Every year from mid-February to mid-November, thousands of auto-racing aficionados pack into 23 venues across the United States to experience the exciting high-speed action that has become a hallmark of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. NASCAR drivers and teams compete on a variety of speedways, each one with its own unique quirks and challenges. However, there are five must-visit NASCAR tracks where every fan should attend at least one race.
1. Daytona International Speedway — Daytona Beach, FL:
The Daytona International Speedway in Florida is undoubtedly NASCAR’s flagship venue, having hosted the prestigious Daytona 500 each February since 1959. Following an extensive renovation project completed in 2016, the track’s main grandstand has been transformed into a world-class motorsports stadium, with immersive interactive displays and expanded shopping and dining areas in addition to 101,500 seats, all with outstanding views of the frontstretch. If watching large packs of cars thunder past the start-finish line at 190 mph is not exciting enough, fans can get behind the wheel or ride along with a professional driver at the NASCAR Racing Experience. It truly is a must-see.
© Michael Tipton
2. Darlington Raceway — Darlington, SC
With its unique egg-shaped configuration, Darlington Raceway has provided for both driver frustration and fan excitement since it opened in 1950. Each Labor Day weekend, the legendary track pays tribute to NASCAR’s rich history with a retro-themed extravaganza featuring the Xfinity Series on Saturday and the Monster Energy Cup Series on Sunday night. In 2018, Darlington will celebrate NASCAR’s 70th anniversary season, with cars sporting paint schemes reminiscent of legendary drivers and vehicles from years past. It’s a spectacle not to be missed.
© Parker Anderson
3. Bristol Motor Speedway — Bristol, TN
Nestled in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Tennessee, Bristol Motor Speedway has attracted enthusiastic crowds to its two annual NASCAR Cup Series races since 1961. Measuring slightly longer than a half-mile, the high-banked speedway is surrounded by some 160,000 grandstand seats, giving it the appearance of a modern-day Roman Colosseum. Each August, the Bristol Night Race is a thrilling 500-lap contest with forty cars and drivers vying to conquer the speedway’s challenging concrete confines. With the 2018 running scheduled for August 18, it is sure to be an electrifying, can’t-miss affair for any NASCAR fan.
© Corey Poole
4. Martinsville Speedway — Martinsville, VA
Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway holds the distinction of being the only track to have hosted NASCAR’s premier series since its inception in 1949. The paperclip-shaped speedway’s unique configuration provides for close racing and plenty of contact between vehicles, creating myriad challenges for drivers and plenty of excitement for spectators. Despite its status as the smallest track on the NASCAR schedule, Martinsville is a legendary venue that must not be overlooked.
© Raniel Diaz
5. Watkins Glen International — Watkins Glen, NY
One of only two road courses currently hosting the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Watkins Glen International in upstate New York is a winding, 11-turn circuit with a longstanding tradition of racing excellence. The track has hosted a variety of events over the years, including Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980, but today its showcase event is the NASCAR Cup Series’ Go Bowling at the Glen, scheduled for August 5 in 2018. When the track is not hosting exciting NASCAR or IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship action, fans can drive around the historic circuit’s 3.4-mile Grand Prix layout from the comfort of their own vehicle. Watkins Glen is also a favorite of wine connoisseurs and vintage racing aficionados, hosting an annual wine festival in mid-July and the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix in September. It is not to be missed.
© Christian Sinclair