Becca’s Book Review: “The Ultimate NASCAR Insider’s Track Guide – Everything You Need to Plan Your Race Weekend”
Author: Liz Allison
You may not recognize her name, but Liz Allison, author of this entertaining NASCAR track guidebook, has a very personal connection to the world of stock car racing. She was married to driver Davey Allison – the oldest son of NASCAR legend Bobby Allison – who died in a helicopter crash in 1993.
Liz Allison’s guidebook takes a step-by-step approach to helping race fans get the most from their in-person track experiences. In alphabetical order, the book lists everything that visitors to NASCAR’s 22 current Cup tracks need to know for a fun and successful experience.
Before getting into the track-by-track section, Allison devotes three chapters to an overview of traveling to NASCAR races: Planning Your Trip, At the Track and Traveling with Kids. Each chapter includes highlighted “Insider Tips” and “Caution Flags,” providing insights that could prove beneficial to unseasoned travelers. For example, one Insider Tip suggests looking into off-track driver appearances and activities like special events and festivals to create an entire weekend of racing-related fun, while the Caution Flags provide helpful tips such as how to avoid ticket scalpers and ways to secure a good hotel room. The chapter on trip planning also includes a checklist of race-day essentials like sun block, ear plugs, hand sanitizer and a rain poncho to take to the track.
In reviewing Part Two of the book – the track guide itself – I focused on Phoenix International Raceway, the track I am most familiar with as a Phoenix-based NASCAR writer. Following the same format as each of the track sections, the PIR guide lists general track data (inaugural year, owner, track length, banking, address, phone number, etc.), followed by information on the track’s history, records, and more. The Insider Tips are found here as well, with tidbits such as parking pointers and where the best family-friendly seats are located.
One potential peril in listing data like those in the “Track Records” and “Fast Facts” sections is that NASCAR data is constantly changing, but a print book, unlike an Internet website, does not lend itself to easy updating. Although the book was published just this year, the Fast Fact listing Rusty Wallace as the oldest driver to win a Cup race at PIR – in 1998 at age 42 – is already outdated: Mark Martin won in Phoenix last April at the age of 50. The Track Record for most wins, listed as two each for drivers Davey Allison, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick, has since been blown away by Jimmie Johnson, with four wins and counting. Fans wanting up-to-date NASCAR stats and facts would be better off relying on a more current source.
Each track section also includes a few “Must Eats” restaurants and I found that the two listed for PIR may have missed the mark – especially the recommendation for a chain seafood restaurant more than 25 miles from the track. I am sure there are numerous venues on the Cup circuit where seafood is a better choice than a track in the middle of the Sonoran desert, and no doubt there are many fine restaurants closer to PIR – perhaps a Mexican food restaurant serving specialties of the Southwest that you won’t find in other parts of the country. The section does provide of list of other eateries in the area and includes a helpful key identifying each venue as a sit-down, take-out or fast-food establishment.
Again, reflecting the ever-changing information in a rapidly-growing area like the southwest valley of Phoenix, the list of nearby hospitals fails to mention a large community hospital much closer to PIR than some of the others listed. On the plus side, the list of Pet Medical Centers was a thoughtful touch for race fans who may be traveling with their furry companions.
Overall, Liz Allison’s Ultimate NASCAR Insider’s Track Guide is a useful book for fans traveling the NASCAR circuit or visiting a track for the first time. While some of the information is geared toward new race fans rather than experienced ones, there is something in the guidebook for everyone.
But remember that just as quickly as NASCAR track records change, so do area accommodations. New restaurants, hotels, and attractions open, other ones close, and still others change hours, phone numbers, etc. Even track ticket prices, seating arrangements, cooler requirements and other details do not remain static over time.
So use Allison’s informative guide as an excellent trip planning resource, but supplement it with your own current research, experiences and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Becca Gladden wrote for Frontstretch from 2006 through 2008, and is a weekly columnist for Insider Racing News. She also runs a PR business called Limelight Writing; check it out! Contact Becca through Twitter or her email address at [email protected]