Get into the checkered-flag spirit at the Pala Casino 400 (the former Auto Club 400), the only regular-season NASCAR Cup Series event in Southern California, held at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, 50 miles east of Los Angeles. This February race is as big and loud as it gets—cheer for your favorite drivers as they zoom for the front in this 5-wide race event.
The day before the Cup Series contest, catch the white-knuckled racing action as top drivers battle up-and-coming young guns at the NASCAR Xfinity Series 300. Then hold onto your hats for Sunday’s thrilling main event, Pala Casino 400. One of the country’s premier NASCAR events, every year it draws the biggest stars of the sport. You can also camp on the grounds—just be ready to party.
The drivers aren’t the only celebrities at this speedfest—past grand marshals named to make the time-honored announcement “Gentlemen, start your engines!” have included Owen Wilson, Christian Slater, Eric Dane, and Scott Eastwood.
Tickets for the Xfinity Series 300 start at $30 (free for kids 12 and under), and for the Pala Casino 400, tickets start at $45. Splurge on pre-race pit passes ($45)—good for the entire weekend, they allow access to the track surface, where you can sign the start/finish line and watch driver introductions up to one hour before the race. Kids can accompany an adult pit-pass holder for free.
If you’re traveling for the race, leave some time to explore the Inland Empire region. Fans of Route 66 Americana culture will find photo opps galore in San Bernardino, and Riverside, home of the state’s citrus industry, boasts museums, art galleries, the California Citrus State Historic Park and the historic Fox Performing Arts Center. Make it a road trip and wind through the San Bernardino Mountains on the Rim of the World Scenic Byway, then stay overnight at Lake Arrowhead or Big Bear Lake resorts. For a truly transportive stay, book a room at Riverside’s Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, a National Historic Landmark that’s been hosting guests in its castle-like quarters for nearly a century and a half.