Before the command to fire engines, before the sunrise on race day, before the practice and the qualifying, before all that, NASCAR weekend starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
It happens each Thursday of an NHMS race weekend with the WOKQ FanFest. The free event is the official kickoff to a four-day party in Loudon twice a year. Its message is simple: welcome to our track, NASCAR fans.
WOKQ FanFest is located right in the Midway of the S2 Display Lot, which means it's easy to access and there is plenty going on in the busiest pedestrian crossroads on property. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with the famous Sprint Cup Series Hauler Parade beginning at 6 p.m.
It's at that moment, around when the 24 and the 48 and the 88 haulers roll down the Midway and through the tunnel that we all know NASCAR has arrived. The entire field will follow them, so whether you're a fan of Kasey Kahne or Casey Mears, you'll be able to confirm that your favorite driver's car is on property for the Camping World RV Sales 301.
That might be the most visual element of FanFest, but it only marks the beginning of the sensory experience. The Lite Lobster Lounge will be open to serve some of New England's best delicacies (among other options: fresh lobster rolls).
After qualifying for Friday's Granite State 100 at 5 p.m., the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will host a FanFest autograph session in the Midway at 6:30. If that doesn't excite you yet, it should. Past NHMS race winners in this series include names like Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Martin Truex, Jr. This might be the best access that you'll ever get to some of NASCAR's future stars, so make sure to get the autographs while you can.
As the drivers are signing, some of NASCAR's most beautiful spokeswomen will take the stage with WOKQ's "Morning Waking Crew" for a Q&A. This includes Miss Sprint Cup, Miss Coors Light and Miss zMax, all three of whom will be accessible for photos before and after their stage appearances. And, while he might not cut quite the same figure in a firesuit, of course, Milo the Moose will be roaming FanFest in hopes of photo-bombing more than a few family pictures.
The night will end with a concert from Jimmy Lehoux at 8 p.m. A native of New Hampshire, Lehoux started recording songs in Nashville at the age of 16, and won Youth Male Vocalist of the Year from the N.H. Country Music Assoc. shortly thereafter.
A parade, a concert, several driver autographs, and some pretty women with infectious smiles ... and it's all free. It's the official start to NASCAR weekend at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 10: WOKQ FanFest at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.