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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Homestead-Miami Speedway prides itself on being one of the top speedway destinations in America. That has been reflected in the track’s facility upkeep, modernization, and overall fan satisfaction. However, in 2015, it is easy to see the track has taken a few small, but noticeable steps backwards. It continues to be host to a variety of events outside of NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend, but that doesn’t hide some of the deficiencies that were evident this go-around.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Homestead-Miami Speedway used to have the best food and drink selections when it comes to pro sports. Whether you wanted traditional sports fare like burgers, hot dogs, pizza, etc., or you're looking for something more exotic (fresh-pressed Cuban sandwiches, Polish sausages, sweets, et al), Homestead-Miami Speedway had you covered with locations all over the facility.
However, with the new layout of the track's property during race weekend for NASCAR, what used to be a main thoroughfare that housed the majority of food vendors was replaced with a different food row a hundred yards away from its former location, right behind the grandstand. In addition, it is the only location on premises where the food vendors are so largely located. Where three major food hubs used to be now only sits one, and its long lines reflect that change.
The food selection is still stellar and quite impressive when it comes to how much you can choose from (they even designed a one-of-a-kind dessert item exclusively for Ford Championship Weekend). The prices are also still solid, despite going up a dollar or so. But the lines will be a bit of a disappointment, compared to previous years.
As if the atmosphere in South Florida wasn't enough to make this a must-attend event, the latest NASCAR points system change has brought the energy at Ford Championship Weekend to a fever pitch.
Fans roaming the midway all weekend are buzzing about the latest qualify or practice results and their respective predictions for who will take home NASCAR's top prize. Indeed, the Chase has produced one of the single most electric feelings at a sporting event in the world.
However, the track could use some updating. This year, it was evident that the restrooms could use a massive overhaul. Most of the water fountains were green and moldy looking, if they worked. Where restrooms used to be monitored by a cleaning staff, they were left all weekend seemingly unchecked. The grandstands show their age, with many of them needing replacement or tightening, as they are very loose and give a lot when leaned against. There was even visible moss growing in some of the cracks and crevasses.
The display area that used to be massive for the fans has greatly decreased in size. No longer do Sprint, Fox Sports 1 (formerly known as Speed Channel), or other major sponsors have giant displays. And where greeters used to be happy and smiling now stood grumpy and apparently disgruntled workers who seemed annoyed that they had to work the race.
Homestead has made improvements to the track itself, but could use some sprucing up of the simple things, too.
Homestead-Miami Speedway was originally constructed in the middle of miles upon miles of palm tree farm fields, but you would never know that looking at it now. In the decade and a half since its construction, the immediate area has drastically changed. There are housing developments all around, with each one growing more expansive and beautiful with each passing day, giving the area a true "neighborhood" feel. Not far away is the new state-of-the-art Homestead Hospital, as well as a shopping center off of Florida's Turnpike exit 2 that has a wonderful array of dining options, like Olive Garden, Chili's, Sonic, Portofino Coal Fired Pizza, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steakhouse, Chipotle, and Panera Bread. Additionally, shopping options are there, as well (Kohl's, Publix Supermarket, Sports Authority, etc.). That being said, South Beach and Miami are a mere 30 miles north, available for those who wish to visit the more vibrant side of South Florida. The Florida Keys are also nearby, just 15 miles south.
Florida City, which is literally next to Homestead, is also booming with new shopping plazas popping up with food options there, as well (Dunkin Donuts, Jimmy John's, Applebee's, Golden Coral, Cracker Barrel, Krispy Kreme, etc.)
Looking for a hotel isn't as hard as it used to be either, with a Home 2 Suites by Hilton popping up in Florida City, as well as a few new hotels having arrived near Florida Turnpike Exit 2.
While recent years have seen the crowds at NASCAR races dwindle due to the economy, the new Chase format makes Homestead stand out from the rest.
The 2015 Ford EcoBoost 400 sold out over a month before the race actually began.
The fans packed in the track for the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series races, as well, even though both of the championship fights for the two series were all but decided.
Indeed, NASCAR's changes to the Chase have made the fan base that visits Homestead-Miami Speedway even greater than before.
While Homestead-Miami Speedway may not be literally off the exit ramp from Florida's Turnpike, a few miles of rather direct traveling is all it takes to get there. Parking is extremely easy to find, while the signs are numerous and easy to read, as far as directing you to your destination. Traffic flow in and out is orchestrated by local police and security, as well as volunteers in the parking areas, so getting lost is very unlikely, and if it does happen, it is not hard to find help.
Entrances into the track itself are equally as numerous, and the lines to get in (bag checks are at every gate) are usually very quick moving. Pit passes for most events are easy to purchase, and grant fans arguably the closest and best access to drivers, teams, and garages in the world. Autographs are almost a certainty, either through a pit pass, or the multitude of driver appearances set up throughout the weekend.
For road course races, not many tracks rival H-MS for how close you get to the action. All around the infield road course are bleachers set up for fans to watch the racing action at the closest battled corners of the track, all less than 25 feet from the track itself. It's as if you're sitting right on top of the action.
For the price of a ticket to the race, you get not just the event, but an experience. There are so many displays set up around the track during NASCAR weekend, and so many giveaways and contests, as well, that one can easily go the entire weekend and likely miss something among the fan areas!
The fan experience at the track is made even greater by the pre-race festivities put on at the race itself. Prior to the 2015 Ford EcoBoost 400, for example, fans were treated to a pre-race concert by country music superstar Tim McGraw, as well as driver introductions with DJ Irie and UFC announcer Bruce Buffer
With the added knowledge that you WILL see a new champion crowned at the end of the Ford EcoBoost 400, you are also getting to witness history, and you certainly cannot put a price on that.
After a successful debut in 2014, there is something for everyone visiting Homestead-Miami Speedway who also loves the great outdoors. In partnership with the City of Homestead and the National Park Service, the Homestead National Parks Trolley is servicing Homestead-Miami Speedway during the entire race week, offering ranger-guided trips to either Biscayne National Park or Everglades National Park, both of which border Homestead and Florida City on either side. These trolleys are free and also include free entry into both parks. Everglades National Park's trolley features stops at the Ernest Coe Visitors Center and the Anhinga Trail, which also features Gumbo Limbo Trail.
The Biscayne National Park Trolley takes visitors to Homestead Bayfront Park and the Biscayne National Park Dante Fascell Visitors Center.
Homestead-Miami Speedway remains one of the top destinations for any sports fan to visit. History is made every year at Homestead-Miami Speedway, regardless of what happens. You will see a champion crowned, guaranteed. Few other events in sports can say that. Despite its aging flaws, the track remains a must-stop for anyone looking to experience the best NASCAR has to offer.
Member Review by ChrisGreenPhotography on Dec 29, 2012
Homestead-Miami Speedway has quickly become one of the premiere sporting venues in the nation since it was opened in 1995. Having gone through 3 renovations since it was built, the track now is the host of the NASCAR championship weekend for its three major series. It has also hosted series on a recurring or regular basis such as Gran-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and IndyCar. Currently, its main draws are the aforementioned NASCAR weekend as well as the AMA Motorcycle racing series.
Add to these the multitude of smaller racing circuits that visit the track throughout the year (SCCA, CCS, PBOC, FARA, etc.) and you have a motorsports destination that’s being used on a nearly weekly basis. In addition, on Friday nights, the speedway hosts its “Speedway T-N-T” nights, a test and tune for drag racers on the track’s 1/8 mile strip set up on pit road. The races are not bracketed, but rather against whoever happens to pair up in line. Anyone can take their car off the street to race for $20 all night with no limits on races, and each run comes with a free printed stat sheet of run times.
Member Review by ChrisGreenPhotography on Feb 02, 2015
Homestead-Miami Speedway has always been one of the premiere racing facilities in America, if not the world. But after the newly altered NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase format, the track now hosts one of the single biggest and most dramatic sporting events in the world, as well.
Since it opened in 1995, Homestead-Miami Speedway has gone through several track redesigns, leading to the current format it will likely keep forever. The racing is top notch, thanks to the variable 18-20 degree banking in the corners. The speedway has hosted, in addition to NASCAR, the likes of IndyCar, AMA Motorcycles, Grand-Am (known now as TUDOR United Sports Car Series), Formula D, SCCA, FARA, PBOC, CCS, Ferrari Challenge, and others.
The track also has hosted several events that don’t feature racing, such as the Tough Mudder, Foam Glow 5K, The Color Run, the City of Homestead’s 4th of July Race to the 4th fireworks display, and countless others events.
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