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Official Review by Christopher Greeen, Stadium Journey Guest Correspondent
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.
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".
South Florida is a melting pot unlike anywhere else in the world. Homestead-Miami Speedway reflects that with its food and beverage choices. During major events, such as NASCAR, the midway is filled with the smells of every kind of food you can think of. Be they food trucks outside in the camping area, or the numerous vendors and booths inside the track, if you have a food craving, H-MS has it available to you. Of course the specialty is the local Latin-inspired cuisine that can be found all over, with several visitors having remarked that the Cuban sandwiches are the best they have ever tasted.
Prices vary from a few bucks for a drink, to around $7 for a burger or sandwich. Drinks are of comparable price to most other professional sports venues, with the mean price of a beer being about $6-$7.
While Miami is certainly not a NASCAR-knowledgeable fanbase in general, its prestige as an event attracts fans from all over the country, so the atmosphere feels much like any other race in the circuit's schedule. Being in South Florida, the weather is among the best in the nation in November for NASCAR, and spring for the AMA event. But with that location comes the risk for rain.
This is a tricky category, as Homestead-Miami Speedway was originally constructed in the middle of miles upon miles of palm tree farm fields. However in the decade and a half since its construction, the immediate area has changed drastically. There are housing developments all around. Not far away is the new state-of-the-art Homestead Hospital, as well as a shopping center off of Fla Turnpike exit 2 that has the wonderful Shakey's Pizza, Olive Garden, Chili's, Sonic, Genghis Grill, Red Lobster, Long Horn Steakhouse, Panera Bread, and shopping options 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, and the Florida Keys are 15 miles south.
Two local eateries that can be easily frequented from the speedway are Capri Restaurant and Shakey's Pizza. Capri is a Homestead/Florida City institution, having been around for decades. The food in recent years has jumped in price as the restaurant underwent an expansive renovation in an effort to become more upscale. The Italian fare has been delighting race fans and race teams for years since the track opened, and its wine selection has increased as well in recent times.
Shakey's Pizza is the only such branch of the restaurant outside of California. Featuring its famous pizza selection, as well as chicken wings, fried chicken, and its "mojo" potato slices, it features numerous TV screens that are regularly tuned to the latest sports on air. Its beer and alcohol selection at the bar are wide and varying, and the establishment features its lunch buffet for a low $6.99 price. In addition, each night has its own special, including sale prices on food combos or karaoke nights.
Rating NASCAR fans is a very difficult task, as they are a notoriously picky group. Add to that the equally notorious pickiness of Miami fans and you get the opportunity for either a snoozer of an event as far as fan passion goes, but an equal chance of being packed with hardcore loyals. In the majority of events I have seen the latter half be the most prominent, so odds are the event will be one with great excitement among the grandstands.
While Homestead-Miami Speedway may not be literally off the exit ramp from the Florida Turnpike, a few miles of rather direct traveling is all it takes to get there. Parking is extremely easy to get 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 ft. 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! In addition, displays are set up on both the inside and outside of the gates, as well as the merchandise haulers being all lined up along the main road outside the main blocked off road outside the facility.
The fan experience at the track is made even greater by the pre-race festivities put on at the race itself. Prior to the 2012 Ford EcoBoost 400, for example, fans were treated to a pre-race concert by Kid Rock, as well as driver introductions with DJ Irie.
The fan experience may be among the best in the land, but the racing action is as well. NASCAR has had almost every championship decided at the track since it started hosting the final events of each series in the early 2000's.
In addition, the re-structuring of the track to a steeper variable banking has created what the vast majority of drivers call the best pure racing track in the country. And regardless of the series, the racing is close and hard fought. AMA Motorcycle racing returned this past year to big crowds, as well as the greatest racing the series had seen all year. No matter what is on track, a close or exciting and dramatic finish is almost always a guarantee.
If you want to go to a motor racing venue that has everything a fan could ask for, Homestead-Miami Speedway is your place to go. From great food, great fans, great weather, fantastic racing, unprecedented fan access, and an easy location to find, it's hard to find a better buy for your money than Homestead.
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