NASCAR: Top 10 Races with the Best Fan Experience
With 38 race weekends (counting the two non-points events, that is) to choose from, most fans of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series can find an event that fits both their schedule and geographic requirements.
From New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the Northeast to Auto Club Speedway in the Southwest and everywhere in between, there are plenty of fantastic and exciting events to choose from all across the country.
But some fans are absolute die-hards. They crave the biggest events, the most exciting finishes, the most prominent locations on the circuit. Most importantly, though, they want to enjoy the sport they love as much as possible. This is an article for those fans.
We'll be counting off the 10 most fan-friendly race experiences on the Sprint Cup schedule, going chronologically from February to November.
Whether just for the racing, the track facilities, the atmosphere, or the tradition, these are the 10 race weekends that every true NASCAR fan should attend at least once in their life:
Daytona Speedweeks (February)
In the words of fictional secret agent Sterling Archer, "Duh and/or hello!"
Of course, Daytona is a prime fan experience, as the 500 is the Super Bowl of stock car racing and the races leading up to it, from the Budweiser Shootout to the Gatorade Duels, aren't half bad either.
If you're a lifer, you've been to at least one of these, and if you're a new fan, this is probably the first race you ever learned about. Really, this one shouldn't have even merited inclusion. It's too obvious.
Martinsville Speedway (April)
The oldest track in NASCAR also produces its most famous hot dogs, its largest trophies (grandfather clocks), and some of its most slam-bang racing.
Just ask Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer about the finish of this April's event, which saw all three wreck to give the win to Ryan Newman.
(If you're counting, it's also the last place where Richard Petty's famous No. 43 took a victory, at the hands of John Andretti in 1999.)
Darlington Raceway (May)
"The Lady In Black" is a classic NASCAR venue, although its most classic race, the Labor Day weekend Southern 500, has been off of the schedule for years.
Thankfully, the sport has turned its Mothers' Day weekend date into a must-watch event, putting the race under the lights and restoring the classic name and aesthetic (dig those red-and-white striped walls).
The result is usually one of the most competitive races in the first half of the schedule.
Charlotte Motor Speedway (May)
Welcome to the mecca of stock car racing. Over the course of two weekends, the Sprint Cup Series runs both its all-star race and longest event.
Both come with plenty of added fanfare, from the annual Pit Crew Competition to the ability to tour most teams' race shops.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is in town, too, giving folks a chance to experience the rich history that brought the sport to where it is today.
Dover International Speedway (June)
"The Monster Mile" is a track that can absolutely tear cars apart.
Its high banks and concrete surface produce some of the sport's most competitive racing, but the independently-owned track has bolstered its facilities considerably over the past few years.
From the new skybox plaza, to wider seats, to the prevalent statue of Miles the Monster that graces the grounds, Dover has found many ways to assert itself as a must-attend NASCAR track.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July)
Stock cars breaking into open wheel territory? What had for years been a preposterous suggestion became a reality in 1994, and ever since, winning the Brickyard 400 has become more and more prestigious by the year.
This year, the folks at Indianapolis have created a "Super Weekend" to set up the Cup race, running both the Nationwide Series and Rolex Sports Cars to help get the fans ready for the main event on Sunday.
Bristol Motor Speedway (August)
Though the newer configuration at Bristol has made the track less exciting than in years past, the August night race is still a staple of the NASCAR schedule.
The stadium-esque seating often draws comparison to a modern-day Roman coliseum, while its proximity to the Chase for the Sprint Cup in the schedule often means that its winner will carry plenty of momentum into the 10-race playoff.
Atlanta Motor Speedway (September)
For years, Atlanta featured two races, though it's now limited to the Labor Day weekend slot that Darlington once occupied.
Still, Atlanta has lent itself to plenty of excitement over the years, from Kevin Harvick's cathartic spring 2001 win just three weeks after the death of Dale Earnhardt, to Carl Edwards flipping Brad Keselowski in 2010 as an act of payback.
Texas Motor Speedway (November)
There's a reason why Eddie Gossage may be the only active race promoter that you can name off the top of your head, and it's because he stirs up a buzz for every event he puts on.
Having a Chase race at Texas, then, is a natural fit; Gossage can put the top title contenders in cowboy hats and draw up a crazy (yet always brilliant) marketing plan.
Homestead-Miami Speedway (November)
All three of NASCAR's national touring series award their championships in sunny Miami in mid-November.
Thanks to the Chase, it's highly unlikely that any driver ever takes a championship victory lap at Phoenix before the finale, so fans are almost guaranteed to see a champion crowned by the finishing order of the race.
That was especially the case last year, when Tony Stewart managed to win the championship by beating rival Carl Edwards to the line, winning the title by a tiebreaker on victories.