There are dozens of high quality race tracks around the world. Some are storied and you must travel across oceans to see them; names like Le Mans, Spa, Yas Marinas, and Suzuka all pop to mind. Some are convenient: Near to us are the streets of Belle Isle in Detroit, Wisconsin’s Road America, and Ohio’s, er, Mid Ohio. Some are just plain fun like Sebring or the seemingly tiny Lime Rock Park. Since we’re US based, we’ll be focused on America’s great race tracks and venues.
What’s the best race track to travel to? Start with the one easiest for you to get to. Enjoying auto racing in person is the greatest way to see it. Maybe you’re in the deep south and NASCAR is your only ticket. Go enjoy it! These races are all a blast. Even Top Fuel dragsters are amazing to watch.
Which auto race tracks the best spectator access? Of all the circuits, the lower levels of motorsports tend to be the most accessible, like the Michelin Cup or IMSA. IMSA certainly wins the prize here in our minds. They offer open paddock access in most places. You can wander around most of the tracks including the infield, and the people are all super nice. The sad fact is that organizations like NASCAR and Formula 1 are so popular that to get up close and personal you need to spend either major cash or be well connected.
Where does your dollar stretch furthest? A $75 ticket to an IMSA event often gets you in the gate for a full weekend of near all access enjoyment. The same $75 probably doesn’t even get you a seat on an aluminum grandstand bench for race day at Daytona or Indy for their respective 500’s. You have to pay to play, so might as well have that dollar go further! Beyond just the cost of admission, there are always costs like camping spots or lodging, food and beverages, and fan events. Some tracks are pricier, like stadiums, often charging princely sums for food, alcohol, and other lesser beverages. Camping likewise can be very inexpensive, as little as $40 for an unreserved spot at a lower level event, or it can be hundreds or thousands of dollars at an event like the US Grand Prix or Daytona 500.
The best party auto racing venues? For a lot of folks, the atmosphere is as important as the race itself. Do you want the buzzy vibe of the Daytona 500 or Indy 500? Or do you want a weekend in the forest at Road America for their August IMSA sports car weekend? Having been to well over a dozen well known American tracks for events ranging from stock car racing, dirt track races, sports cars, formula cars, and dragsters: The wildest and best party we’ve seen is Sebring for the 12 Hours.
For the last 60-plus years, a lovable mix of Florida rednecks and high-end sports car fans descend on this orange-grove-surrounded town. They watch teams from all over the world duke it out on a brutally bumpy race track with little elevation change. The best part is the party though. The atmosphere is mostly Mardi Gras with a splash of race gas and exhaust notes. We’ve rarely seen so much booze consumed or fun had. The Indy 500 and Daytona 500 are also known for their epic tailgate parties, but these venues are so large you can definitely have louder and quieter areas. Sebring feels like every one of the roughly 100,000 attendees is there for a good time.
The best auto racing tracks to take your kids and non-racing friends? Road America. Hands down the nicest facility, in a gorgeous wooded setting with awesome people and a chill atmosphere. August in Wisconsin is the peak of the best possible weather. Sneaking out on track after dark to lay down on the still-warm asphalt and gaze at the stars is a memory you’ll keep forever. Pack your camping gear in a do-it-all rig like our 2015 Lexus GX 460 Plus, Spotted Cow beer from New Glarus Brewing, cheese curds, and being a few miles from the Johnsonville sausage factory don’t hurt either.
Best part is that Road America’s 10+ around track eateries are often run by local charities or restaurants. This means the food quality is top notch and the costs are shockingly low for track food. The facility is over 500 acres—sometimes it feels more like you’re on a hike than at a track. It’s wild to walk out of the woods and see a car scream past at 150 mph.
Which auto racing venue has some of the best and nicest facilities? Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Texas takes the cake on this. The newer facility is studded with world class features right down to nice bathrooms and well organized entry/exit points. Typically, Formula 1 picks nicer venues, and COTA doesn’t disappoint.
If you’re looking for that “special” venue? Anywhere you can see night racing, whether its under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway or an endurance race that goes 10, 12, or 24 hours, there is nothing like seeing cars race into darkness. It feels special, the cars start pop in the fading light, the brake rotors glow, the exhausts spit fire, it’s just cool!
So which race tracks would we send you to? Having been to so many of these events over the years, we’d probably send you to Sebring or Road America for IMSA races. But look, if you live in LA, drive up PCH to Laguna Seca. If you live in NYC, hit Route 7 in Connecticut to head towards Lime Rock. And if you’re in Florida, there’s nothing like a Daytona 500 (or a 24 for that one). Deep south folks, there’s no substitute for Talladega.
With the COVID pandemic getting beaten back by vaccination efforts, the time has never been better to get out and enjoy some eau d’ racegas. Our team will post photos and stories from any of the races we attend. Drop us a line if you’re heading to any race tracks for the first time, we’re happy to point you in the right direction or say hi if we’re there too!