1. Martinsville Speedway
Easily without a doubt Martinsville. The racing is great and doesn’t really change regardless of template changes made over the years. The food is great and no race fan is really a race fan without trying a Martinsville hot dog. The atmosphere of the place is a great balance between being the oldest track in NASCAR without seeming out-dated or antiquated. And finally, due to the size of track, there isn’t a bad seat in the joint.
My favorite race I ever saw there was the 2013 Kroger 200, Darrell Wallace Jr.’s first win in the Camping World Truck Series. It had everything – close action, a first time winner and some controversy after Kevin Harvick unloaded his RCR baggage on the Dillon brothers after a sledgehammer was thrown at Happy. Yes, a sledgehammer. –Michael Finley, Staff Writer
2. Darlington Raceway
While Martinsville is my favorite track for the great short-track racing and storied history, the one track true fans must see in person is Darlington. The racing there doesn’t translate well on TV for whatever reason, but watching this cars skim the wall for 500 miles is truly thrilling. It’s also a track where you can practically see the ghosts of the sport’s past all around you from the moment you walk in.
It’s an absolutely special place and anyone who loves the sport needs to experience it. The race that I think most fans remember is the epic battle to the line between Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven, but that’s not the only great finish the track has hosted by a long shot. Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon had a couple for the ages as well; the video below is their battle en route to Gordon winning the Winston Million in 1997. –Amy Henderson, Senior Editor
3. Daytona International Speedway
At Daytona, the month of February is one of a kind. You get to see all the new drivers and schemes across all three series and get to soak up the World Center of Racing in semi-cool temperatures. Just experiencing the entire build-up to the Daytona 500 was amazing and the racetrack’s infield made for one of the most badass views I’ve ever seen: the view from pit road when the pack flies through the tri-oval.
Also the new Daytona Rising was the most mind-blowing structure I’ve ever seen outside of my dreams. Here’s my favorite moment I’ve covered from Daytona, the closest 500 finish this year –Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
4. Watkins Glen International
My personal favorite racetrack is Watkins Glen International. When I was a kid, it was the place where my neighbors would go to watch F1 races. Since my family was all about NASCAR, we opted for trips to nearby Pocono Raceway.
Once NASCAR returned to Watkins Glen, we made the 90-mile trek north. What we saw blew our minds and the track became another annual pilgrimage. The Finger Lakes region is beautiful any time of year, and any race you see at The Glen is well worth the time and cost. Watkins Glen is dedicated to making a race weekend a memorable experience, and it’s atop my list of favorite venues. It’s also a hoot to drive! I was able to hit triple digits in a Ford Focus there after “getting lost” during a tour of the circuit many years ago. The NASCAR Member decal on my car kept me from getting into trouble with track authorities. –Mark Howell, Senior Writer
5. Charlotte Motor Speedway
Having had the opportunity to attend races there over the years, Charlotte Motor Speedway is still my favorite track to make the trek to. My first visit there was in 1998, seeing Jeff Gordon wrestle the win from Rusty Wallace in the waning laps after a late-race restart. Then in 1999, Tony Stewart helicoptered in overhead having just finished ninth doing the double in the Indy 500 and en route to a fourth-place finish in the 600, with Dale Earnhardt hoisting him out of the car.
I remember sitting in turn 1 watching Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin swap positions back almost lap after lap, and the crowd erupting in applause as Jeff Gordon’s power steering puked all over the track. We were able to get down to Victory Lane afterward as Jeff Burton and the team celebrated, while fans slid down the banking on their cooler lids, wiping out as they hit the track apron or grass. PRN’s Pat Patterson noticed I had a cooler and asked if I had an extra cold one for him – for the price of some post-race conversation he was welcome to a Miller Lite or two.
In 2005 the track started coming apart and 1/3 of it was run under caution. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Michael Waltrip tangled and wrecked violently in front of us, while Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte duked it out to a photo finish with Johnson taking the win by about a foot at the line. One of my favorite things about Charlotte, is that there is hardly a bad seat to be had, and if you sit at the transition of the banking in turn 1, you’re eyeball to eyeball with the drivers as they come screaming into turn one at 200 mph. Even better? There’s the NASCAR Hall of Fame just a few minutes away, as well as all of the entertainment of a big city like Chicago – but without the congestion. –Vito Pugliese, Senior Writer
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