You know what they say…fans come first. And that’s pretty much true at Bristol Motor Speedway. After all, the cars are literally parked on top of the fans.
You’d think that the organizers of Bristol would want fans to feel comfortable and safe at all times – especially when they’re paying big bucks to see a race. So what would make a person feel uncomfortable? One word: bag checks.
It’s no secret that the security in some parts of the country has gotten lax in enforcing the “no-bag” policy. That means that you can bring whatever you want into the venue with you. And that includes bags. Which is probably why, when security checked my bag at the door, they didn’t even bother to ask me if I’d left anything aside from the sports bag I was carrying. Because they already knew the answer.
The lack of a no-bag policy at Bristol is pretty annoying. Especially during the off-season. When there aren’t any events going on, it’s the perfect time for you to bring a camera with you. Or your smartphone. Or both. You could technically bring a laptop even though they wouldn’t let me enter my Macbook Pro with me. Because you never know when that thing will come in handy. Especially since the track doesn’t exactly offer much in the way of tech stores where you can get your hands on new devices. At least not without paying a high price.
Of course, you also have to factor in the time it takes to go through security. And the time it takes to come back. Especially since the last part doesn’t really exist anymore. Nowadays you can get a good enough look at a screen on your phone.
But it’s not just a security issue. You also have to think about the people around you. Like those who are actually there to see the race. Whether they’re sitting in the grandstands or camping out in the infield. If you’re going to be carrying a bag anyway, why not bring something that’ll make them feel more comfortable? And why not choose a bag that’s easier for them to carry?
A Comfortable Rental Car Is Key
When I asked Sarah Sharp, communications manager at Bristol, about their bag policy, she pointed me in the direction of their website. So I went there and looked at their list of autos—perfect for those who want to drive up and park. (It also included the Corvette, so if you’re a fan of old cars, you might want to check this one out.)
I didn’t see any specific information about whether or not they had a bag policy. So I figured I would just ask.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a formalized bag policy,” she wrote in an email. “While we’d like to keep everyone safe and comfortable, we have to enforce the rules and regulations put in place by NASCAR. So, if you’re arriving by car, you’ll need to check your vehicle before entering the track.”
It would help if they gave you some sort of an incentive to leave your bag at home. Because the last thing you need is to have it stolen while you’re trying to enjoy the race. Or for someone to ruin your night by throwing up on it.
Camping Is Also An Option
Camping at Bristol is something that lots of people do. So if you’re a fan of the outdoors and like the idea of cooking your own food and having access to the great outdoors, then consider camping. (And bring your own toilet paper. Because the bathrooms at the track might not have any.)
“Camping is an option for anyone who wants to attend one of our races, but it’s not something we recommend,” she said. “There are some campsites outside Bristol that you can stay in, but even those have restrictions. You can’t have a grill or a campfire, for example.”
It’s not just the RV lifestyle. You can also camp at a municipal campground. (It also depends on where you’re parked. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it costs you.)
“Camping is not recommended because it’s very cold during the night,” she said. “And if you don’t have your own heater, it can be very hard to stay warm. Also, if there’s a storm or a thunderstorm, then it could be dangerous. Lightning could strike anywhere, so you don’t want to be anywhere near a tree.”
Trying to enjoy the race and catch some z’s in the back of your camper isn’t the most ideal situation. Especially not when you have a bag of your own. That you have to drag around wherever you go. Especially if sleep is a challenge. Especially since the last thing you want to do is wake up in the middle of the night because your sleep apnea alarm is going off.
Bike Helmets And Masks Are Great For Long Days
While you can’t always control the weather in North Carolina, you can be sure that it’ll never get cold enough for you to need a sweater. Which is why I always bring a light jacket or a fleece pullover when I go to the track. (Especially since they recently got rid of the jacket requirement for those over 75 years old. So now you can walk around the track in your birthday suit if you feel like it.)
Bike helmets are also great for protecting your head during those long layovers. Especially since they offer full-face protection. So no more hanging your head out the window like a dog. (Dogs are allowed to ride in the car with you. But they have to stay on their paws. Or in a dog carrier. It’s the law. But you don’t have to wear a seat belt. Unless you want to.)
Some people like being able to touch and feel the tires as they pass by. So running your hands along the fenders of the cars is something that you should experience at least once in your life. (Even if it’s just for a few seconds. Because the contact can hurt a bit. But it’s worth it. And there’s some debate about whether or not touching the track actually helps improve your “sporting” odds. So it might not be the best idea. Unless you’re trying to get somewhere else. Then it’s probably a great idea. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.)
Bring Your ID
It’s not just the lack of a bag policy that concerns me. It’s also the lack of a comprehensive list of what is and isn’t allowed at the track. Because as we’ve seen, sometimes those rules can change. Especially since they don’t want to offend anyone. Which is probably why they don’t have a list. (Even though it would really help matters if they did. Because then it would be easier for everyone to know what was or wasn’t allowed. Especially since security often doesn’t seem to know what’s going on either.)
I think it would be best if they instituted a dress code. Something simple like “business casual.” Meaning you can wear what you want as long as it’s comfortable and doesn’t impede your ability to have a good time. (It’s pretty easy to follow. Just look at most other sports venues and their dress codes. Because they’ve done a great job of making sure you have everything you need without being overdressed.)
It would also be wise to bring an ID. In the form of a driver’s license or an athletic ticket. Something that grants you access to the track. (It is a shame that they don’t do this already. But it’s also not that big of a deal. Just bring the proper documentation and you’ll be fine. And don’t worry about having to show it to the security guards. They are there to help you enjoy the race—not to question your identity.)