NASCAR isn't just about enormous coliseums and mammoth crowds. Summer brings racing to more than 50 regional tracks (hometracks.nascar.com), where the atmosphere is small-town and family friendly. "These are local tracks, local fans and local competitors," says Dick Berggren , a NASCAR pit reporter for Fox, and executive editor of Speedway Illustrated magazine. "It's a different experience." Some speedways also host NASCAR regional series, letting crowds see up-and-coming stars. He shares some favorite tracks with Larry Bleiberg for USA TODAY.
The Lima, Ohio, quarter-mile oval track is owned and operated by University of Northwestern Ohio, which has a motorsports curriculum and team.
Bowman Gray Stadium
Known as the Madhouse, this tiny track can pack in more than 17,000 fans on a Saturday night. "Bumpers get laid on, people spin each other out. It's really cool," Berggren says. On Saturday, it hosts the regional NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. 336-723-1819; bowmangrayracing.com
Limaland Motorsports Park
This quarter-mile oval track is owned and operated by University of Northwestern Ohio, which has a motorsports curriculum and team. Often students run the show at this so-called "University of Dirt." But fans come for the action. "Racing is a bit different on dirt," Berggren says. "You'll see skidding on every single lap, every single corner." 419-339-6249; limaland.com
In its 62nd year, this track is Virginia's longest-running professional sports business, Berggren says. "You walk in there and you're literally walking into motorsports history." It has family ticket packages, and offers discounts to seniors and military. The speedway hosts the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East June 23. 757-865-7223; langley-speedway.com
The hilltop track is named for the gorgeous sunsets, but fans are most enthusiastic about the racing, which management calls "the greatest show on dirt." The one-third mile oval course, located about 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia is slick and has high banks. "Cars get upside-down with surprising regularity," Berggren says. But injuries, he notes, are rare. 610-754-7688; grandviewspeedway.com
While Connecticut has several top tracks, Berggren has a sentimental attachment to Stafford, where his father introduced him to racing when he was 8. "It's just a wonderful place." The announcers here make a special effort to explain the action so even newcomers can understand the race, he says. "They don't treat every fan like they're insiders and already know everything." 860-684-2783; staffordmotorspeedway.com
Known as the "Superspeedway of the West," Evergreen is located on a fairgrounds with old-fashioned grandstand seating. As part of a NASCAR clean air program, it recently planted cypress trees to help offset its carbon footprint. Still, the track is all about horsepower. "You're going to see very professional racing but on a local level," Berggren says. It hosts the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West on July 14. 360-805-6100; evergreenspeedway.com
Colorado National Speedway
Located north of Denver, the paved oval track is a NASCAR leader in social media, updating fans during races through its website and on Twitter. (Its handle: @cnsracing). "It's a very small racetrack with nicely banked turns, and it draws huge crowds," Berggren says. The track hosts the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West on July 28. 303-665-4173; coloradospeedway.com
Greenville Pickens Speedway
Two years before Bill France Sr. founded NASCAR in 1948, he promoted Greenville's first stock car race here. "It's one of the oldest racetracks in the United States - a pretty neat deal," Berggren says. He recommends finding a spot on the terraced parking area overlooking the back straightaway for one of the sport's best tailgating opportunities. It hosts the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Sept. 3. 864-269-0852; greenvillepickens.com
Houston Motorsports Park
The racing is particularly competitive at this Lone Star speedway known as "The Palace of Power," and one of the few D-shaped local tracks. The curvy layout makes for more passing - and excitement, Berggren says. In addition, the concrete surface helps tires grip the track, allowing lots of side-by-side racing. And with $5 ticket promotions, and $1 beer, soft drinks and hot dogs, it's also a deal. 281-458-1972; houstonmotorsportspark.com
La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway
La Crosse, Wis.
Although this is a local track, many national NASCAR fans follow the action at the annual Oktoberfest races. "La Crosse is a tough, tough, tough racetrack to win at," Berggren says. "There's actually some national interest." Throughout the summer, it's an ideal place to settle down with a bratwurst and beer and watch the action, he says. 608-786-1525; lacrossespeedway.com