the race. We ended up in an empty pit between Kurt Busch and Daniel Suarez which made my husband really happy as he is a huge fan of Daniel. It was very cool to experience it from this spot. It was a different experience being able to watch the pit stops and see how everyone works, watching the crew it in the pit box getting ready for each pit stop and then celebrating afterwards or running through what went wrong. As racing parents ourselves it gave us a very different view of the race. No matter where you watch the race, the excitement of being there never gets old. When the race starts and they come to the start/finish line, the excitement is crazy but when they come around the next lap and everyone is at full speed and the cars are all still together in a pack everything shakes and moves and that is when the real excitement kicks in and this race was no exception. Lots of exciting pit stops, crashes (sad that Kurt Busch crashed out early). Daniel was running a heck of a race but then he was involved in an accident as well. After many green flag laps, lead changes, cautions and a red flag, Denny Hamlin crossed the start finish line first with the checkered flag flying. Another great weekend at a NASCAR race comes to an end, but a very different experience this time!
Photo credits to Cleveland Ellis – Life’s A Blog