Our overland editor experiences a different kind of on-the-road campsite, with an opportunity to glamp with M&M’s Racing in the infield of a NASCAR race.
My friend Nick and I got an invite to come out and glamp on the infield of Kentucky Speedway during the big NASCAR race weekend.
M&M’s sponsored the experience, and the entire 3-day race weekend revolved around all things M&M’s Racing. With about 40 campers, we were a speck in the 100,000-plus-strong attendance at the track over the weekend.
I spend most of my time working in the overlanding community. I mountain bike and camp in the forests and mountains. And sometimes I get together with likeminded folks at events like the Overland Expo.
But glamping at a NASCAR race is way outside my wheelhouse. There’s nothing like a new experience to keep life lively, so when I got the invite, I gave them an emphatic, “Heck yeah!”
This was the first time an organized glamping experience has happened at a NASCAR race. But people have been camping at these races since the beginning. Camping and RV culture at NASCAR races is as important as the race itself. Although the masses gather for the high-speed cars driving in a big circle, the campgrounds are where much of the action happens.
Getting Into Gear
I easily rolled out of bed thanks to a partially deflated air mattress. But getting up was hard because it was already hot and humid, and the cheap beer and shots from the night before didn’t help with hydration.
The second morning of my 3-day glamping experience was going to be tough. But there was too much to see and do to stay in bed. Besides, the tent was starting to turn into an oven as the sun beat down on the canvas walls.
Step one: Motivate for a run.
Yes, I know. NASCAR race, 90 degrees, and 60-percent humidity don’t add up to an optimal running environment. But I needed to get in the mileage. And besides, there’s no better way to scope out all the action throughout the campgrounds surrounding the track.
I got lots of waves and hellos, but also more confused looks than I could count. Fitness activities didn’t seem high on anyone’s list on a hot, muggy raceday morning.
Cleaned Up, Fueled Up
Back in our fenced-in oasis inside the racetrack, I was dripping with sweat. I needed a shower, hydration, and fuel. I dug a water bottle out of the icy cooler and grabbed the M&M’s-branded bathrobe that was provided. (It was a bit see-through, so some campers got to see more of me than they might have wanted.)
Our luxury shower and bathroom trailers were popular to not only rinse off the copious volumes of sweat each day but because they were one of the few air-conditioned areas to hide from the heat.
Once in fresh clothes, which I was already sweating out again, I dug into the breakfast buffet in the shade of the onsite hospitality RV. I grabbed some grub and headed up to the rooftop deck on the RV, as it was a great perch to take in the sights and sounds of all that was happening at the racetrack.
Grabbing a handful of snack-size M&M’s packets and another ice-cold water, I headed out into the infield of the track with my camera. On race weekend, there’s lots of action happening all day and all night. During the day, the garages are buzzing with activity as the race teams prepare for the big evening race.
Watching these well-oiled teams dial in these purpose-built go-fast machines is a thing of beauty. Their garages are immaculately clean and organized, and packed with the latest tools and technology.
NASCAR tech inspection is a secret art that is always changing. The cars are actually put into a dark booth with inspectors at one point in the process, presumably to be laser-scanned. Adhering to the race car specification rules is taken very seriously. Any little advantage can mean a big difference on the track.
I heard multiple times throughout the weekend, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not winning.” Seems a bit odd to me, but it all comes down to exploiting every loophole in every rule in order to gain a competitive advantage and attract more sponsors to raise more money. It takes big money to race, and it takes crazy money to be competitive.
Listen and Learn
After a hearty lunch back at camp and, of course, a few more handfuls of M&M’s to keep the energy levels up, I settled into a Skittles-colored plastic lawn chair in the shade of a massive inflatable dome that dominated the center of the glampground. Most of the afternoon was spent soaking in stories and words of wisdom from NASCAR royalty.
All the campers got to hear stories about racing, life, and fame from NASCAR legend Kyle Petty, the M&M’s Racing team owner Joe Gibbs, and the M&M’s driver Kyle Busch and his wife. This sort of access to NASCAR’s luminaries is a rare occasion and a huge perk for the M&M’s Glampground campers. Signed merchandise and selfies were hot commodities!
The engines fire up as the sun sets behind the massive grandstands. As expected, the cars go really fast, only turning left as they keep going around and around the 1.5-mile D-shaped track.
They don’t do this continuously, though, as there are “stages” in the race. Basically, they’re commercial breaks for the TV audience, which also gets the cars bunched back up for more high-octane, rubbin’-is-racin’ action.
The Saturday night NASCAR Cup race is the big show, with 30-plus cars on the track and around 100,000 people in attendance. It’s a 400-mile race. Impressively, the pro drivers and teams kept things pretty tidy without any big mishaps, crashes, or brawls.
The truck race on Thursday and the Xfinity race on Friday are warmups to the big show Saturday, and they’re packed with egos, attitudes, and crashes. With shorter races, I’d highly suggest watching the early action, as the crashes are really something to behold up close and personal.
Finding a good spot to watch the races is easy to do as a glamper, as there are lots of options on offer. The RV platform at camp puts you right in the middle of the action. The fan zone along the fence in pit row gets you up close to the teams. And the Bluegrass Club seating — which is included in the experience — is a prime area dead center in the stands, at the perfect height to see the whole track.
Once the winner spins some donuts and takes a victory lap with his pit crew hanging off the racecar, it’s time to truly cut loose. Sure, many at the race have been drinking for a few days now, at all hours of the day. But things really get amped up after the race.
A few adult beverages are a great way to come down off the highs from race gas fumes in the air and the heart-pumping scream of tuned V8s whipping around the track at over 150 mph.
There are lots of options to get an adult beverage at the track. My preferred imbibement of craft beer is a scarce commodity, however.
The two most fun options I found at the track are Fireball Alley and Turn 2 Tavern. Fireball Alley is a fan zone sponsored by Fireball Whiskey with cheap booze, lots of cornhole games, and a young crowd. It’s a great place to watch the race and get saucy.
Turn 2 Tavern is actually a fan bar, which means they can’t sell alcohol but can take donations. It’s located on the infield of the track, at turn 2. It is a really fun scene with great music and easy stumbling distance back to the glampground.
NASCAR’s Glamping Future
I’d tell you to sign up now for the next M&M’s NASCAR Glamping experience at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 17, but it sold out in a matter of hours a few months ago. It’s also double the price of the Kentucky Speedway Glamping program. However, it’s still an amazing value at $500 per person.
No more NASCAR Glamping experiences are on the calendar just yet. But with the success of this first program, we’re sure to see more opportunities like this soon.
I usually spend my time camping off the beaten track, not glamping on the racetrack. NASCAR might not be my favorite type of motor racing, and I might not relate very well to a vast majority of NASCAR fans. But I do love new experiences, motor racing, and friendly, passionate people. Glamping at a NASCAR race checks all those boxes, and the M&M’s Glampground took that experience to exponential heights.