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Racetracks & Music Festivals: A Love Story

Moonrise Festival is just one example how racetracks and music festivals have created a harmonious relationship over the years.

Moonrise Festival welcomed headliners Diplo, Kaskade, Marshmello, DJ Snake, Nghtmre, and Zeds Dead to Baltimore on a rainy weekend in August. The event has been held at the Pimlico Race Course since 2014. The location may seem familiar as it is also the same place that the Preakness Stakes horse race occurs. This festival is just one example how racetracks and music festivals have created a harmonious relationship over the years.

Music Festivals Within Racing Events

The Infield Festival is a musical event that takes place within the center of racetrack at Pimlico Race Course during the Preakness Stakes. This year Budweiser celebrated the tenth anniversary of the event by hosting it’s biggest music line up to date. Post Malone, ODESZA, 21 Savage, Frank Walker and DJ Vice all performed during one of the countries biggest horse races. The infield was also host to exclusive lounges for guest to enjoy.

This trend of hosting a music festival at a race track is not exclusive to only horse races. For the past 7 years the Indy 500 has hosted the Snake Pit, a party inside the racetrack that rivals any one day electronic music event. The music starts at 7:45 in the morning and even receives a blessing from one of the racers. This years headliner, Diplo, was welcomed to the stage by driver Conor Daly. Whether hosted during a NASCAR race or at one of the countries most historic horse races, these musical events held during the races are all an attempt to attract a new audience to their events. By focusing on genres like rap and electronic, the hosts are targeting a younger demographic.

Making Money Year Round

In addition to hosting music events within the center of a track on race day, many of the racetracks and speedways have also found success by holding a full blown music festival on the grounds. While the locations are made for races and not festivals, many events have found huge success hosting on these places. This has proved to be a creative and lucrative way to utilize these spaces that sit dormant for most of the year.

“(Racetracks) have got to figure out how they can generate more revenue,” Insomniac production director Alyxzander Bear told USA TODAY Sports. “You can only do so many driving schools and Friday Night Drags. That’s created an opportunity for people like us.”

One of the countries largest electronic dance music festivals, Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas (EDCLV), has been hosted at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) for eight years. This year they even expanded the event to include camping in pre set up SHIFTPODS and RVs. Over the years they have figured out the right way to transform the Speedway into an electronic neon wonderland. Not only do the property owners make some good money from these events, it also helps to put their location on the map for festival goers that might now consider attending a race in the future.

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“I would be shocked if we had not converted some of these kids into race fans. They might not have had any interest in coming to an event in the past,”  LVMS president Chris Powell told USA TODAY Sport. “But while they’re here, they feel the banking and see the speedway from a different angle. They might think to themselves, ‘Hey, can you imagine 40 stock cars going around here at 185 mph? I’ll guarantee you there’s some percentage – I don’t know how large – that has come back because of the awareness they’ve gotten from attending EDC.”

Las Vegas is not the only race track to rent out its grounds to an event like this. Firefly Music Festival is hosted in the wooded area of the Dover International Speedway property, Daytona International Speedway held Country 500 fest on its grounds, and the list continues on and on.

Upsetting the Locals

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However, these stand alone events are not always welcome. This year the New Hampshire Motor Speedway upset local residences when it made the decision to replace a NASCAR race with a country music festival. Citing a 1989 agreement that states that owners are prohibited from hosting music that isn’t directly tied to a race event, three people have filed a lawsuit to block the potential three day music event. The decision to plan the new event came when the state learned that it was losing one of its top tier NASCAR events in September to Las Vegas. This left track officials looking to replace an event that drew in 90,000 fans to the track in single day. The track usually hosts two of these events, one in July and the other in September. Losing the event can potentially have an impact on not only the property owners but the local tourism economy as well. According to a 2011 study by Southern New Hampshire University the two races brought in $103 million in income and $179 million in spending. They also generated 2,500 jobs which including 1,500 part-time jobs at the track. While the locals are worried about the added late night noise, the need to fill the gap the missing race will create is more critical. The Merrimack County Superior Court agreed granting the event organizers, in partnership with Live Nation, the necessary permission in order to host the event in Summer 2019.

“Speedway Motorsports Incorporated is proud of its tradition of hosting high quality, family-oriented entertainment options at all of its facilities including NHMS,” said David McGrath, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway in a press release.  “We commissioned a full impact study to review any and all impacts on the community. That report concluded the country music festival will have an overwhelmingly positive economic impact on the region. We are ready to move forward.”

While not an expected match made in heaven, racing and music have forged an advantageous relationship in recent years. Hosting music in the infield has proved to be a great method to attract a new and younger audience on race day. Utilizing the dormant spaces as music festival venues has also proved to be very lucrative for both the property owners and local economy.

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