This was my third year at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the ultimate beer drinkin’, hillbilly stompin’, tailgatin’, redneck, fashion backward stock car showdown. Now, if you’ve been sucked into the hoopla like I have, you already know about the higher cognitive processes of NASCAR; the excitement, the noise, the competition, cheering for your favorite driver, keeping up with his or her team and the sponsor changes, and learning about the different tracks and which drivers do better where.
Then comes the ultimate experience, the place where the action begins- the parking lot. Row after row of cars, trucks and campers crammed with decked-out, likely intoxicated, fired up NASCAR fans. They arrive as early as 6 a.m. to get a decent parking spot and set up camp for the day. It’s in the parking lot where most of the excitement begins as driver-and sponsor-branded fans spark friendly rivalries and banter back and forth.
Just outside the race gates the party continues at the ever popular Merchandise Midway where team and driver retail trailers are parked in a street fair-like fashion. Fans roam and stand in line contending for the newest and cutest piece of merchandise supporting their favorite drivers. Sponsors show off their hottest items, fans chug beers and finish off burgers before stepping foot inside.
“No outside food or drink! ” is clearly stated before entering the race track. With food and alcohol being one of LVMS’s biggest money makers, a quick bag check will make sure no one is “brown baggin.” You are about to step through the sacred gates! The mythological Zeus needed 5 items before the padlock to the sacred gates of mount Olympus was smashed by Hercules: the flower, pearl, ring, whisker and scale. Now, let’s put this in NASCAR terms.
Ticket, lanyard, earplugs, sunscreen, and one item of clothing to advertise the driver of your choice. Check! You can now pass through the gates and are eligible for one freshly fried funnel cake or one giant turkey leg. Redeem your fried item right here on food lane!
If there is one more tradition NASCAR fans look forward to it’s indulging in their favorite race treat while hootin’ and hollerin’ over the engine rumble and race chatter. About a week before the race, I stumbled upon an article by Heidi Knapp Rinella in the Las Vegas Review-Journal suggesting that LVMS would be offer not only more food items but healthier items as well. My skepticism set in and curiosity hit the fan. So instead of avoiding it like the plague, as I normally would, I decided to take a trip down food lane to see if just maybe there would be something gluten free, corn free and dairy free that would suit my fancy.
I began my search walking right past the regular concession stand with the attitude that there was absolutely no way I would find something. My previous experiences at football and basketball games had my hopes down thinking the usual burgers, hotdogs, candy, popcorn and soft drinks would be all they had to offer. So I made my way out from the covered stadium area onto food lane and started to search. Here is what I found.
Gluten filled, or gluten contaminated
A corn attack waiting to happen
The usual burger joint items
and … could it be? Smoothies! I was pleasantly surprised when the ingredients were listed as: fresh squeezed OJ, sugar, ice and the fruit of your choice. Often times the smoothies come from a pre-made mix that is full of corn syrup and preservatives. Now, although I don’t typically consume refined sugars, I would make an exception in this case for a NASCAR treat or even ask them if the sugar could be left out.
I couldn’t possibly leave with out asking about the famous giant turkey legs! Everyone has got to have one. In high demand at every race, it is inevitable that, come time for the victory lane celebration, the tender and juicy drumsticks are long gone. A kind lady managing the tent kept telling me that they were out of turkey legs not realizing that all I wanted to know was how they were cooked. Despite the hustle and bustle of the food tent, she took the time to inform me that they are baked in vegetable oil from soybeans. The drumsticks aren’t seasoned or marinated, just tossed in oil and baked. I love this! Something so simple in such high demand? Sounds like my kind of meat. Now, she did mention that the corn dogs made at the tent are also baked. Therefore, gluten/corn contamination is a huge possibility. I wouldn’t recommend it for the hyper-sensitive.
Other typical race snacks included teriyaki bowls, Indian flat bread tacos, premixed alcoholic beverages and Mexican food. None worth risking when you’re allergic to gluten, corn or dairy. Walking back to my seat however, something caught my eye: a “Mealology Menu” for those focusing on a healthier lifestyle. The small menu was posted at a regular LVMS concession stand right outside the stadium seating and was designed for those with allergies or gluten intolerance (see the menu below). I also noticed “fruta and veg cups” on a separate menu board and after asking, was told they contained only fresh fruits and veggies with ranch dressing in the veggie cup. The stand was even carrying Redbridge gluten free beer. This beer contains corn syrup and is not recommended for those with corn allergies but celiac NASCAR fans, you’ve got it made!
The Las Vegas Review Journal stated:
“John Bisci, public relations manager at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, still can recite the ’70s-era menus at tracks near his native Buffalo, N.Y.:
“Hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries and Coke,” he said. “Diet Coke? ‘No, diet when you get home.”
It’s nice to see this isn’t the case anymore. Typical race food will always be focused around what is in demand and, most importantly, what tastes good. Luckily Americans are making better choices. Food seems to get more and more complex as time goes by and I’ll be the first to say there’s nothing like a greasy, delicious meal to pair with one of America’s favorite pastimes. But for those of us who physically can’t tolerate most of the options provided, put your anxiety aside. It’s finally happening. No more worrying about starving or stuffing a bag of gluten free snacks down the back of your pants to make it through security. Although the options were slim, I have high hopes that they will only get better. Here’s to more allergy friendly options in Vegas in 2013 and here’s to my boy Tony for his first ever win at LVMS! Go Smoke!