Best things to know when bringing kids to a NASCAR race

James Gilbert | Getty Images
James Gilbert
Getty Images

Attending a NASCAR race in-person provides one of the best bonding experiences between parents and their children.

Even if they’ve attended numerous races before, especially when they were kids themselves, parents can still get as starstruck at a NASCAR race as their children. The sights, sounds and smells all provide a sensory experience not found anywhere else.

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There are the cars and drivers and race action to be seen, the roar of the engines when they come alive upon the command to start up, as well as the smells of food at nearby concession stands.

As part of NASCAR’s Summer Family Fun initiative, here are the best things to know when you are bringing kids to the track:

1. What did you say? I can’t hear you: Without question, the most important thing you can do as a parent when you bring your kids to a race, no matter if they’re 5 or 15 years old, is to keep their ears covered to protect their precious hearing. Race cars and race action can oftentimes exceed 100 decibels, which can compare with sounds at a hard rock concert or standing near a jet airplane engine. For another point of reference, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health says the maximum rate of audible exposure is 85 decibels. While some parents believe ear plugs are the best (and can be conveniently purchased at every race track), a better choice is a heavy duty set of noise-canceling headphones that also offer full coverage over the ears.

2. Keep their precious skin covered: Whether with sun block (the higher the SPF number, the better) or clothing, keep your kids’ skin covered as much as possible. Sitting in the grandstands for three or more hours — and with the sun and high heat beating down — can often result in a significant sunburn, which is both painful and potentially dangerous, especially to younger kids. Another good tip: keep a bottle of aloe handy in your backpack in case a burn starts developing.

3. Go get yourself some cheap sunglasses: It may be part of the lyrics of one of ZZ Top’s most popular songs, but the advice is solid nonetheless. Just like the ears and skin, keep your little one’s eyes covered, particularly on ultra-sunny days.

4. Pack light, but pack smart: When you pack for the track with all the essentials you’ll need, like suntan lotion, extra water, etc., make sure you throw in an extra pair of clothes in case your kids accidentally spill food or drink on themselves. And if necessary (if temperatures are expected to drop during the course of the day or night), toss in a jacket or sweater for good measure. Think of it like you’re taking a short overnight trip and you’re bringing what you need.

5. Gimme some water, cool, cool water: With homage to the late Eddie Money, another of the most important things to keep in mind is to keep your kids (and yourself) hydrated. That means bring several bottles of water or energy drinks to stay cool and keep your energy and fluid levels up. While some may prefer to drink soda, remember that while it may taste good, it also acts as a diuretic, giving little protection compared to the benefits you get from drinking water.

6. Don’t forget the markers: One of the most exciting aspects of attending a race isn’t just watching it, it’s also trying to make contact with some of the drivers. Often before a race, drivers will make their way either to the grandstands or perhaps while walking from the motor home lot to the garages, and stop to sign autographs. We recommend Sharpie pens for drivers to sign your program, autograph books, photos, diecasts or other forms of souvenirs/memorabilia because they can write on almost any type of surface.

7. Keep ’em covered: Unfortunately, with the recent flare up of the COVID-19 Delta variant, more tracks and states are requiring all race attendees to wear face masks or coverings to prevent the spread of the virus (as well as return to social distancing practices, where possible). Make sure your child’s face is covered adequately and bring several additional masks/face coverings just in case a mask breaks.

8. Get your directions set early: One of the best bits of advice we can offer is when you find your seat, make sure you mentally map out where two of the most crucial bits of information that you need are located: the location of the nearest bathrooms and food concession stands.

9. Listen to your kids, mom and dad: If your child is feeling ill or uncomfortable, don’t ignore them just for the sake of you wanting to stick around to watch the finish of the race. Nothing is more important than how your kids are feeling, especially if they experience sensory or physical overload in their first-ever, at-track race experience.

10. Souvenirs, hey, get your souvenirs here: Going to a race isn’t complete until you have a keepsake remembrance of the event to take home with you. There’s plenty of souvenirs available to keep the experience forever in your heart and mind. Tracks have souvenir stands carry all types of collectables from clothing of your favorite driver or the track itself to diecast cars, collector pins to programs (our two favorite things to get) and more. To paraphrase the old American Express commercials, “Don’t go home without something (to remember the race experience).

11. Don’t ever forget — keep an eye on your kids: Lastly, while we would like to think everyone in this world is good — and NASCAR races have great security and protections for fans — common sense and awareness in this day and age remains tantamount. Never, ever let your kids out of your sight, especially the younger ones. If they want to go to the bathroom or concession/souvenir stand, go with them (unless they’re older and may go with one or more older or age-similar siblings or friends).