Phoenix International Speedway: Survival Guide for a Week in the Desert

Angela WolfContributor IMarch 24, 2009

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 09:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, leads Kurt Busch, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9, 2008 in Avondale, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

In a few weeks, we are heading off to Phoenix International Raceway, and I made sure I requested one extra day off work to recover. Trust me, you need more time, but with  economy this year that is all I could afford.

When pulling a trailer to Phoenix and dropping 4,000 feet in elevation in four hours through steep mountain curves, when you get to the track, you are already tired. If you time it just right, you might avoid the rush hour traffic, but in general the traffic is insane at any time.

Remember Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the US.

We pull in on a Tuesday before the Saturday race and this gives us ample time to get in most of the things they offer there during race week.

Setting up camp on the first day is always fun. We meet and greet people (new and old) at the RV spots as they roll in. We hang our drivers flags high and pop open that first beer and make a toast for the upcoming races. My husband is one that helps other older people get their trailers in just right, making sure they get every inch they deserve out of their spot.

On the Thursday before the race, we go visit the pits and run back and forth trying to get autographs. PIR doesn't like, it but you need to be aggressive to get anywhere with this. Generally the drivers that race both series are easier.

Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and a few others are almost impossible for reasons, being as they are too busy or that they just wont do it. We are generally very successful and are lacking just a very few. (I have had to jump over the wall to get Jeff Gordon's.)

Like I said though, I wouldn't advise it, but hey, it was for Mother. I finally got that dang bear of hers signed after nine years of her trying.

I also fell over backward on a golf cart trying to get Earnhardt Jr.'s picture. I forgive you Earnhardt Jr. for not helping me up. If you picked up every gal that fell over you, you wouldn't have time to race.

Buying a beer in the pits is expensive, but after the first four you manage somehow to afford the next few.

When returning from the pits, you can't help but notice the Oasis Bar. This is a fun place to watch great bands and dance the night away. You may also run into a few favorite drivers there. The "talk" is NASCAR, and it's a lot of fun because people have that one thing in common there.

We have found out that getting around on bicycles is the best way to go. You get as much done, and see as much as possible. Now be careful though, because if you have had a few, don't let anyone tell you: "it's just like riding a bike."

Getting off and walking may be a better alternative, if not, you could end up in other places like a ditch.

On the way back to camp, you look up and see the "Towers." This place has had a lot of criticism from PIR because it's huge.

At two stories high, this place is like a permanent fixture there, but not really. These guys construct this tower every year from ground up in two days and have the best hospitality around. Bon fires, music, and great story telling is what you find here. My friend Walt, here's to you!

At PIR we have a full size grocery store that is on site. People have seen Richard Petty or Bobby Labonte and other drivers outside at times doing autographs. They have the best barbecue around, and are open early and close late—which is very accommodating to race fans.

If you have never been to a race, and camped for a few days, another thing you may come across are people playing various forms of Washers, Left-Right-Center, Bean Bags, and other fun games.

Talking seems to be the biggest thing of all. Everyone is out to let others know who "their driver" is.

I'd tell you about the missing shopping carts and going down the 25 percent man made race track, but I'd better not. That's "Top Secret."

Really they stopped doing that—really!

We have run into other interesting things at PIR, like a huge brush fire outside the track and a massive rain storm that shut even the main highways down (didn't rain out the race though—wheew), and another generator fire inside the track that burned down a few things. In general all was good I'm pretty sure everyone was alright.

OK, it's Friday. I've wrecked a few times on the bike, and I'm getting up this morning a little sore—but hey it's time to go racing!!!

Phoenix International Raceway is a fun place to go for all. It's one of the finest one-mile tracks. Some of the former recent race winners include Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton, and more.

Legendary drivers like Richard Petty, Davey Allison, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. have raced here.

The track is located about 15 miles west of Phoenix, at the foothills of Estrella Mountains. With gorgeous scenery and breath taking sunsets, you will have a time of your life. What you can't manage to see in April, you can do in November. 

This track is a favorite to a lot of drivers. The Sprint Cup Series stated racing here in 1988, but it's been here since 1964. (Oh my! That's when I was born!)

To all race fans—young and old—this is a great race to attend, just please be advised to watch out for those crazy bike riders.

Thanks Ang