From sea to shining sea, for most of the year, NASCAR races bring a multitude of RV and racing fans from every corner of the country. There is a reason these destinations are among the industry’s most-watched, highest-attended, and top-grossing events, and it has a lot to do with the RV and “tailgating” lifestyle. Major tracks and locations include Talladega, Sonoma, Bristol, Texas Motor Speedway, Daytona, Charlotte, Dover, New Hampshire, Indianapolis, Darlington, Las Vegas, and our very own Michigan International Speedway. One of the largest series races in the Monster Energy Cup circuit is the Coca-Cola 600, a massive and grueling 600-mile enduro that runs from daytime into the night, illuminated by a special lighting system. Explaining that the camping and tailgating scene there turns into one giant party as darkness falls may be a bit of an understatement, as NASCAR fans seem to rival European Le Mans attendees for crazy antics and activities. Imagine a circus being held at the biggest barbecue you’ve ever seen, with more painted skin than you previously thought possible, and stock cars roaring away endlessly in the background. Different venues have different rules, including who may park in the infield (easily the most expensive option, arguably the best vantage point and wildest fan experience you could want). You’ll most certainly want to plan ahead for the reserved-parking events, as they sell out faster than you might believe possible. If you were hoping to book a tailgating spot at the Indy 500 next spring, you are way too late! Pricing for infield RV spots run from just under $100 up to a few thousand bucks, depending on the track and race series. Even the parking lots can have a lively atmosphere, with TVs blaring the ongoing race inside and outside most of the vehicles and beer flowing like water. Race fans who don’t even have tickets will congregate as far as a half-mile away, simply pitching a tent in a vacant spot to enjoy the ambiance. Enough space and food for a small country define most such events, making it a good time for all.
Naturally, the infield parking is a phenomenal experience, but be prepared for incredibly close RV parking, extremely loud noises, very little sleep, dense exhaust fumes, and a whole lot of alcoholic beverages (and the after-effects). We would probably not recommend bringing little ones or indeed anyone sensitive to this kind of environment.
INDYCAR / FORMULA 1
Open wheel racing, particularly Formula 1, is certainly more popular in most other countries, but here in the states it still has quite a large following, especially the IndyCar Series. The main events might not match the top NASCAR races, but they are still highly enjoyable and fun for all ages. Generally, pricing ranges from $525 for a front-row season pass at Watkins Glen to prime spots at Circuit of the Americas, which demand $15,000 apiece for the same infield access, including 8 tickets to each race, as well as water and power hookups. To put that in perspective, there is a brand new 30-foot travel trailer on sale for less than one such COTA pass. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida, by way of example, will run you $1200 for a weekend pass with no hookups. Even these figures are pocket change, however, compared to those well-heeled individuals who pay north of six figures to park their yacht in a berth at Monaco harbor . . . for ONE RACE.
Depending on the track, the vantage point can be closer even than at a stock car race, letting fans and RVs pull right up to the barricade fence. Sit up on the roof of your motorhome for a truly special viewing sensation as the cars fly by!
Welcome to one of the most extreme forms of motor racing. Rally drivers and fans are truly a unique breed, but then rally racing is itself rather unusual in the general scope of motorsport. As any rally enthusiast will tell you, it’s one thing to sit there and wheel a car around a paved oval in a series of left turns, but it’s another thing entirely to hustle a fire-breathing machine across the wild landscape, over hills and around obstacles, with the exhaust spitting flames and knobbly tires clawing for traction on dirt, gravel, snow, or tarmac. These are true four-season events, unlike most other types of racing, and they take place in every sort of climate and terrain imaginable, including snowy blizzards or muddy swampland. As with open wheel events, rally racing is not quite as widespread here as in other countries, with the mecca being the World Rally Championship in Finland. Popularity has increased in America in the last decade, with everything from local grassroots events to the huge Red Bull Global Rallycross spectacles, and RV enthusiasts have followed suit.
While a Red Bull Rallycross race takes place in a closed loop no more than a mile long, some of the extended rally courses are not closed, and can stretch for many miles. Traditional RV camping or tailgating while spectating is more difficult in those cases, since you only see the cars once per stage. Often a cross-country rally team will employ a support vehicle like an RV at the start and finish lines, and sometimes spectators will do the same, but those seeking a more stable, long-term camping experience will prefer a shorter enclosed rallycross course.
Like other forms of racing, drifting–basically glorified sideways sliding for style points–spans everything from grassroots parking lot events with orange cones up to the big league Formula Drift, which takes place over two days on a weekend, at a major venue like Texas Motor Speedway. The showoff-ish nature of drifting usually involves rather outgoing individuals, so you will probably never mistake this for a knitting convention. As with other arenas of motorsport, RVs are primarily used as support vehicles or for spectator enjoyment.
Most smaller local grassroots events are held at small rural locations that generally aren’t set up for RVing, which means that while bathrooms might be available, hookups and other amenities meant for long-term camping most likely won’t be. Come prepared to largely self-sustain.
Perhaps the ultimate demonstration of human capability in motorsport can be found in endurance racing, which is generally any race lasting longer than a few hours. Perhaps the highest-profile event here in the states is the day-long Rolex 24 at Daytona, followed by the 10-hour Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta. Race teams and fans alike relax in RVs between driving shifts over a weekend, and can watch the race on TV or try to get some sleep. Due to the lengthier time frame of an endurance race, there are usually several other activities going on before and during the race, including car shows, fireworks, carnival rides, food vendors, live music, and more. Many campsites only charge their usual rate of around $30/night, making some of these events a bargain. Don’t miss the artwork on some of the buses in the infield.
Races don’t stop when the rain starts. Cars pull into the pits, switch to wet-weather tires, and they just keep going. Plan for possible shelter when RVing. When you hit an exhaustion wall around 4am or 9am, you’ll want a comfortable place to sack out and grab a few winks.