NASCAR will be headed west to the wine country of Sonoma, Calif., for the June 26th race. As fans attending the race look forward to watching Jeff Gordon make enemies by spinning out the competition, talk turns to pre-race cookouts. Tailgating in the hills north of San Francisco has some very specific unwritten rules. Many out-of-towners rub locals the wrong way by grilling burgers, hosting tailgating sports and generally acting like they’re tailgating at Bristol or Richmond… Sonoma is a totally different animal.
Here are some tips from the locales for tailgating Sonoma-style:
Get To Know the Local California Drivers
It may seem like a Bizarro NASCAR universe, but fans actually cheer for California’s NASCAR drivers in Sonoma. Every other track greets these drivers with scorn and distain, but Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Casey Mears, David Gilliland, AJ Allmendinger, Robby Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are celebrated at this track. Little known fact: Infineon Raceway is the only track on the NASCAR circuit where it is not appropriate to throw beer cans at Jeff Gordon during his victory lap.
Your Wine Better Be Merlot, Or Someone is Getting Stabbed
Sonoma takes its wine seriously; if you try to sneak in some chilled chardonnay you will be stabbed by a local. It’s Merlot or go home in the jungle that is the Infineon Raceway parking lots. Gangs of wine stewards from local tasting rooms roam the grounds with cork screws looking to mix it up. To drink any other vintage would be like cutting in front of Jimmy Spencer at the Golden Corral’s buffet.
In Sonoma, Mustard is called Grey Poupon
When it comes to mustard, Napa Valley is a 24/7 Poupon party. Don’t be afraid if you order a burger and cashier asks if you want it pooped on, they are referring to the mustard — unless you wear Jeff Burton’s number on your clothing. (Sonoma race fans hate Jeff Burton for his scuffle with hometown boy Jeff Gordon). Their zest for Grey Poupon knows no bounds: Local strip clubs don’t make it rain with one dollar bills; it rains poupon.
Only Wear Raiders Gear With Your Yachting Clothes
At Infineon Raceway there are three fashion rules: Jeff Gordon gear is preferred over Jimmie Johnson gear, sunglasses are a must and don’t get caught dead wearing anything other than your summer yachting clothes with your silver painted Raiders Voodoo Skull helmet. Many out-of-towners mistakenly assume that they need to wear their black Cloak of Death and shoulder pads with tiny skulls when wearing their Raiders gear. In Napa Valley, it’s uncooth to wear black with Raiders skull helmets before Labor Day.
Don’t Take Off Your Pants And Climb Into The Beer Cooler
Under the hot sun in California, the temperatures can rise into three digits, but as hot as it gets do not take off your pants and climb into the beer cooler (A move that is refered to as a "Logano Bath" in the Joe Gibbs garage). It might sound like a good idea, but it’s a party foul.