The suites, as in other sports, are used by corporations to entertain current or prospective clients and reward employees.
“What really got this suite thing going was when R.J. Reynolds came in,” Mr. Wheeler says. “They wanted to entertain their customers — the big retail chains, the drugstores, the like.
“They wanted to bring vast numbers of people to the races, but they wanted a little better spot than the grandstand because they wanted to talk to these people. You can’t do that down in the stands.”
But you can in the suites, some of which are soundproof. Others have noise — intercom chatter between drivers and crew chiefs, for example — piped in. The suites come with food and drink and a wait staff. Some have live entertainment, others have video games for children. All have — crucially — air conditioning.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway boasts 137 such luxury suites; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 130; and the Texas Motor Speedway 144 — some with walls covered in genuine cowhide.
The suites mostly are sold out and all are expensive, ranging in price from about $70,000 to $200,000.
There is one thing, however, the suites are not: frequently occupied. Despite the cost, some get used only for three race weekends every year.
“It’s crazy,” Mr. Wheeler says.
Room with a view
Elevators zip patrons to the 700 level at Nextel Tower at Daytona, where four plush and pricey suites offer views of every inch of the racing venue. The finish line is at your feet, as are Victory Lane and pit road.
The view takes in the entire 2.5-mile racing surface of the irregular oval course. Across the way are Lake Lloyd, a 33-acre retention pond used to stage water-skiing exhibitions, and the infield. On race weekends, the infield is wall-to-wall RVs, the drivers of which have paid a hefty sum to be part of the action.
Straight across the track is the 500 Club, the glittering new attraction at Daytona. Membership, limited to 500, comes in two price tiers: $2,500 buys access to all but the top floor, which goes for $5,000.
The top floor, known as “President’s Row,” is limited to 80 members. It includes continuous in-seat bar and food service, entertainment, pre-race access to the track and pit road, and a post-race party.
The 500 Club proved unpopular with fans in the cheap seats: The new building blocked part of the all-encompassing view they had enjoyed from seats they had sat in for years.