Fan goes to every NASCAR race in 2018 season

NASCAR fan Contessa Nyree in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Most good, odometer-churning journeys deserve a cool-down lap. For Contessa Nyree, that yearlong trek to nearly every Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event ended this week with a trip to Las Vegas for the season-ending awards ceremony.

“At the end of the Homestead race, I think that’s the only race where I took a picture of the checkered flag the whole season because that felt like the end,” Nyree said Thursday from the Wynn Las Vegas, where she settled into a seat in the middle of the ballroom for the festivities. “So yeah, coming out here for the championship banquet definitely feels like a victory lap of sorts.”

Nyree took a year’s break from her position as an attorney in New York City with the goal of taking in every event on the Monster Energy Series circuit. She only missed Richmond in September for a family function, but added the Eldora dirt-track race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as part of her packed itinerary.

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“It’s been a lot of fun, criss-crossing the country — mostly driving, a couple of flights tossed in. It’s been nice going to all the tracks that I hadn’t been to before.” That list included Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a big-ticket item that she checked off in September.

Nyree, 40, grew up within two miles of the Milwaukee Mile. Though her home state of Wisconsin has long been a hotbed for racing, Nyree was a late bloomer, catching the bug after moving to New York.

Watching on television got Nyree intrigued, and an appreciation for Tony Stewart’s talents gave her a rooting interest. The noise and sensation of attending races in person got her hooked. Needing to recharge and an affection for travel set the wheels in motion for packing her belongings into a storage unit and filling up her cork-board map with more destinations.

What might 2019 hold? After the awards festivities, Nyree is set for an offseason move to the warmer climate of West Palm Beach, Florida. That’ll put her closer to Daytona International Speedway, where she plans on attending a solid chunk of Speedweeks on through the Daytona 500 in February.

But will that trip be the start of another season-long pilgrimage? Nyree smiled, having earned the right to be more selective with her travels next year.

“I am not doing this a whole other year, no way,” Nyree said. “Living out of a couple suitcases and your car and hotels every couple days is tough. … I’m escaping the cold and the snow of the North, so I’ll definitely hit a bunch of races. Haven’t quite decided which ones. I think it’ll be a mix of both NASCAR races and other types of racing.”

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