What Makes Michigan International Speedway a Favorite Track for NASCAR Fans? We Found Out!

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Michigan International SpeedwayTraveling through the Irish Hills of Southern Michigan, it is easy to grasp the meaning of the slogan “Pure Michigan.” The budding trees of spring, give way to the lush greens of summer, followed by the stunning colors of fall; nature adorns southern Michigan with a picturesque setting regardless of the season. The rolling hills and quaint towns combine to provide a feeling of stepping back to a simpler era. Visit the historic Clinton Inn and feast on some of the area’s finest cuisine. Rent a cabin at Hideaway Cove and fish beautiful Evans Lake. Back your travel trailer under a tree in the Irish Hills Kampground and enjoy a friendly picnic with fellow campers.Twice a year the jewel of the Irish Hills, Michigan International Speedway, hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup series at the two-mile oval just south of Brooklyn. NASCAR’s fastest track gives fans exciting racing action and an opportunity to visit this popular vacation retreat with acres of camping in and around the racing facility. MIS is located less than 70 miles southwest of Detroit, within easy driving distance of anywhere in Michigan’s lower peninsula, Ohio, Indiana, the Chicago metro area, and Ontario, Canada. A visit to MIS should be on the bucket list for every NASCAR fan.Mid-Michigan race fans look to the Lasco Press for coverage of both races held in our “backyard.” For the Pure Michigan 400 inIrish Hills KampgroundAugust, the Lasco Press sent our fearless sports reporter to interview fans at the track about what keeps them coming back to MIS for these events year after year. We scoured the grandstands, searched pit road, and boldly traversed the infield searching for fans willing to share their thoughts about the track and their experiences attending the races. We talked to some interesting folks, learned a lot about the motivation that drives their attendance, and came away with an appreciation of their willingness to share the stories we now share with you. We made a point of asking everyone we encountered what they liked best about coming to MIS, the responses were remarkably similar.Ron and Sue Puype, from Ontario, Canada, spent the race weekend sitting atop turn 4 in their luxury motorhome. The speedway has 20 premium parking spots just a few feet from the track’s catch-fence. Spots in the “Apex Camping area” are sold on a subscription basis and there is a waiting list to join this exclusive club. The elevation of the turn presents a spectacular view of the entire speedway and the benefits provided by the track are just as impressive. A concierge attends to the guests needs, a comfortable patio area behind the motorhomes serves as a gathering point for those wishing to relax, socialize with fellow fans, and cook on the gas grills maintained by the track staff. Two hot passes are given to guests to visit the pits and garage area. Sue wasimpressed that MIS Track President Roger Curtis checked in to say hello; “Roger came by to see us Thursday evening, spent some time chatting with us to make sure we were comfortable, he’s a very down-to-earth guy.” Ron waved down the 6-man golf cart that operates as a shuttle service to the Apex area; “This is Limo Lew, he takes us where ever we need to go, and he’s a nice guy too.” I have to concur, as Limo Lew gave this reporter a ride partway back to the media center, cheerfully chatting about how he enjoyed interacting with his guests as he chauffeured them around the track.Walking through the grandstands we met Rick and Debbie Wolfe. Rick and Debbie are what you would call real race fans. Traveling from nearby Livonia, Michigan, the Wolfe’s brought their travel trailer to camp near the track so they could attend all the events Thursday through Sunday. After traveling to the NASCAR season opener in Daytona, Rick and Debbie had both events at MIS circled on their calendar to come and cheer their favorite drivers; Tony Stewart for Rick and Kyle Busch for Debbie. When asked if they had plans to attend more NASCAR events, Debbie was quick to point out; “We both recently retired, so more trips to additional tracks is definitely in the planning stages for next year.”Before the races, pit road is a beehive of activity. Companies involved in the sport of NASCAR stock car racing invite clients andemployees to participate in events at the track by providing garage and pit passes along with tickets to the race. Many of these companies rent suites atop the grandstands or adjacent to pit road allowing guests to watch the action in air conditioned comfort.Chuck Sheaffer, a local Servpro dealer, helps people recover from fire and water damage when disaster strikes their home or business. On race weekends at MIS, Chuck introduces people to the exciting world of stock car racing. According to Chuck; “It’s my goal to introduce as many race rookies as I can to this awesome sport, what other sporting event can you attend where they allow you access like this, we love coming to MIS.” The lovely ladies who accompanied Chuck on his stroll down pit lane were quick to point out that they were virgins when it came to big time stock car racing.Trisha Messmann and Tifffany Ungerer are independent distributers for AdvoCare, the primary sponsor for Trevor Bayne’s Ford Fusion. AdvoCare is a direct sales company that markets nutrition, health, and wellness products. Trisha and Tiffany earned freetickets and hot passes to the race based on their performance. Both ladies confided that this was their first trip to MIS and their first stock car race, neither were quite sure what a hot pass was. Overhearing our conversation, a track worker explained that a hot pass was like a Willie Wonka golden ticket, an all-access pass to the pits and garage during the race.  Trisha admitted she was 36 weeks pregnant, but credited her use of AdvoCare products over the course of her pregnancy with helping her “feel fit-as-a-fiddle” making the long walk down pit road.The infield at MIS has a variety of options depending on fans individual interests. Turns one and two offer a family atmosphere, relaxed and laid back, similar to camping at a conventional RV park. Turns three and four are where the party goers assemble; so if you what to cut loose and enjoy some adult beverages, there is no better place to hold a shindig. You don’t have to worry aboutdriving home, when the festivities are over, just walk back to your campsite and call it a night.If alcohol fuels the party, you don’t need to search too hard to find a pumping station. Party hosts set up “bars” on their campsite and serve a variety of drink combinations to their guests. Of course, selling alcohol without a license is illegal so the currency of the infield is gratuities. We visited Custer’s Last Stand where Bill has 70 bottles of various brands of liquor to mix drinks. Bill accepts tips, both monetary and what he termed “entertainment” in exchange for his premium cocktails. We asked Bill if he was a race fan as well as a mixologist, his response; “I come her every June and August to party and a race breaks out, so I watch to see what happens.”Mark, from Northville, Michigan has been coming to MIS for 16 years.  A Jagermeister machine keeps the party going at Mark’s site where he mixes the German brew with Red Bull energy drink earning his camp the moniker of “Bomb Squad.” Mark says; “Coming out here to MIS is like coming home to all our family of friends, we share food, we share drinks, we share good times, and we love the racing.”Ford RacingMusic drives the beat of the infield party, boom boxes blast out favorite tunes, dancing down the road is as common as walking, and everyone wants to join in. Jay-bird and the Bus-Boyz feature a Karaoke machine on the back of their converted school bus. As Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” was being poorly imitated Jay-bird explained; “I am a big Karaoke guy, everybody knows I do Karaoke, we have done this for the last couple of years and everyone seems to enjoy it. We have people climb up on-top of the bus and dance on the platform. Everyone wants their picture taken with our mannequin Loo-C, we have had 40 people up on top of the bus at one time.”Kevin Chamberlain and Louie Studer are musicians, each August they bring a portable stage to their camping spot in the MIS infield. Kevin and Louie’s neighbors in turn four are treated to free concerts from 8pm to midnight Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. The guys play guitars, the strobe lights flash and the crowd gathers to shout out requests “usually rock and roll mixed with some country” says Kevin. Asked why they do it, Louie responds; “We reallyenjoy performing for the campers, we love people, we love coming here and this is our contribution to the party atmosphere in the infield.”Social interaction sustains the infield party and we met several fans who attract visitors to their campsite with incentives to stop and say hello. Dennis and John have a life-size poster of Danica Patrick in a bikini, definitely attracting attention. Asked why they go to all the effort of setting up a lighted photo booth for fans to take pictures with Danica; “It gets people here, people come to watch other people…we like watching people. It’s amazing that all these fans come to the track from all over the Midwest and everyone gets along, hardly ever a problem…the track personnel are fantastic, it seems they take a lot of their ideas from us to provide the type of atmosphere that we can all enjoy.”Bill and Sandy travel every year to MIS from Bath, Michigan. Bill explained; “I used to come with our boys and then we started inviting the women, I’m not sure if that was a good idea, they are responsible for all this.” “All this” is a set up that invites fans to stop by and have their chest adorned with glitter. Sandy was quick to point out; “We do both men and women, we don’t discriminate. It’sall in good fun, spray on some water, blow on the glitter.”It seems everyone in the infield knows Boz, he has been coming to MIS for 36 years. Boz rents 14 spaces for his entourage, which includes his lovely daughters.  It was obvious the ladies enjoyed engaging fellow fans in social conversations as they strolled by. Fans call Boz the “Mayor of the Infield” and considering the amount of real estate he oversees the title is certainly appropriate. Amazingly, Boz swears his bus has made every trip to the track over the last three and a half decades. We took a picture of Boz atop the rig, overseeing his kingdom.In response to our question “What do you like the most about coming to MIS” almost every respondent cited the comradery of people at the track, the family atmosphere that exists among everyone in attendance, and the easy going demeanor of both fans and track personnel. Kudos to track president Roger Curtis for creating an environment that breeds that type of experience for visitors to the speedway. This was clearly evident Saturday evening at the Keloorah Music Festival just outside of turn three. The foam machine cranked out mountains of white suds while partiers danced under the spray. Race fans turned into music fans enjoyedperformances by artists such as Tim Dugger, a Thousand Horses, and Chase Rice. The festival grounds were filled with concert goers enjoying the night’s activities when Roger stopped in, between music acts, to make sure everyone was having a good time. He promptly picked a couple out of the crowd, brought them on-stage, and awarded them an all-expense- paid trip to Las Vegas to attend the season ending NASCAR awards banquet, much to the delight of the cheering crowd. No wonder people love coming toMichigan International Speedway.Our thanks to Brad Kuhbander, Manager of Media Relations at Michigan International Speedway for providing us the access to meet and talk to so many great fans at the track. We had the opportunity to interact with dozens of track personnel during our visit and concur with the fans that these workers go the extra mile to make sure a visit to the speedway is a memorable one.MIS Infield

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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines, a freelance technical writer, and a contributing author to a consortium that provides “how to” articles for eBay Buying Guides. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve on the Lasco Press with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.

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