- Chris Green
Sonoma Raceway – Trans-Am Series
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Sonoma Raceway 29355 Arnold Dr Sonoma, CA 95476
Year Opened: 1968
Nor-Cal Sportscar Hype
Sonoma Raceway holds the 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 for the annual SRO America and Trans-Am/SVRA race weekends.
Food & Beverage 4
Food and drinks at the track are varied in every way, from selection to price. While every food and beverage concessions stand isn’t open during the SRO or SVRA/Trans-Am weekend, you still get a solid selection. If you want your standard burger and fries with a drink, it can easily run you $10 or more.
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.
Numerous food trucks are also brought in, including the popular garlic fries truck. There are also hot dogs and sausages wrapped in bacon, with grilled onions on top that are worth every penny.
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 the whole track from one place means you also don’t have to strain to see the track while watching the race.
During SRO and Trans-Am/SVRA race weekends, every ticket gets you free paddock access. Unlike NASCAR weekend, fans can get up close and personal to all the drivers and cars of their favorite teams, as well as be part of the victory celebrations in victory lane. 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 choosing to stay away from the track.
Sonoma Raceway Victory Lane, Photo by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
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. In addition, just to the north are the Napa and Sonoma Valley areas, which means premium wine-tasting opportunities are plentiful.
The fans are among the nicest there are in racing. San Francisco and the Bay Area are 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.
While initially looking empty due to the vast number of grandstands and plenty of trackside seating available, the fans still flock to both sportscar weekends in the spring. The paddock is full of fans wandering the garages, and the grandstands at the top of turn 2 are always full when the green flags fall.
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 must take I-80. Both highways will 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.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets for SRO America and Trans-AM/SVRA race weekends are an absolute steal. With kids 12 and under admitted free and individual daily tickets under $50 per person, you’re getting a ton of on-track racing action for an incredibly low price compared to when NASCAR visits wine country in the summer. Couple this with the expanded access for fans into the paddock area, and you have the added value that other sporting events in the area wish they could offer.
Fan engagement goes in-depth at Sonoma Raceway, with fans’ Twitter and Instagram posts shown on the various big screens around the track. Fans can also purchase a pit and paddock pass, giving them access to the garage area where their favorite teams are working on the cars.
Driver autograph sessions are also held throughout the weekend, giving fans the chance to meet their sporting heroes at the races and get some photos or an autograph during the weekend. Furthermore, last year the track even hosted a pinewood derby race for kids, and the fans were treated to a mini air show from the Patriots Jet Team before the IndyCar race.
Besides the above, Sonoma Raceway is so close to the water that you can actually see the northern shores of San Francisco Bay from the grandstand. 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.
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 features some quality race action for fans to see, and most of the track is visible from the same spot, 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, etc.).