I feel your pain. I know what you are going through. The Super Bowl just ended and that means that you’ll be packing away your tailgating gear for another year. Sure, football and tailgating have become synonymous (except at the Super Bowl, but I think we have beaten that dead horse enough) but just because the season has ended doesn’t mean tailgating has to stop. To quote Alexander Graham Bell, “When one door closes, another opens”. And that door you hear opening is tailgating at the auto races.
Tailgating at auto racing events, whether it be NHRA POWERade Drag Racing, Nascar Sprint Cup or even the open wheel racing series like the IRL, Champ Car or Formula One, is very different than tailgating a football game. For starters, tailgating the races is more like camping. Because the races are usually held over a period of days, many racing tailgaters prefer the comforts of tailgating in an RV. Racing tailgaters will normally get the weekend pass and many agree that tailgating with an RV is one of the best ways to go. Another difference between tailgating the races and a football game is that your tailgating spot usually doubles as your way to see the event. At a college or pro football game, the tailgating takes place in the parking lot. Prior to kickoff, you pack up all your gear, load it up and lock it securely in your vehicle and then head into the game. Auto racing tailgating allows you to tailgate right up until the start of the race. Once the green flag flies, just climb on top of your RV and you have a 360 degree view of the entire track. Not tailgating with an RV? No problem. Just grab your lawn chairs and head to the catch fence and you can experience the races up close and personal.
Tailgating at the drag races offers you the most freedom. Because the drag races are an all day affair, you can choose to go back to your car or truck and have a few cold ones during the segments that do not contain your favorite types of race cars. In the case of the NHRA race held at Brainerd International Raceway, some people tailgate in the track’s infield and never make it into the grandstands all weekend. Same goes for tailgating at Talladega Superspeedway. Some Nascar tailgaters go to Talladega’s infield just for the tailgate party with no intention of watching the race.
Tailgating an open wheel event is a bit different in that tailgating an F1 race is really not tailgating at all. It is more like bar hopping but instead of bars it is corporate and team sponsored hospitality tents. The food and drink served in these tents is top notch and it is prepared by some of the top traveling chefs out there. But for all means and purposes, it does not resemble the tailgating you would see prior to a college football game or the tailgating seen at Darlington.
So fear not my tailgating brethren. Just because college and pro football has closed the book on another season does not mean you have to stop tailgating. The NHRA opens its season this weekend in Pomona, Calif. for the Carquest Auto Parts Winternationals. In less than 10 days, Nascar opens up its season with the Daytona 500. Wipe away your tears with that bar-b-que sauce stained napkin because auto racing tailgating is the cure for the tailgating blues.
(If you are a first time tailgater at the races, make sure to check out Laidback Racing for tons of hints and tips. They have been tailgating at the races for years and have collected quite a few tips on how tailgating at the races is a unique experience when compared to other forms of tailgating.)