After nearly 12 years, Contessa Nyree decided she had enough of being a lawyer in Manhattan. Mentally and physically exhausted by the job, Nyree saved up enough money to temporarily walk away from both the working world and New York — with enough in her bank account for an adventure or two.
Nyree eventually moved out of her 400-square-foot apartment, sold her furniture, packed all of her remaining belongings in an 8-by-10-foot storage unit and hit the road with two suitcases.
Her destination? Every track — and almost every race — on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit in 2018.
With the exception of the fall Richmond race (which she skipped to attend her godson’s baptism in Wisconsin), Nyree attended 37 Cup Series events this season — as well as the companion Xfinity/Truck Series races at those tracks and the Eldora Truck race.
She did it all on her own dime, receiving no freebies, discounts or extras from NASCAR or any of the tracks.
“I’m really happy I did it,” Nyree said Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “It’s been an awesome trip. And not only the tracks, but I got to visit places like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls for the first time. There’s a lot of cool things to see in our country.”
Nyree drove to the majority of the races in a used 2015 Toyota Prius she purchased after leaving New York (there’s no reason to own a car in the city, after all). She estimates between the Prius and the cars she rented on the few trips that required flights, she drove approximately 40,000 miles.
There were times when she questioned herself, as well as some long and lonely days on the road. She spent her 40th birthday in September flying from Indianapolis to Las Vegas for the first playoff race.
“It could be very tiring,” she said. “Not only the actual driving, but doing the planning, making sure I have my race tickets, have my hotels, where am I going to eat? You’re responsible for every single bit of your day, but without a base. Doing it while not having a home right now was difficult.”
“But then I’d go to the race weekends. I love the sport and I enjoy being at the racetrack. That would bring me back to, ‘This is why I’m doing it.'”
There were also a few headaches along the way, like when a few tracks sent tickets to her brother’s home in Wisconsin — currently her legal address — instead of leaving them at will call. But for the most part, the trip went smoothly.
Though she’s been a fan since 2005 — she cheered for Tony Stewart until his retirement, when she became a fan of Wood Brothers Racing — Nyree said she’ll remember much more than just the races themselves.
“When I think back to any race weekend, it’s the random race fans you sit and talk with,” she said. “As fans, we all sit down and talk to each other — whoever is next to you to eat or in the stands. And you might not get their name or see them again, but you can talk racing.
“I’ll remember my experiences at the track more than anything, like my first time in the Neon Garage in Vegas or last weekend at ISM — their infield is amazing from a fan perspective.”
Although doing such a trip was expensive — particularly without any income — Nyree said traveling to races is more possible than many fans think because “there are ways to do it cheaper without feeling cheap.”
Her tips for fans include staying 45-60 minutes from the track (she said most of her hotels this season were under $150 per night) and looking for deals on the track’s websites (she would purchase her tickets anywhere from two months to two weeks out from the race).
So what’s next? Nyree is not sure what 2019 holds, but she has one more stop on her NASCAR tour before the year ends: Champions Week in Las Vegas.
“I’ve traveled from Feb. 6 until now,” she said. “I can’t not do Vegas.”