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Official Review by Chris Green, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Sonoma Raceway holds a unique distinction of being a race track that actually looks smaller in person than it does on TV or video games. This bodes well for fans who are in search of a road course where you can see everything from one location. Because of this, the fan experience at Sonoma Raceway is top notch, giving you a view of almost the entire property from several vantage points. In addition, access to the paddock (an extra paddock pass for the IndyCar paddock is required and easily purchased at the track) as well as an expansive fan zone makes it an enjoyable track to visit.
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".
Food and drinks at the track are varied in every way, from selection to price. If you want your standard burger and fries with a drink, it can easily run you near $10. However, the selection you have as a fan for consumption is incredible.
Local produce and wines make for fresh and vibrant eating options. There are also some pretty delectable choices to eat. Feta and spinach sandwiches are a hit, as are fresh fish options and some brilliant salads. There are also standard food choices at various food stands all over the property.
A smoked and barbecue food stand set up behind the main grandstand is worth the price of admission all by itself. A mountain of wood for the fire and smokers on the grill means that the scent of fresh meat fills the air. By weekend's end, there's no wood left, and no empty stomachs either.
A delicacy you MUST try are the Wafflewiches, Waffle sandwiches! There are also hot dogs and sausages wrapped in bacon with grilled onions on top that are worth every penny
A beer garden featuring your favorite national brands, as well as quality local brews, is always a fan favorite.
The Bay Area of California is already a wonderful and relaxing location, so putting a track right between the bay and wine country means you have ultimate relaxation while at the track. The addition of being able to see practically all of the track from one place means you also don't have to strain to see the track while watching the race. A fan zone is also set up with a wide variety of fan shopping trucks and interaction, meaning watching the race isn't the only thing that will be taking your attention.
Seating options are varied around the facility, giving you plenty of places to watch the race action from, depending on what you want to see. Additionally, you can go camping at the track for the weekend, keeping you closer to the action than anyone wanting to stay away from the track.
There is practically nothing immediately around Sonoma Raceway, but that makes for quite a nice location for a track. Sonoma is close enough to San Francisco and the Bay Area to make visiting one of the country's most beautiful cities with plenty to see and do an easy task.
However, it is just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the city and nestled away in the beautiful hills of California wine country to give you the country feel you want when relaxing.
The fans are among the nicest there are in racing. San Francisco and the Bay Area is full of kind people as it is, so putting a sports venue nearby makes for a wonderfully enjoyable race day experience. Being a road course, the action on the track can also be quite exciting, making for a giant roar from the fans.
Easily the only downside to Sonoma Raceway is the location of the track in proximity to the highway. From San Francisco you need to take the 101, and from Oakland/Sacramento/Vallejo, you have to take I-80. Both highways will need to take you to the 37, which is the main highway to the track. The problem? Near the track, it becomes a one-lane road that widens to two lanes at times, but no wider. Parking on site is a workout. The track is literally built on the side of a massive hill, making getting from place to place quite a task for fans. Make sure you bring your hiking or walking shoes.
Getting to and staying in the Bay Area (or anywhere In California for that matter) is a bit of an expensive task. There is a reason people say living in California is expensive. That said, going to the track is worth the trip. The facility is top notch, in terms of fan experience and the action on the track, making it definitely worth the venture into Northern California.
Fan engagement goes in-depth in Sonoma, with the use of Twitter and Instagram posts from fans on the various big screens around the track.
Additionally, the facility is so close to the bay that you can actually see the northern shores of San Francisco Bay from the grandstands.
The proximity to the cities in the Bay Area makes for a wonderful vacation option, as well. Getting to the Golden Gate Recreation Area is about a 30-minute drive or more, depending on traffic.
Fans at the track can also purchase a pit and paddock pass, giving them access to the garage area where their favorite teams are working on the cars.
In 2016, the track also hosted a kids pinewood derby race, and the fans were treated to a mini air show before the IndyCar race from the Patriots Jet Team.
Finally, driver autograph sessions are held throughout the weekend, giving fans the chance to meet their sporting heroes at the races and get some photos or an autograph during their weekend.
If you are looking for a racetrack in a beautiful location in one of the most picturesque areas of the country, look no further than Sonoma Raceway. The track also features some quality race action for the fans to see, and most of the track is visible from one place at the track, a rarity in road-course racing. There is no doubt that Sonoma Raceway will be one of the top facilities for years to come, no matter what race you're going to see (NASCAR, NHRA, IndyCar, etc.).
Member Review by ChrisGreenPhotography on Sep 18, 2015
Sonoma Raceway holds a unique distinction of being a race track that actually looks smaller in person than it does on tv or video games. This bodes well for fans who are in search of a road course where you can see everything from one location. Because of this, the fan experience at Sonoma Raceway is top notch, giving you a view of almost the entire property from several vantage points. In addition, access to the paddock as well as an expansive fan zone makes it an enjoyable track to visit.
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