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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Put simply, Mid-Ohio during big-time racing feels like an Ohio State football game. Not only are the fans loud, proud of their favorite drivers, knowledgeable, and loyal, but the food is great, the scenery is beautiful, and the facility is top notch. Now if only getting to the track and the resulting traffic weren't as bad as they are, then there would be little keeping this track from being among the best 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".
Living in Ohio, or visiting Ohio, brings with it a culinary world of wonders. From Cincinnati to Cleveland, there is no shortage of places to find great food. Mid-Ohio is no different. With numerous places to find food and drinks at food stands around the course, quenching your thirst or getting a bite to eat isn't hard to do. The food there ranges from the standard burgers and hot dogs to fresh and authentic Polish sausage sandwiches. The best part? It won't break your bank. Food ranges between $5 and $10 for main meals, including chips or fries. Drinks (soda and water) are standard as well, costing only a few bucks. And if that doesn't do it for you, then get some pizza from one of the numerous traveling pizza servers. Yes, I said traveling servers. Driving around the property on ATVs and off-road vehicles that feature warm pizza onboard, you can purchase your lunch and something to drink without losing your spot on the hillside while watching the race action on the track.
Ohio sports fans know how to hype up the energy, even at a car race. Whether they're cheering their native son to victory, like Graham Rahal at the Honda 200 in 2015, or rooting for the driver of their favorite Porsche, McLaren, or Audi in a sports car race, they let the world know who they are rooting for. And in an act of impressive ability to cheer, you can hear them roaring for their favorite drivers over the sound of the roaring engines.
In addition, the camping on-site is on the same level of the best sports tailgating in the country. Dare I say, the views of the trackside camping are also among the best. The view you can get with a camper parked at the track is not like other courses, where you are separated from the actual race course and in your own parking area, but instead is one of the actual track itself, placing your tent right up next to the trackside barrier and fences. It's hard to find a place with a better place to stay at the track, while seeing the race as well. In addition, for those who enjoy the group aspect, camping is also available in the forest.
Mid-Ohio isn't in a major city, nor is it near a thriving metropolis. Instead, it is quite literally in the middle of farm country outside of Mansfield. The biggest town near the track, Mansfield, is also not that big of a place, but has its own mall and several places to eat and stay. While nice, the track is separated from civilization, giving off a bit of an isolationist feel to the facility. One of the track's entrances actually features a driveway that goes through a farm field, while another road leading to the front entrances goes through a small town with a 35-mile-per-hour speed limit. The small town nearby, Lexington, does however embrace race weekend, with local shops and restaurants putting on their best for the race fans who pass through.
See Atmosphere! The fans at Mid-Ohio are pure awesome. Even if they don't know the drivers on the track, they'll pick their own favorite car and cheer for them, whether they're first or last on the track. In addition, if you get lost, most are more than willing to help you find your way. It is midwestern hospitality in its best form.
Getting to Mid-Ohio isn't exactly easy. It is in the middle of nowhere. It also is a fair driving distance from the highway, all down one-lane roads with speed limits that average about 40 miles per hour. Once there, parking is all on a grassy or dirt field, with some spots on hills. The rarely-used parking brake will come in handy here, as many parking areas are on hillsides with noticeable slants that become slippery if it rains. Needless to say, getting out takes a lot of work and patience, as traffic is quite an ordeal. The one lane road coming in and out, as well as the single bridge leading from the infield to the outer portions of the facility, mean one may spend hours walking or driving out before they even reach the main gates.
While it may take some travel to get to the track, going to Mid-Ohio, a track steeped in history and sporting tradition is worth the trip. There are plenty of places to see big sections of the track, and the beautiful hillside scenery makes for a great backdrop for a NASCAR, IndyCar, or sports car race. With that said, you also have to bring your appetite, as the food will be hard to resist once you smell its sweet scent wafting through the air.
There are many extras at this track that set it apart from others. First, the social media interaction helps engage fans while at the track. Instagram posts with the race's hashtags show up on the monitors and big screens during the weekend.
Another bonus is the great weather the track usually enjoys. Even in the summer, it gets no warmer than the low 80s. How can you argue with that?
Something else that gets the fans engaged is the large fan zone in the interior of the track. With displays, shopping for souvenirs, and driver interaction events, fans can get up close and personal with their favorite drivers and teams. Autograph sessions throughout the weekend stretch down the hill and around a few trees...literally!
Fans can also wander throughout the pits and garage areas and see their favorite teams at work, preparing the cars for on-track action.
Perhaps the most unique thing about Mid-Ohio is the garages utilized by IndyCar and NASCAR teams during their respective weekends feature a fan walkway above the garages that looks down on the old fashioned wooden and open-air rooms. This gives you a unique view of the teams working on their machines from above that few other tracks offer.
If you want a quick, action-packed racetrack that features great camping, a beautiful backdrop, some of the loudest and most passionate fans in racing, and is far from the hustle and bustle of city life, Mid-Ohio is the place for you. You won't leave hungry, you won't leave disappointed, but you may leave in a long line of traffic (fair warning).
Member Review by ChrisGreenPhotography on Aug 20, 2015
Put simply, Mid-Ohio during big-time racing feels like an Ohio State football game. Not only are the fans loud, proud of their favorite drivers, knowledgeable, and loyal, but the food is great, the scenery is beautiful, and the facility is top notch. Now if only getting to the track and the resulting traffic weren’t as bad as they are, then there would be little keeping this track from being among the best around.
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