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Enjoy Illinois 300 celebrates new and evolving NASCAR traditions

MADISON, Ill. (KTVI) — Three years into its NASCAR journey, the Enjoy Illinois 300 race has evolved with a wealth of traditions.

Tens of thousands will pack the stands at World Wide Technology Raceway for Sunday’s grand event, but there’s much more to the whole experience, including music, food, interactive zones, and plenty of family-friendly activities.

Nexstar’s KTVI spoke with several event organizers and fans for a closer look at new and growing traditions around the race weekend.

Camping

Groups with recreational vehicles had the opportunity to set up camp at the raceway’s campus, including the infield, as early as Wednesday. According to WWT Raceway’s website, some passes cost upwards of $3,000.

Mark Tompkins, who lives about an hour from the venue, says, “If anybody’s ever camped before, it’s a lot of work. By the time you get everything packed up, get here, get set up, it takes a lot of time and effort.”

VIDEO: Hauler parade rolls through St. Louis in roaring start to NASCAR weekend

He says the grind is well worth it. “The best part is you can walk up to the track to watch the races, or with passes, you can get in the pits, look at the cars, and enjoy all of that.”

Tompkins described his views for Friday’s hauler parade as “pretty awesome.”

Autographs

An autograph session for the NASCAR CRAFTSMEN Truck Series race happened Saturday morning. Fans had the opportunity to meet personnel and potentially some of this weekend’s drivers.

At least two notable drivers in Sunday’s main event, Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch, planned out autograph sessions ahead of the festivities. Wallace signed autographs at a St. Louis McDonald’s on Friday, while Busch is expected to sign autographs Saturday in St. Charles.

NASCAR icon Richard Petty, family legacy honored at WWT Raceway

Some retired NASCAR drivers will also make public appearances over the next several days. One dedicated fan named Bill hopes to meet Richard Petty and have him sign a cutout. He says, “I’m hoping to be able to meet him someday. I’m hoping to be able to have Richard sign it [the cutout] this year. Who knows? Hopefully, I have good luck.”

Bill says, with the exception of one year, he has attended events at the raceway every year since 1997.

Early Starts

Raceway parking lots open at 6 a.m. for each of the next two days. Spectator gates are then open to fans at 7 a.m. Various raceway activities begin shortly after that.

Longtime NASCAR fan Steven Lair says, “We’ll get here about 7 o’clock [both mornings], cook a little breakfast, hang out and any activities inside the track, we’ll be doing those besides just the race.” He is especially excited to make memories with his five-year-old twins for a second straight year, attending several events at WWT Raceway since 2001.

Live Music

NASCAR drivers aren’t the only ones making noise this weekend. Several bands and musicians are set to perform this weekend through the Confluence Music Festival, which consists of several concerts planned around the race.

Adam Wainwright, T-Pain, Ludacris and Riley Green are among the most well-known performers this week. More than 30 musicians and groups will perform live music at various times across four stages this weekend.

Kwofe Coleman, an executive producer of the Confluence Music Festival, says, “We are celebrating the breadth of diversity and the types of music in this region. Our goal is to showcase the region on a national scale, how great St. Louis and the region could be. This is our opportunity to do that. We don’t take it lightly, but we’re always excited about the outcome.”

Large Setups

Visitors will notice plenty of food and drink stands, along with mobile gift shops, that offer a similar vibe to a state fair.

Some setups throughout the raceway feature local businesses that look to strengthen ties with clients. The weekend is especially important for St. Louis-based contractor organization Nu Way Concrete Forms, Inc.

Nu Way Vice President Jeff Rhomberg says, “We have the pleasure of hosting [customers] Saturday and Sunday. Coming into the race, they’re overwhelmed. You got the sites, the smells, the food, the drink, the cars and the fanfare.” Two important parts of this experience: Fans for air conditioning and monitors to closely watch the race broadcast.

Infield Fan Experience

Families will have the opportunity to enjoy the race weekend up close and through several interactive activities offered through the Infield Fan Experience.

According to WWT Raceway’s website, this event is the first of its kind, offering fans a chance to walk through the NASCAR Cup Series garage and watch the teams work on the cars. There will also various driving simulators and interview sessions with NASCAR drivers.

Curtis Francois, owner of WWT Raceway, says, “I’ve attended a lot of NASCAR events over the years, so I had a pretty good perspective. Then you add in, the best sports city in the country, and you really see NASCAR, the brand, the racing, and the fans all come to life around this weekend.”

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