5 races to attend before you die, according to Hagerty readers

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The joke is that the first race was held shortly after the second car was built. That would mean racing is well over a century old. Some races have documented history of 100 years and are still carrying on.

In order to assemble a list of races that should be on every fan’s attendance list, we asked the Hagerty Forums to tell us their favorite race, and the responses did not disappoint. Based on reactions and number of mentions, we assembled this group of five can’t-miss events that any gearhead should add to their calendar.

NHRA Nationals

They might be only competing in three-second blasts, but watching the ludicrously high-horsepower cars pound out fast passes all day is a sight to behold. If you decide to attend the Nationals, it is worth the extra draw on your bank account to buy pit passes. We rebuilt one of the 12,000-horsepower top fuel V-8s as part of our Redline Rebuild series, but the mechanics in the pits complete the whole operation almost as fast as our time-lapse.

SVRA at Road America

A trio of unmuffled Mustangs thunders up the main straight. Standing trackside leads one to wonder if the Ford small-block has the most soulful wail of any V-8.
A trio of unmuffled Mustangs thunders up the main straight. Standing trackside leads one to wonder if the Ford small-block has the most soulful wail of any V-8.

A track steeped in racing history, Road America is situated in the true Midwest. With its fast corners and decent amounts of elevation change, it is a driver’s delight but also demanding. Packing the grid with historic SVRA race cars makes it a joy for drivers and spectators alike. The course is spread out but still spectator friendly with multiple spots to soak up the racing in comfort. Pro-tip: Start watching at turn five. The cars come down hill and fast into this tight left-hander that separates the best from the rest of the drivers.

Indianapolis 500

Kyle Kaiser racing around Indy

This year will mark the 104th running of the Indy 500, which started in 1911. That longevity only serves to reinforce its bucket list status for so many race fans. Indy cars have a larger series, but Indy is far more than just one stop on the schedule. Drivers can experience upwards of 5Gs during a flat-out lap. That’s more than half of what fighter jet pilots can experience under extreme maneuvers. Couple that close racing with an atmosphere rivaled only by some music festivals and it becomes clear why this was the fan favorite of the Hagerty Forums commenters.

Sonoma Speed Festival

1966 911ST on the track
1966 911ST

In the heart of wine country, Sonoma Raceway plays host to an annual Speed Festival, which brings together some of the finest vintage and modern race cars. It’s not Goodwood, but then again you don’t have to endure a workday-long flight to get there. Watch historic racers lap the Sonoma circuit, which has been hosting racing since its creation in 1968. The 2.52-mile, 12-turn track has hosted racing through the “golden age” of racing, which the Speed Festival hopes to bring to generations now, whether it’s for those reliving those days or getting to experience it for the first time.

MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas

Nicky Hayden racing in the 2009 Le Mans MotoGP
Nicky Hayden racing in the 2009 Le Mans MotoGP

We expected at least one mention of the relatively new Texas-based Circuit of the Americas, but we figured it would be regarding Formula One; instead it was the two-wheeled MotoGP. In a world where series are gaining budget caps and trying to slow the cars down, MotoGP still exists to allow manufacturers to push the limits of materials—and riders. The COTA course is new compared to other North American tracks, having only opened in 2012. Watching any race vehicle approach the 133-foot hill that’s topped by turn one is impressive, but seeing two MotoGP riders battling so hard that they are hanging a foot off during braking as they climb the hill and dive into the hard left turn is a sight to behold.

So pick one and mark your calendar; 2020 is shaping up to be a great year for race fans if the first few months are any indication. Is there a race we’re missing that folks should seriously consider? Leave your suggestion in below and also be sure to add your opinion to this week’s Question of the Week about how you got a good deal on a car. We’ll compile the top tips into a list next week.

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