With a smile, Homestead-Miami Speedway track president Matt Becherer confessed and admitted to his checkered past.
“I grew up in Detroit, and naturally everybody in that area was interested in the automotive business in some form,” Becherer said.
For Becherer, the preferred form was auto racing, and as a youngster he very much wanted to attend a race in person.
So he did.
“I snuck into Michigan International Speedway,” he sheepishly admitted.
Then Becherer quickly tried to make up for his long-ago wayward behavior, saying, “In college, I went to a race at Bristol Motor Speedway … and I paid. Let’s just say that was my first real NASCAR race.”
Apparently, NASCAR has forgiven Becherer for any possible misdeeds in his past because he is currently entrusted with putting on one of auto racing’s biggest events, the season-ending races that run Friday through Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On Sunday, the sport’s biggest prize will be determined in the Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 starting at 3 p.m.
NASCAR’s season-long champion — with Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman the only remaining contenders — will be decided in that finale. And this year, under a new format, there’s not much math or adding up of points needed to determine NASCAR’s champion.
If one of those four wins Sunday’s race, he is the champ. If none of the four wins the race, then the highest-finishing of the four is the champion. No rocket scientist needed to figure it out, just rocket-like cars.
The three-day racing extravaganza also will include the Camping World Ford EcoBoost 200 race starting at 8 p.m. on Friday and the Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Becherer is the guy going here, there and everywhere as the puppet master who is organizing three days of speed and everything that goes with it. The actual races are just a part of the scenario — there’s a lot more involved than a high-curved track and fast cars with the Ford Championship Weeekend.
There are numerous other activities that fans can do when they aren’t in the stands watching those blurry-fast and ear-scorching cars go by.
▪ Plenty of food is available and, yes, it will include plenty of barbecue. And if you want, you can bring your own coolers with food.
▪ Music, and it’s pretty much all live performances, will be playing almost constantly (of course, a good portion of it will be Country-Western. What did you expect?) Heading the musical acts will be Jason Aldean, one of Country’s top stars.
▪ Camping in RV and tents can be done right near the track. Movies will be shown in the camping area, including Talladega Nights, Cars and Days of Thunder. That lineup seems to make complete sense for some reason.
▪ Fishing is scheduled with a tournament Saturday morning at the track.
▪ Meeting some of the drivers and getting autographs will be possible, usually in the Coke Zero Fan Zone. “We feel our drivers are some of the most accessible in sports,” Becherer said. “We consider this not only a racing event, but a festival.”
Becherer also said that Homestead is “extremely fortunate” to have the season-ending and season-deciding NASCAR races.
Will that be the case in the future?
“We just signed with Ford for them to sponsor for another five years with a five-year option,” Becherer said. “This community can expect us to be around for a long, long time.”
In other words, things are going pretty well for a guy who had to sneak into the track to see his first NASCAR race.
Ford Championship Weekend
▪ Thursday: Racing — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, 1 to 2 p.m. and 2:30 to 4 p.m. Music — Performances starting at 1 p.m. and ending at 7 p.m. at the RV Stage. Movies — “Cars” starting at 7 p.m. and “Days of Thunder” at 9 p.m. at the RV lot.
▪ Friday: Racing — Gates open, 11:30 a.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series practice, 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.; NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying, 2:45 p.m. to 4:05 p.m.; NASCAR Nationwide Series final practice, 4 p.m. to 5:55 p.m.; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying, 6:15 p.m. to 7:35 p.m.; NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 race, 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Music — Performances starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 9:30 a.m. at the RV Stage. Movies — “Talladega Nights” 10 p.m. to midnight at RV lot.
▪ Saturday: Racing – Gates open, 11:30 a.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, noon to 12:50 p.m.; NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying, 1:15 p.m. to 2:35 p.m.; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, 3 p.m to 3:50 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Fishing — Hot Rods and Reels Tournament 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Speedway. Music — Performances starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m. at the RV Stage. Fan area and activities – Coke Zero Fan Zone open from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with various drivers appearing.
▪ Sunday: Racing — Gates open, 10 a.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400, 3 to 6:30 p.m. Music — Performances start at 10 a.m. and end at 9 p.m. featuring Jason Aldean prerace performance at 1:15 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Fan area and activities — Coke Zero Fan Zone open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with various drivers appearing.