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Fan’s View: Maybe Mastercard Has It Right – The Value of Going to the Track

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Each year, I look at the renewal forms for the race tickets and grimace. You have to admit… it all adds up, especially since the expenses don’t stop with the Sunday ticket. If you’re going to drive all that way with the trailer, you’re going to buy the Friday ticket, the Saturday ticket and the camping spot, too. By the time you’ve filled out the form and totaled up the cost… well, it starts to feel like one of those Mastercard commercials.

The sensation doesn’t diminish with time, either. As we pull into the rather tight camping spot, unfurl the flags and try not to hit the neighbor’s slide-out with our awning, the zeroes that we added to the end of the check for the tickets always come back to haunt us.

It leaves us wondering, where’s the value in our NASCAR experience?

Ah… but we always forget about those other little things we find at the track. You know what I mean – the free stuff.

Now, if you’re a regular visitor to your local Cup event and don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re missing half the show. I may always wear out the credit card at the souvenir haulers, but it’s usually the odd little things I accrue over the weekend that make me smile years later.

The various vendors in the manufacturers’ midway are the ones that go to extra lengths to draw the anxious race fan to their displays. Maybe you’re not really interested in joining the Air Force, but they do have nice mini-foam footballs to throw at you. If Heluva! Good is the race sponsor, make sure to keep your eyes open for free chips and dip to add to your cooler. We also didn’t have to shop for deodorant and shower gel for a year after receiving a plethora of freebies from Old Spice. And the ticket holders I wear? They came from a credit card application.

Are you getting the gist of this? There’s no reason to leave the track feeling like your pockets have been picked. With the correct attitude and acquisitive nature, you might find it hard to carry all the booty home.

But don’t think it’s all dust collectors. Just about everybody wants to hand you a hat, given the chance. Do you carry a Sprint phone? Jackpot! Last year, the loyalty prize was a hat and stickers. This year, they held out a can carrier and rather nice lanyard. Besides that, they let us ogle the Sprint Cup trophy for the price of watching a 60-second commercial. Not bad! I think the most difficult piece of free hardware to tote home was a full-size lenticular poster from the National Guard. That is one Dale Earnhardt Jr. item worthy of framing….

In the meantime, maybe the kids are dragging their feet… nothing to do. Nationwide sets up fun and games! Ski-ball, Whack-A-Mole, mini-golf and simulator driving games… and then, they handed us a bag to put all the other free stuff in! The Army often deploys cliff-climbing next to the HUM-V, and on the table, new bumper stickers just beg to jump into that bag of fun that’s filling up.

Squashed in my shelves of racing memorabilia lie can coozies by the dozen, mini-posters, trivia booklets, a set of racing flag-colored handkerchiefs, diecasts, free t-shirts, stickers of every shape and size….

OK, maybe we don’t really need all this stuff. However, when I realize I haven’t spent one cent for drinking glasses for the trailer, thanks to ESPN’s oddly shaped TV beer cup, I have to start thinking the 30 minutes I spend before the race gathering up the freebies is worth my time.

Yeah, yeah. What does any of this have to do with racing? Well, not a whole heck of a lot… except that when you’re considering whether or not to splurge on those tickets to take the family out this year, remember….

Cost of a four pack of Sunday tickets: $300
Cost of a game of Whack-A-Mole: $0

Time spent grabbing a bumper sticker, entering a raffle, answering some trivia, sitting in the newest Toyota, driving a racing simulator and then cheering for your real racing heroes? Priceless.

I hope to see you at the track.

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