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How to Throw the Ultimate Memorial Day Weekend Race Day Party

How to Throw the Ultimate Memorial Day Weekend Race Day Party article feature image

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: NASCAR driver Clint Bower and NASCAR former driver Jeff Gordon

  • The best day in motorsports takes place on Sunday, with F1's Monaco Grand Prix (9 a.m. ET, ESPN), the Indy 500 (12 p.m. ET, NBC) and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX) back-to-back-to-back.
  • Nick and Deena Giffen explain how they pair unique food, beverage and betting options to each of the three races to create the ultimate race day experience.

The most exciting day of the year in motorsports is almost upon us. On Sunday (9 a.m. ET, ESPN), 20 drivers will contest the most prestigious race on the Formula 1 calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix.

Four hours later (12 p.m. ET, NBC), engines will be fired in Indianapolis for the 103rd running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indy 500. The nightcap features the longest NASCAR race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C. (6 p.m. ET, FOX).

Betting these races is a must, but you have to bet the races in style. That’s why every year my wife Deena and I host a race day party like no other. It’s time to tell you how we combine fast cars with good food, adult beverages and intense gambling action into one insane race day experience.

The Basics

The race day tripleheader features three races in three locations that — for East Coasters — fall at perfect times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you’re on the West Coast, tough it up and adjust your body clocks for one day and be glad Monday is a national holiday so you can recover.

The gist of the ultimate race day is to pair a food course and beverage with the location of the race. So for Monaco, it’s a European-themed breakfast and beverage. Lunch brings us a hearty Midwestern meal and a grain alcohol or craft beer from the Heartland of America. Dinner is easy — chow down on tailgate food and wash it down with a domestic beer, because NASCAR.

There’s also a gambling event, which I’ll explain in detail below. The main thing to know, the stakes are incredibly high because the loser has to clean up the next day!

Deena, the master chef, presents to you our 2019 race day menu!

Rise or Shine, It’s Monaco!

Our day begins bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as we hop out of bed 30 minutes before grid formation at Monaco. We’ll put on a big pot of coffee knowing we have a long and drama-filled day in front of us.

Our European-themed breakfast this year is crêpes! They are quick and easy to make so that we don’t have to wake up any earlier than needed for maximum shuteye. Add in your favorite filling to the crêpes — we’re going with nutella and strawberries this year, but ham and cheese, bananas, or other fruits also work well.

We’re pairing our crêpes with Bellinis — a cocktail of Prosecco (or champagne) and fruit purée. Mango and raspberry are the flavors on tap for us, but peach is the traditional Bellini flavor.

In the past, we’ve also made Spanish Omelets, but crêpes are our staple.

After breakfast a power nap is in order before opening ceremonies for the Indy 500.

Back Home Again in Indiana

The Indy 500 goes green just after noon on the East Coast, but we suggest tuning in 30 minutes early for the pre-race ceremonies, which are rich in tradition. Our personal favorite is the playing of “(Back Home Again in) Indiana,” sung by Jim Cornelison who does a wonderful job of carrying on the tradition made famous by everyone’s dear friend, Jim Nabors.

After we wake up from our power naps, we will start working on lunch.  A quick internet search showed that the pork tenderloin sandwich is an Indiana staple — some claim it is even more popular than the beloved hamburger. The sandwich consists of a slice of pork tenderloin that has been pounded thin, breaded and shallow fried.

It is typically served on a soft, squishy white hamburger bun (nothing fancy here) and topped with lettuce, red onions, pickles, ketchup and mustard. Because this is already a heavy food day, we decided to swap out our usual side of grilled corn for some fresh berries.

If you’re not located in the Midwest, Total Wine is a great spot to stock a few choices from Bell’s Brewery (Kalamazoo, Mich.) and Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Mich.). Founders’ Breakfast Stout is my personal favorite. Nick is planning on going with some Eagle Rare whiskey to complement his meal.

Other meal suggestions for lunch include bison burgers with Wisconsin cheddar and a sweet corn and basil sauté, or Midwestern BBQ in a style of your choice (Kansas City and St. Louis are both fantastic).

Once again, a power nap and some hydration are necessary heading into the nightcap.

Party Down South!

It’s tailgate time! Get your ping pong balls out and fire up those smokers and grills as we wait for the final green flag of the day. Six hundred miles takes a while, so pace yourself and drink cheap beer that doesn’t have a high alcohol by volume (ABV).

Since Nick and I both grew up in the South, this is the most fun meal of the day. This year, we are using our electric smoker to make perfect baby back ribs.

No Southern meal is complete without a couple of solid side dishes, so we will also be making baked macaroni and cheese, roasted sweet potatoes and green bean salad. To drink, we keep it simple and southern with some Red Dawgs, aka Budweiser.

In past years, we’ve grilled burgers and dogs, or smoked other meats such as chuck roast and pork shoulder. You can also have fun with any southern side you like — biscuits, collard greens, corn pudding or green bean casserole.

One year, we decided to make a modern Southern meal consisting of fried chicken and waffle tacos with an apple honey “salsa,” and a watermelon, feta, and basil salad.

I’ll turn it back over to Nick to explain our betting game.

The Gambling Game

No race day is complete without some action on the events. We suggest a simple but fun game with the following rules:

  • Each person at the party starts with $1000 “dollars” to bet on the three races.
  • You can bet each race up to the start time of that individual race.
  • Pick lines from your favorite sportsbook or bet against each other.
  • Most total dollars at the conclusion of the Coca-Cola 600 wins.
  • Losers clean up the next day.

These rules let you roll up some pretty high totals because you can bet between races with the winnings you have from previous races. Deena and I will certainly have some driver vs. driver bets against each other.

We even make up our own props, such as first driver to crash, over/under on the lap of the first caution and number of laps down Cody Ware is at the end of the 600.

I can’t wait for race day, and I’ll be sad when it’s over. But at least I get to wake up to a clean house on Monday!

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