NASCAR at Richmond - Tips for Your Visit
Do you have plans to go to an upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond Virginia? Here is some useful information gathered over 10 years of attending races at RIR, including tips on what to bring with you, how to get decent parking and the best opportunities to meet some of your favorite drivers.
What to bring
This list of recommended items assumes you plan to spend a full day at the track. Depending on your plans you might not need everything on the list.
- Tailgating gear (chairs, canopies, coolers)
- Food for at least three meals (see below for details)
- Portable grill
- Beverages, especially water
- Clear backpack (track regulations allow only clear packs to be taken inside)
- Rain poncho (hopefully you won’t need to use this)
- Ear protection
Getting to the track
Because Richmond NASCAR races are at night, there is a steady flow of traffic to the track all day, increasing as race time approaches. In order to avoid the worst of the traffic and to get the best parking, we generally arrive at the track around 9am. This might seem incredibly early, however, early arrival leads to better parking, which in turns leads to a closer proximity to the track (and bathrooms). Arriving early is also a must if you are hoping to get driver autographs (see the section on meeting drivers below).
The parking areas in front of the track (off Laburnum Avenue) are, in my opinion, the best (non-VIP) spots available. For one thing, cars aren’t parked quite as close together in front as they are along the side of the track. For another, there is generally a fairly big gap between the cars and the fence, which leaves a nice wide area to set up a dining tent and chairs, play corn hole, etc. It is a fairly short walk from the front lots to the bathrooms, the merchandise haulers and to the track itself. Additionally, the front spots are close to McDonalds, a gas station, and to a number of merchandise tents that are set up across Laburnum.
If you aren’t fortunate enough to get parking out front, then parking along the side of the track (also off Laburnum Avenue) is your next best bet. This lot is enormous and the cars are packed in fairly tightly. Even so we have usually been able to find a place to put up the dining tent. Depending on where you are placed in the lot you might be close to the track itself (and therefore close to flushing toilets) or you might not. However, there are many portable toilets stationed around the parking lots for those not too squeamish to use them.
The back lot is located behind and away from the track and is our least favorite place to park. If you end up here, be prepared to walk a considerable distance to reach the track. I recommend you only make the trip once – take everything with you when you go and plan on remaining at the track until the race is over and you are ready to leave. Although this lot is not ideal if you are tailgating, it does have two potential advantages: 1. It is convenient if you do not want to spend the whole day at the track and have seats on the back stretch. 2. The walk in from this lot takes you past the drivers’ motorhomes, which might allow you to catch a glimpse of some of your favorite drivers on their way to the track.
Food at the track
Because Richmond International Raceway is located on the fairgrounds, the food available is primarily fair food - hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers, pretzels, etc. The prices can be a bit steep, depending on what you get. We find that it is much cheaper to bring our own food and a small portable grill. We bring enough food for lunch and dinner as well as for a third meal that we eat after the race while we’re waiting for traffic to clear.
Drivers who have come out to their merchandise trailers at Richmond to sign autographs include:
- Greg Biffle
- Casey Mears
- AJ Allmendinger
- Jamie McMurray
- Kasey Khane
Meeting the drivers
Many drivers come out to their merchandise trailers to sign autographs in the afternoon on race day. However, most require you to get a ticket or a wrist band in order to secure a spot in line. The tickets are almost always given out in the morning, starting around 9am (sometimes even earlier). This is why I strongly recommend you plan to arrive at the track early. There have been times when we’ve arrived at 9am and been too late for tickets! Fortunately, if you miss the chance to get tickets there are usually a few drivers who don’t require them.
TV program tapings
There are a number of programs that are taped at the track. Fans are usually welcome to attend the tapings. Drivers appearing on the shows often arrive a few minutes early or stay a few minutes late to say hello to the fans and sign autographs.
Drivers’ motorhome area
If you aren’t concerned about getting an autograph but would just like to catch a glimpse of your favorite driver, head around to the back of the track. There is a large, fenced-off area where the drivers’ motorhomes are parked. If you are patient you might be able to see the drivers when they head to the track. You might also get to see their pit crews coming and going. Just remember that the motorhome area is where drivers go to relax and spend time with their families so please be respectful.
During the race
Most of the seating is bleacher-style so you might want to bring a cushion to sit on, especially if the weather is cool or if it rained earlier in the day. Because the track is small it gets VERY noisy once the engines are fired so you’ll almost certainly need ear protection. Once the sun sets it can get pretty chilly in the stands so pack a light jacket in your backpack.
Traffic after the race
Traffic exiting the track after the race is pretty bad and there’s not much you can do about it. Even leaving before the race ends won’t help. (I had friends who tried it and were still in the lot when the race ended.) In my experience the front lot empties out the fastest, but that’s not saying too much. Your best bet is to not be in a hurry. Fire up the grill and have a post-race snack. By the time you are done eating the traffic will have cleared enough to allow you to hit the road.