Sonoma Raceway is a unique racetrack. Where else can you camp inside the racetrack or watch the race from the middle of the track? Or camp on top of Cougar Mountain where your backdrop is the San Francisco Bay?
That explains why they host over 50,000 fans every year for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. The 11,000-horsepower rockets blast the cars down the west coast’s most popular racetrack as you sit at Turn Six, Seven, or Eight, where you have a front-row seat for the entire weekend.
You’ll get to see the top Funny Car, Pro Stock Motorcycle, Top Fuel, Top Dragster, and more as they all try to take home the Wally! Friday, you can watch the qualifiers and the Top the Cops race where hometown teens take on the local police officers. Saturday is a big day with autograph sessions, Nitro School, walking tours, pro bike battles, and jet cars. Sunday is celebration day where you can watch the final races and see who wins the Wally trophy.
Be sure you bring the kids because there are special activities for them to enjoy as well. They can be a part of the Build-a-Racer Program, where they get to build their own gravity-powered racer and compete against other kids. On Sunday, you and the kids can enjoy a free scoop of ice cream to honor Eric Medlen, who was a celebrated Funny Car Racer. There’s always something fun at the racetrack.
Ticket prices for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals vary depending on what type of ticket you want. For a one-day general admission ticket, you might pay about $60, but for a weekend pass, it may run you about $150. Grab a camping package priced anywhere from $200 to over $2,400, depending on where you want to camp, but these include your admission tickets as well. Every ticket is a pit pass, so you get some extras without paying extra.
On the west coast in Northwest California, you’ll find Sonoma Raceway in, of course, Sonoma, CA. Just off of CA-121 and CA-37, a little more than 33 miles from San Francisco and less than 15 minutes from Petaluma, the park overlooks the San Francisco and San Pablo Bay. In fact, you can walk to the shoreline if you cut through the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is an awesome place to visit while you’re in town for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
With such a vast place, the Sonoma Raceway has to have a lot of parking. And they certainly do. There are 14 different parking lots to choose from and guides to lead you to the best spots in each one. The Track Ambassadors in the blue shirts and jackets will give you a Fan Guide and locator to help you find your car after the race. But if you are camping here, you won’t have to worry about parking. ADA parking is available through Gate One.
The Sonoma County Transit buses that run to and from the track are available to get you around if you are not camping on-site. You are also welcomed to use a private ride service, taxi, or rideshare app. And once you get there, the on-site shuttle service will get you around the rest of the way.
With over a thousand campsites, you are sure to find one to your liking at the main campground, which they call the 50 Acre Campground. They even have several dozen campsites that are ADA accessible. There is a shower, and they also have a shuttle service to help get you to where you want to go.
Carousel Campground has over 80 sites in the middle of the track with limited views of the track. Trackside RV Terraces have over 150 sites with amazing views of the track. Cougar Mountain Campground has over 50 RV sites with views of the San Francisco and San Pablo Bay.
Turn Eight Campground has over 50 sites less than 200 feet from the track. Turn Seven Campground has over a dozen sites with views of the dragsters as they come down the track. Turn Nine Campground has a handful of campsites near the finish line.
Lot Two Campground has three dozen sites overlooking the main paddock. That’s over 1,300 RV sites to choose from, some with electric hookups, and all pet-friendly. No way you can’t find a spot here!
If you don’t want to stay at the track, there are plenty of campgrounds in the immediate area that can accommodate rigs of all sizes. For example, the San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA has over 300 campsites with some spots that can accommodate rigs up to 100 feet long. They also have a spa, pool, recreation areas, store, dog park, playground, and even a petting zoo.
This is a massive track. With so much space and so many places to see, you may get a bit tired, but you can take a seat at one of the seating areas and have a drink or snack to recharge. There is a shuttle that takes visitors around wherever they want to go if you want a ride. And you are welcome to bring your own scooter, ATV, bike, etc. for use around the campgrounds and camp roads.
Even though it is bright and sunny at Petaluma Racetrack the majority of the time, the temperatures can be tricky depending on the elevation of your campsite. For example, the campground atop Cougar Mountain can be breezy and warm while the valley and stands may be a bit chillier. Pack t-shirts, jeans, comfortable shoes, a hat, and maybe a jacket as well.
Go ahead and bring your backpack under 18 inches and a cooler less than 15 inches, but just know that you will be subjected to a search at the gate. Earplugs are recommended, but some fans say no to these because they are there to hear the roar of the motors. Bring plenty of water, but no glass bottles. Snacks or soft drinks are fine, as well. There is a full list of what you can and cannot bring to the track online, or you can call the racetrack offices if you have any specific questions.
You’re going to want to bring sunscreen and a hat to protect you from the California sun while at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals because there is not much shade to be had anywhere. Draw in that sunshine, but too much as it is easy to burn here. Bring bug spray to fight off those pesky mosquitoes that get hungry when the sun goes down in the summer.
When you want to cook on-site, if you didn’t get electric hookups, you are welcome to use a gas grill at the track. No open fires or charcoal grilling allowed here. It is just too dry and windy. Stock up on supplies you forgot to bring at the local grocers about 10 miles up the road in Sonoma.
You can find most of the local restaurants down CA-121 in Sonoma. Not only do they have a host of fancy restaurants, but they also have a food truck, fast food joints, pizza places, and some pub food as well. If you are looking for Mexican or Asian cuisine, there is plenty of that, too.
Make sure you stop by the Grille Garden, Sears Point Grille, and Sonoma Taqueria while you are at the track. The food is delicious, the beer is cold, and the staff is friendly. You’ll also find a plethora of fan merchandise and vendors showing off their newest items.
With such a big event and a large crowd, security is very important. The professional security staff at Sonoma Raceway take their job seriously and strives to keep things in order without spoiling the fun. As long as you follow the rules, you’ll be fine. No fighting, drugs, or weapons. You can find the full list of no-nos on the website. Campers will also have 24-hour security for each campground as well.
If you like warm and sunny weather, Sonoma is the place to be in the summer. Late July is usually hot but not steamy at a nice 79 to 85 degrees average for the highs and 52 to 55 degrees for the lows. That sounds like perfect weather for a race, doesn’t it? Check the local weather forecast before packing, though, just in case.
The track has several areas for first aid treatment if you need medical assistance while you are visiting. When you are at the races, call the emergency number and tell them where you are, and they will come to you. At the campgrounds, you can call the emergency number or call 911. The closest hospital is just 10 miles away in Sonoma if you want to make the trip yourself.