If you’ve ever been to a NASCAR race, you know the name track. It’s that one with the long straightaways and the iconic yellow paint on the racing surface. Sure, we’ve all heard of California Speedway and Darlington Raceway, but if you’re from out of state, you’ve probably never heard of Jacksonville Speedway. That’s probably a good thing though, because if you’ve never been there, you may have some questions about how big it actually is.
Located just outside of Jacksonville, Florida, the 4.095-mile track features a tri-oval layout and plenty of twists and turns. With a capacity for 100,000 spectators, it’s one of the biggest and most popular oval tracks in the country. If NASCAR is a religion for you, then JSCoast is the church. Each week, thousands of devout followers head for the altar, standing in line for a chance to see their favorite drivers go head-to-head. It’s a tradition that started in 1948 and continues to this day.
As a tourist attraction, it doesn’t get much better than this. The speedway is open every day of the year, hosting regular NASCAR events as well as concerts and other sporting activities. If you ever wanted to see what all the hub-bub is about, you can find a parking spot and walk towards the gates. Just expect to see a lot of people when you do.
The History of Jacksonville Speedway
After the Second World War, NASCAR was in bad need of a facelift. The organization had lost its biggest star, Bill France, to jail and its top tracks were in terrible shape, with California having the worst track surface of any of its kind. One of the leaders of the movement was Fred Smith, who owned the track in Smithville, North Carolina. With the help of a group of architects and engineers, he designed a brand-new facility in the shape of an oval track. After raising funds and obtaining the proper licenses, construction started in 1948 and was completed three years later.
The first race at the brand-new track was held in 1950. A crowd of 11,000 people showed up for the inaugural event, with the average temperature reaching a crisp 87 degrees Fahrenheit that day. Since that time, Jacksonville has played host to hundreds of NASCAR races, with the biggest name drivers of all time racing on its asphalt. It’s said that there are only four places in the world that you can find all of the necessary elements to make an oval track: Daytona Beach, Florida; Los Angeles, California; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Jacksonville, North Carolina. If you’ve ever been curious about what all the fuss is about, this is your chance to find out.
The Track Layout
The track layout at Jacksonville is an example of what architects call a tri-oval. This type of track is most famous for its high-banked turns, which makes it ideal for passing and gaining speed. There are three main lanes that run the length of the track, with two more on the inside that are used for passing. The wide entrance/exit ramps help direct and organize the flow of traffic at all times, ensuring that everyone is aware of what’s going on. Another thing to note is that the racing surface is always painted yellow, which provides good contrast against the blue sky. In the middle of the track is a concrete circle, which is the location where most of the accidents occur, especially when there are a lot of cars on the track at once. It would be best to avoid this area if you want to stay safe. Finally, don’t forget to check the weather before attending a NASCAR race at Jacksonville, as heavy rains can cause the track to become almost unroutable. In these cases, they usually have to cancel the event.
The Grandstands & Seating Arrangement
The grandstands at Jacksonville are among the largest in the country, with the backstretch featuring a capacity of around 64,000 people and the frontstretch being capable of holding another 48,000 spectators. This provides excellent sight lines for everyone, even those in the last row. The trackside restaurants and souvenir shops are a great place to catch a glimpse of the action too, especially when the cars are running fast. The paddock area behind the grandstands is also known as the service wing, where the crew members attend to and prepare the cars for the upcoming race. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, you can find a parking spot and walk towards the gates towards the start of the 2018 season. Keep in mind though that they open and close depending on the time of day and whether there’s a concert or a sporting event going on at the same time. This is usually done during morning practice when the concerts are over and before the races start. After the races, the crew members will move the paddock area to the back of the lot so that parked cars don’t cover any of the track. When this is done, the area becomes a free-for-all, with anyone able to park and watch the action from any seat they choose. It’s a great place to catch some rays too, as the sun doesn’t set in Florida yet, so the lighting is always fantastic.
The Other Attractions
Besides the oval track and grandstands, there are many other interesting attractions at Jacksonville. If you love gambling, visit the casino on-site and try your luck at the slots or table games. If you’re looking to kill some time, there’s also an IMAX theater that shows first-run theaters and classic films, a go-kart track, miniature golf, and paintball facilities. Near the front entrance is a small museum that displays a collection of cars that have raced at the track over the years, as well as artifacts from the area’s rich military history.
The list of attractions at Jacksonville Speedway goes on and on. If you want to see a race from start to finish, visit the ticketing website and purchase advance tickets, as these go on sale about a month before each event. You may also want to consider investing in the souvenir program, which features exclusive race merchandise that you won’t find anywhere else. For those interested in American football, the Jacksonville Armada is the local team and plays in the Fall River Football League. The team has been around for more than 70 years and holds the all-time record for most wins in a season with 31. If you’re in the area and want to catch a game, check the roster and see who’s playing, as there are tickets usually available for the lower leagues and even some youth teams. You can also sign up for a game night and invite some friends to join you.
Visiting Jacksonville Speedway
If you’ve ever been curious about what all the hub-bub is about, you can find a parking spot and walk towards the gates. On a hot day, you can find some shade under a tree or in the stands and take a seat. Once the races are over, the crew will clean up and lock the gates for the night. At this point, everyone in the area that was still standing will head towards the back of the lot to help with the sweeping and parking lot cleanup. This is when the real fun begins. If you want to visit Jacksonville and see a NASCAR race, then be sure to set up a visit to the track at least a week in advance. You’ll have the chance to see the crewmembers working hard to get the cars ready and to catch some of the concert events that take place there. Plus, you can walk around the track after the races, as it’s still open to the general public. The more you know!