NASCAR racing at MIS in June

NASCAR 2Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn, Michigan, is the site for two NASCAR races each year. The first date is Father’s Day weekend in June. The second is the third weekend in August. The track can handle about 140,000 people. That is by far the biggest weekend crowd that comes to Southern Michigan every year.

I own the Munro House Bed and Breakfast in Jonesville. It’s just a half hour from the track and we have always had a nice bunch of race fans stay at our house. I had been familiar with NASCAR all my life, but had never been a big fan. I knew the big names and heard about the big races, but never had a desire to go to a live event–it just wasn’t my thing. All those people, plus traffic, parking, and the potential for sunburn was not appealing. Year after year, many of the same people would return to stay with us on race weekends and they got me interested enough to consider going just once, as an observer.

NASCAR Juniors Fans Auto RacingI was told to get there early, because the gates opened at 6:00 a.m. and it would be a good thing to be there when they opened to enjoy the full spectacle of it all. Most of my guests would pay a local $25 or more to park in their yard, because it is easier to get out of their yard than the parking lot when the race is over. Then I was told to go to the NASCAR Village to get t-shirts and hats and other memorabilia plus food and water. Then I was to mingle with the crowd and await the 2:00 p.m. start.

NASCAR souvenir trailerI had work to do, so I didn’t leave the house until 11:30 a.m. I thought I was in trouble, but I was wrong. I was driving the only track-bound vehicle on US-12! I did not see another car until I got 5 miles from the track at the intersection of highways 12 & 127 where 3 cars turned in front of me at the traffic light. The four of us drove right to the track without ever slowing down below the speed limit. We pulled into the MIS grounds where we were directed to a designated parking area. I was pointed to my spot and was surprised to find that they did not charge a fee to park! I had arrived in 30 minutes flat.

I walked a half mile or so to the NASCAR Village–it is a huge area with over a hundred semi trailers parked in rows. These trailers are actually small stores, museums, and restaurants. They pull them from track to track and set them up very quickly to take care of the needs of the fans. Everything NASCAR is available in the village. I checked out several things, but my focus was on obtaining a ticket, as I didn’t have one.

NASCAR michiganThe start of the race was about an hour away, so my attention was on people selling tickets. While meandering through the village, I saw a guy raise his hand and call out “I got–one!” I approached him and told him I was interested. He showed me the $65 face value ticket and said I could have it for $20. I noted that it was high in the third turn and said “deal”. I flipped him a 20, he walked away happy, and I started figuring out where “turn 3” was.

I made my way to the bleachers about a half hour before the start. I picked up something to eat and some extra water and got to my seat about the time the proceedings began. There was a parade of cars, a jet fly-over, and the singing of our national anthem. I had a good view of the jumbo tron TV screen and settled in with my fellow race fans.

NASCAR michigan speedway grandstandI could see the entire track from my seat and watched as the cars drove away from me, then towards me, and around again. Those cars are LOUD! The crowd got louder as the racers went by. Some were wearing headphones, listening to their team’s radio broadcast. Some also had headsets and were talking to their friends. Everyone had their favorite driver and cheered them on while they good-naturedly ribbed their friends who were following someone else. NASCAR is more than a race, it is a huge social gathering.

nascar michigan 400The heat of the day and the noise got to me rather quickly. After 50 laps, I was ready to move, and so I did. I made my way through turn 4 and into the grandstands opposite pit road. That was where all the action was really taking place. Tires were being changed in moments, gas tanks were filled in seconds, and many other things were happening in the blink of an eye. I found this location to be the most entertaining. I spent a little bit of time in somebody else’s seat, then moved on when they returned. When the cars weren’t in the pits, there was a lot of jostling for position going on as the vehicles hit top speed on the straightaway.

I decided to put an early end to my day and listen to the rest of the race on my radio on the way home. I left with the competition a little more than half over. I didn’t want to mess with over 100,000 people trying to leave Brooklyn, Michigan, at the same time. I made it to my car and drove away and was home in 30 minutes flat.

I got to experience NASCAR in person. I had a good time. More importantly, I was home.

I enjoy most sports from the comfort of my home and prefer to watch sports on TV. But until you’ve been to a live event, you just won’t know all the extra stuff you miss out on. If you have a day or more to spend with your sport and like-minded fans, it is pretty hard to compete with the NASCAR experience. Everyone should go at least once, many people go every year, and some folks are NASCAR groupies who get to as many races as possible every year. I have been there and done that and will probably go again with a group of friends, but not by myself.

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Published in: on June 5, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Comments (1)  
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