Michigan International Speedway (called MIS for short) is a two-mile, D-shaped track located in southern Michigan in an area known as the Irish Hills. Since 1968, MIS has been home to NASCAR’s Quicken Loans 400 (although under the name of various sponsors over the years).
Cale Yarborough has won the event on six different occasions, including the first two races. Other drivers to win two or more Quicken Loans 400 include David Pearson (4), Bill Elliott (4), Rusty Wallace (3), Bobby Allison (2), Davey Allison (2), Mark Martin (2), Denny Hamlin (2), and most recently Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2), who snapped a 143 race streak without a victory before taking the checkered flag in 2012 (his first win since winning the event in 2008).
The interior of the speedway stretches over 150 acres, and the total facility covers more than 1,400 acres. There is plenty of camping around the facility, and many fans make a weekend out of a trip to Michigan International Speedway (with more than 9,000 campsites on the grounds).
Of all the events of the NASCAR Sprint Series schedule, only New Hampshire is further north, making Michigan a great destination for many northern NASCAR fans. Home to the Quicken Loans 400 during Father’s Day weekend, and the Pure Michigan 400 in mid-August, this fast track is a great place to spend a weekend for some of the best racing in NASCAR.
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Soft-sided coolers are allowed into Michigan International Speedway (10x10x12), so if you plan ahead you can save some money as well as time waiting in line. If you choose to eat on the premises, there are plenty of options, but none of it is particularly inspiring, and some of it will be higher in price than you might expect.
The main concession stand is called the Championship Grill, and one major perk is that they offer a breakfast sandwich ($4). If you are going to spend a lot of time at the speedway over a weekend, it is great to have something that fits your morning taste buds. Additionally, you can find pizza ($6), brats ($6), corn dogs ($4), fries ($3), and even a chef salad ($8). Cans of beer ($5) are available with the selection of Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light, and Miller Lite.
I tried the Chicago style hot dog ($6), and thought it was ok, but not great, and probably not worth the $6 price tag. They also had a New York style and Seattle style hot dog. My question is, why wouldn't you have a Michigan-style dog? They could serve a kielbasa and call it a Detroit Dog, or a cherry brat to honor the great cherries grown in Michigan. Having a couple of local inspired options would be an easy way to upgrade the food offerings.
Coca-Cola will cost you $4 for a 20-ounce bottle. You can also find Gatorade ($4) and bottled water ($3). Cottage Inn pizza is available ($8 for two slices or $15 for a whole pizza). Ben & Jerry's was a welcome small cart given the heat on my particular visit.
For more than four decades, Michigan International Speedway has been hosting the very best drivers in racing. Even better, this is a very fast track especially after the repaving that occurred in 2012, with cars topping speeds of 200 mph. You can expect a race time of fewer than three hours for the 400 mile event.
The main grand stand stretches from turn four past the finish line and up to turn one, featuring bleacher seats with backs. The legroom is fairly limited, but the height between rows helps to ensure that you'll have a good view of the cars as they circle the track.
Michigan International Speedway is one of three NASCAR tracks that play both the Canadian and American National Anthems before the race. You can also expect to hear a pre-race invocation, a clear sign that religion (Christianity) is closely tied to NASCAR.
Much of the atmosphere at a NASCAR event, and this is certainly true here at Michigan, is the interaction between fans who camp out for the weekend. Be sure you plan to make a day of it. If you arrive just to see the race, then you're missing much of the fun.
As far as tickets, I would recommend trying to get as high up as you can for the best view possible. Tickets start at $25, and continue to rise up to $116 based on how high up into the stands you go, as well as your proximity to the finish line. My recommendation would be the $80 seats for some of the higher rows in the center section, but if that gives you a bit of sticker shock, then you may want to aim for a lower seat and work your way up, or go for one of the seats located in turn three.
You'll find that much of the neighborhood is created specifically for race weekend with the camping grounds that go up on the expansive surrounding area. However, you are just a short drive from several small towns if you want to find a bite to eat.
Jerry's Pub on the Lake is a great choice, located a few miles to the east on US 12, then go north on Egan Highway. It's an unpretentious hangout with surprisingly good food and drink options, and there's outdoor seating.
Downtown Brooklyn is just a few miles north of the speedway. Jimmy's Filling Station seems to be a popular choice with their sandwiches.
I made a stop at Randy's Roadside BBQ, which is located on US 12 about 10 miles east of Michigan International Speedway, and I would highly recommend making a stop here to pick up some delicious eats as well.
It is probably an over-used cliché to say that NASCAR fans are some of the most passionate fans around, but it seems to be true, especially at Michigan International Speedway. Michiganders have long had a love affair with automobiles, and being less than 100 miles from the auto capital of the world helps to further that passion. Local fans look forward all year to the chance to attend a NASCAR event in their own backyard.
You'll also find fans who travel the NASCAR circuit from California to New Hampshire and everywhere in between. There's a mix of good-time partiers who are there more for the pre-race atmosphere than the event itself, but there are also families, and plenty of smiling kids who just want to hear the roar of the engine.
The main thoroughfare to get to MIS is US 12. Try as they might, this road just isn't equipped to handle the throngs of people with ease. There is a large police presence to help guide the traffic, but the best advice is to be patient if you are arriving before the race, or leaving when it is over. Expect the worst, and you'll be ready, if not pleasantly surprised.
That said, parking is free, although in some cases you will have quite a walk to the track. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, and don't forget that sunscreen.
There are plenty of restrooms, and there is some talk that the restrooms will be upgraded for 2013 or 2014. They are plentiful now, and reasonably clean given the amount of traffic they see on a race weekend.
If you are sitting near the top of grand stand, you can expect a very long walk up the ramp, or a steep climb up the stairs. In either case, it is not a trip you want to make too frequently, and it's another reason to ensure you have comfortable shoes.
The overall price tag for seeing a NASCAR event at Michigan International Speedway borders between slightly overpriced and just right. If you make a weekend of it, then you will likely see a good return on investment. If you go just for the Sprint Series race, then you are looking at close to $50 per person at a minimum once you factor in food and beverage. However, with the limited opportunities of seeing NASCAR in the Midwest, it probably is a fair price, and I do recommend going when you can.
One extra point for the privilege of seeing Dale Jr. break his long winless streak, much to the delight of many in attendance. Michigan International Speedway will now forever be linked with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
An additional extra point to how the staff and fans reacted to a long rain delay. I was amazed that I did not see a glimmer of disappointment or aggravation from anyone on the premises.
Finally, an extra point for the new track that was laid down for 2012, making for a very fast and exciting race.
I can't claim to be a huge fan of NASCAR, but I can tell you that a trip to Michigan International Speedway will appeal to hard core racing fans, as well as the casual sports fan, and everyone in between.
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