The NASCAR Cup series comes to Homestead for a grand finale in grand fashion.
The cars pit at the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
With NBA Championships, a number of Super Bowls and a couple of World Series over the past two decades, Miami has transformed itself into a championship sports town. Winning is nice, but winning while the sun is shining, palm trees are swaying, and Champagne is flowing is really what makes Miami a sports town. NASCAR noticed and made the Homestead Miami Speedway home to the three-day Ford Championship Weekend, culminating with the Ford EcoBoost 400 and the crowning of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. Taking place Nov. 17-19, the Ford Championship brings Miami to the track with VIP experiences and elite packages that turn car racing into a must-see event. It’s the Kentucky Derby without the hats, and it draws both a rowdy and regal crowd looking for fun in all the right places.
“It’s the last race of the year and it’s Miami in November, so we tend to have a different demo than other races throughout the course of the NASCAR season,” says Ali Bradshaw, senior director of corporate sales at the speedway. “We still have our core fans in the grandstands, but we also have a big CEO presence and industry leaders.”
A view of one of the races with fans packing the grandstands.
Catering to the crowd are the 36 suites on the outside of the track and 30 cabanas—which Bradshaw notes “go for that South Beach look”—on the infield that will be rented by Ford, Coca-Cola, FedEx, Goodyear and the like, but there are a few of both available to individuals who can buy their way into the bigwig experience.
“The general public can buy in if they’re looking for a more high-end experience,” he says. “The way we differentiate that is we partner up with [former driver] Glenn Jarrett, who gives a guided tour before the races each day.”
The Band Perry performing at last year’s event.
Depending on the package, you can do everything from park your minibus inside one of the garages on race day to celebrate victory with the drivers, to, of course, enjoy all of the food and booze. “They are the only fans that have access to the drivers when they do their premeeting on all three days,” says Bradshaw of the Pit Box package, which also comes with track access to the post-race celebration. “It’s an exclusive experience.”
The main event will have a red carpet with celebrities popping in and out, Miami’s own DJ Irie spinning, and concerts before and after the race. In the past, Toby Keith, The Band Perry, Kid Rock and Jason Aldean have hit the stage for free shows. It’s a spectacle, and people really in the know may find themselves at a South Beach party or on a yacht with the Toyota folks to pre-game. This year’s real highlight, though, is the opportunity to celebrate the 80th birthday of Richard Petty with the legendary driver himself.
“We always try to switch it up a little each year, and because it’s Richard’s 80th, we’re going with that package for between 50 and 100 people,” says Bradshaw. “That is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Ford Championship Weekend at the Homestead Miami Speedway takes places Nov. 17-19. For more information, visit homesteadmiamispeedway.com