Boise Sports and Outdoors

Auto Racing at Meridian Speedway - Where Tailgating Is an Art

Saturday nights during the summer mean one thing in Meridian: the hum and roar of race cars at the speedway. Ask anyone who lives in Meridian, and they'll tell you that it doesn't matter which part of town you're in and how far you are from the raceway, you'll hear it. And sooner or later, whether you like car racing or not, the curiosity generated by that distant summer noise is bound to get the best of you.

That was the case for me, despite my longstanding belief that I had better things to do than watch cars drive around in circles. But the whole idea behind Boise the Great is to get out and do all sorts of stuff around Boise whether I think I'll like it or not, because I don't believe in publishing articles about things I haven't experienced for myself. So I set all my prejudices and NASCAR jokes aside and went to the Meridian Speedway one hot summer night, and let me tell you that I felt immediately conflicted.

But first, in case you're wondering what kind of race track we're talking about, here are the facts about the place. It's a 1/4 mile asphalt oval track that features racing by a wide variety of cars and trucks. You'll see late-model cars that look like your favorite NASCAR participants, sprint cars that look like bad-ass dune buggies, sprint cars with wings, and just about any other kind of four-wheeled racing vehicle you can imagine. They even race older cars that look like the jalopies rusting in my neighbor's yard.

The spectator experience is not bad at all. A large grandstand extends the entire length of the track's west side, and if you get a few rows up you'll have a commanding view of the the entire track and the foothills in the distance. In my experience, the top row is where you want to be. The smaller grandstand on the north side offers a little different perspective on the track, and it's where a lot of the diehard rowdy race fans are known to sit. If you're curious what goes on behind the scenes, you can even walk beyond the north grandstand and get a great look at the pits on the east side of the track.

Just remember one thing: you know that noise I mentioned could be heard all over town? Well, it can get pretty loud in the stands when you get ten cars thundering by right below you, so prepare you eardrums for it and be prepared to yell at the wife or husband when you need another beer or when junior wants a corn dog.

Now about that conflicted part I said I'd get back to. It's common knowledge that the only reason a lot of people watch auto racing is for the wrecks and crashes, and in my opinion that's totally true. So does it make you a bad person if you constantly hope there's a fiery multiple-vehicle, non-injury crash on the track? I'll admit that the shortness of the Meridian track and the relatively low number of laps per race help break up the monotony somewhat. But, regardless, it's still a bunch of cars driving in a circle. A good crash every few laps would really help to spice things up and keep it interesting, because as best I can tell, the cars that start in the front at the Meridian Speedway tend to finish in the front, so there's not a lot of jockeying for position and crafty passing.

Whether or not you think crashes are desirable things, my advice is to pick a Saturday night this summer and go to the speedway. Take a blanket and a seat cushion, sit at the top of the grandstands, and enjoy the whole scene. At the very least, you can drink a beer or two and enjoy the view, which is a lot better than spending the evening playing cribbage with your in-laws.

Event: Auto racing
Where: Meridian Speedway

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When: April-September
Cost: Varies by race night
Website: Meridian Speedway
Why I love it: It makes me think of moonshiners, who are good people.