With gas prices averaging over $3.80 across the country, more and more people are trying to find ways to save money as they travel. For many NASCAR fans, higher gas prices mean less money in their pockets and less to spend on all aspects for even one race trip.
One of the biggest expenses when it comes to attending races are tickets. Depending on the track and the seats, fans may end up spending several hundred dollars per race weekend. Due to the cost, some fans may be forced to make choices to cut back on the number of days they may spend at the track. Or they may also be forced to choose between races when there is more than one race weekend at even their home track.
For example, Bristol’s tickets for the Food City 500 start at $65 for adults and $32 for children 15 and under. Looking at hotels.com for the Bristol area – for a family of four staying Thursday to Sunday for the August race weekend – the lowest price was $173 a night while most ranged between $250-$330 a night.
For two days of tickets and three-nights of lodging, the bill comes to $907 on the low end and $1,378 on the high side, without taxes and added fees. This doesn’t even include fuel or food expenses on the way to and from the track or while at the track. The expense goes up all around, if the race is weather-delayed to the next day.
Between ticket and gas prices, the cost of food, and overnight accommodations and the fact that hotels in the Bristol area require a minimum three-night stay, fans attending both Bristol weekends may be making a hard decision about which race weekend they will now attend. That may be the case and explanation for why the attendance was so low at at the spring Food City 500. The summer Bristol night race is a fan-favorite for the season. Fans may get better deals with hotels by booking well in advance or by using available discounts. So take some time to research potential discounts before making your hotel arrangements.
One company in partnership with NASCAR, along with multiple tracks, is creating a way to help fans save money at race events. Wal-Mart’s Race Time $99 special is available for a number of tracks this season. For that price, fans receive four tickets, four cokes, four hot dogs, and one program. CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com offers similar deals to encourage attendance at-the-track.
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Look for deals to save $$$
Tracks like Chicagoland Speedway and Michigan International Speedway have been making changes to lessen the cost by allowing children 12 and under free admission for certain events. Michigan also provides free admission for children 12 and under for certain sections, as well as offering reduced pricing for all children 17 and under for a majority of the seating sections. Do some research online to see where the best deals are being offered in relationship to your distance from the track, before deciding which events you’ll attend.
Many tracks have also taken a more lenient stance on coolers, allowing fans to bring in small soft-sided coolers. All tracks allowing coolers, permit beverages as long as the containers are not glass. Some allow ice or ice packs within coolers as well. This gives fans the option to pack sandwiches, snacks and drinks vs. paying the higher prices at the track.
Planning ahead and preparing a list of items needed is handy, whether you are driving a short distance or traveling out of state for your next race. Advance planning with a list allows you to keep an eye out for discount coupons and sale papers to buy certain essentials and non-perishables ahead of time at lower pricing.
Some items that are best purchased on sale are beverage and paper products if you are planning on tailgating before the race. You can definitely stock up ahead of time with beverages since they stay fresh for a quite while. And, of course your paper items, such as napkins, plates and even plastic utensils. Other items you can get ahead of time include bottled water and sunscreen, especially for those hot, sunny days at the track. Quick Tip: Freeze your water bottles the night before and use them to in your coolers to keep foods and beverages cold. Remember to leave room for the water to expand as it freezes in the bottle.
Menu planning is another way to save money and time before hitting the road for your race trip. Making your own foods vs. eating at restaurants can save a lot. Check with other fans, asking about their favorite tailgating recipes and how they plan ahead.
One of my personal favorites is a gluten-free snack recipe that can be made ahead of time at home. Chex Muddy Buddies is cost-effective too. Pack this snack in ziplock sandwich bags for each person to have their own snack bag – in warmer weather, keep snack bags in the cooler with an ice pack. Refeshing and convenient for traveling and on-the-go activities throughout the day!
Are the economy and gas prices forcing you to make changes in your race plans this year?
How do you find ways to save money on your race trips?
Share your money saving tips and tailgating recipes in the comments section below.
* Contributing Editor – Sharon Burton