Motorsport fans headed out to Texas Motor Speedway this week can rejoice!
Texting and sending your latest social media update among the expected crowd of approximately 130,000 for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday should be a whole lot easier thanks to TMS’s partnership with Metro PCS Wireless.
"I heard about it and please lord I hope so," said Tresa Green, 53, of Krugerville. "I think they are onto something with the new improvements."
Green gave that remark with laughter as she sat in a doctor’s office on Monday morning getting a quick check-up before she and her daughter headed back out to their RV that’s been parked at TMS since camping officially opened at 8 a.m. on Saturday.
For Green and other die-hard fans, prepping for race week is serious business. There are more than 8,500 camping spots across the 1,500 acres at TMS.
"As far as racing, you can say I was born into it," said Green, who has been a season ticket holder at TMS since the track opened. "I was told that my daddy wanted a race car and a baby. When I came he got both."
Her story and connection to motorsports is one of many you’ll find as you walk around the parking lots and campgrounds surrounding TMS this week.
Allen Bradley, 58, arrived in the same lot as Green on Saturday in his bus that he uses to travel not only to TMS, but to Talladega Superspeedway as well.
"Everything is loaded in here. Groceries, a grill, golf carts, everything," said Bradley. "The atmosphere is great and that improved cellphone coverage would be a bonus. In recent years you’d be lucky to get a text out."
He says the preparation for his 25-30 family members that will come out to the race takes about 8 to 9 evenings of getting things squared away. These are the kind of things that TMS officials have taken notice of as they set out to improve the fan experience, according to Mike Zizzo, V.P. of Media Relations.
"Each year we hope that we’ll have something to get them excited about the racing experience," Zizzo said.
The big draw for fans young and old alike will be the Jimmie Johnson bobblehead doll available to the first 30,000 fans through the door ahead of Sunday's race. TMS will also host the My Bariatric Solutions 300 Xfinity Series on Saturday.
Fans who aren’t tailgating, but looking to fill up on food and drink at TMS will be delighted to see a new Torchy’s Tacos restaurant in the infield area. They’ve also added over 1,000 square feet of asphalt where fans can enjoy the food, the souvenirs and all the fan engagement areas in the front stretch. That’ll include a spot where fans can take a photo with a larger than life-sized bobblehead doll.
Zizzo added that TMS, which handles a larger-sized volume of fans, has only a limited time to impress them, compared to other major sports venues in DFW.
"With us, we only have three chances to blow it out big," Zizzo. "They have ‘X’ amount of games throughout the season to do all they would like to do for the fan experience, so for us it’s a lot of planning. We’re trying to get as many displays and experiences as we can."
Aside from new asphalt, food options and better wireless coverage, one of the improvements they are putting a lot of work into is the launch of an area dubbed the Restart Bar.
It will be positioned over the restart zone on the front stretch on the turn 4 side of the speedway. It's designed to have an outdoor-sports-bar feel with food and beverages being served. It also will have an inside lounge area with flat-screen monitors if you need to get out of the heat.
Bradley was excited about the new addition, but the outdoor area with the large seats had already been sold out ahead of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.
"The mixed-use area is still available to everyone, from what I was told, but the pub tables with the large seats were gone." Bradley said.
Zizzo said with the launch of the Restart Bar they’ll continue to learn and make improvements.
"We do individual tickets for it for every race. So we’ll do it for the truck series, the Xfinity Series, and cup series," Zizzo said. "We had great success on the cup series and sold out on Friday. We had a really good response when we announced it on social media initially. I think people waited on the opportunity thinking when they get here let’s check it out and then we’ll go buy a ticket. And all of a sudden we sold out for the cup weekend."
Zizzo added that there are still tickets available for seating in the Restart Bar for the XFinity Series race this Saturday. Fans can also get a head start and book seats for the June and November races now as seats are still available.