Took the eldest son to a sporting event in the great outdoors on Saturday evening that was quintessentially American. No, it was not an outing to see the Twins at Target Field. It was trip to the Elko Speedway to catch some fuel-burning, tire-squealing racing action.
Now, I should confess that I'm not much of a motor sports fan. I can't imagine less compelling television viewing than watching cars drive in circles for hours. But when you witness it up close and personal, it becomes much more interesting. And you can get very close to the action at Elko. My son picked a spot in the first row of the grandstand. While that meant we had to look through a fence and couldn't get a great view of the whole track, it also meant that we were just a stone's throw from the finish line. You could not only hear and smell the cars going by, you could feel their horsepower.
Elko's drivers are mostly just a bunch of local good ol' boys (and girls) and the track isn't exactly Indy. But the short course and short races (some only 10 laps) were perfect for a non-racing fan and his young son. We could see the cars the whole time they went around and the length of each race kept us from getting distracted (did I mention the two Vikings cheerleaders on hand?). My son especially enjoyed being close by the track official who waved the various flags and handed out the trophies after each race.
From a cost point of view, it would be hard to beat our experience. My wife purchased a coupon through a social media group that included admission for me and my son, a small popcorn (for him), and two beers (for me). For all of ten dollars. While the beer selection left much to be desired, it was hard to complain about the price.
The roar of the engines was quite loud and so after a few races, I decided to pick up ear plugs for my son. One dollar. A checkered flag for him to wave? Two bucks.
Another nice benefit from a family outing perspective, was how easy to it was attend. Yes, the drive to Elko can be a bit of a haul depending where upon you live, but once you get there it's cake. Parking is free. While there was a line to purchase tickets when we got there, they also had a separate table set up to handle coupons so we got right in. You can pretty much walk around where you want on the grounds. The seating is general admission so you sit where you want and move easily if you wish. There are plenty of concession stands and the lines were short. Again, the beer choices weren't great, but the price was right. Without a coupon, single cans go for three bucks a pop and you can get an ice-filled bucket of six for fifteen.
It was also a refreshingly free atmosphere. There's a large bar under the grandstand that you could enter and exit as you please. You could bring your beer with you wherever you went. And they let people smoke outside. Yes, it does sound ridiculous to say that, but more and more outdoor events now completely ban smoking. I don't smoke myself, but I enjoyed catching a whiff of burning tobacco wafting through the summer air every so often on Saturday night. It smelled like freedom. For those with a real aversion to the evil weed, there's a family section where smoking and drinking is not allowed.
My experience attending the races at Elko Speedway on Saturday night is not going to turn me into a motor head. But it is likely going to result in return visits with the kids in the future.