Solo Nationals: The Non-Essential Essentials

Is this your first time making the trip to Lincoln for the Tire Rack SCCA Solo Nationals? Packing for a week in Lincoln might be the most challenging part of the whole experience. Luckily, you have the opportunity to learn from those who have come before you and we’ve compiled some helpful hints for what to bring.

Tip #1: Weatherization

No matter the forecast, one thing is certain: There is no way to accurately predict the weather in Lincoln, NE for an entire week. Those who have attended Solo Nats over the years know there is a 98% chance of facing weather that you didn’t expect to see when packing for the trip. Of course, there’s a small chance, let’s call it 2%, that the weather is perfect. With those odds, we wouldn’t bet on it. So, prepping for every sort of weather condition is wise. Those in the know suggest you prepare for “all four seasons.” Lexie Snyder stated, "Accepting that you will be drenched to the bone at least one day out there is very important. I pack water shoes now — highly recommend everyone bring a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes that can survive standing water." Laurie McCelvey, added that "regardless of what the weather says when you leave for Lincoln, bring at least one set of clothes for very cold and windy; and some for hot, humid and sunny. And a good hat and sunglasses. If you're not accustomed to standing on concrete at an autocross, the reflection off the concrete will burn you just as bad as the sun itself."

Recognizing that “cracked lips sink ships,” Eric Fredricks stated, "The first time I went out in 2017, one of the problems I wasn't expecting to deal with were chapped lips. Especially if you're going to be in Lincoln for the whole week, make sure to bring lip balm/moisturizer. The persistent wind and sun can dry out lips pretty quick, and then it's just unpleasant."

Tip #2: Paddock Transportation

The Solo Nationals paddock is big. No, that’s an understatement; it’s huge. About 125 acres of pavement, huge. So, you’ll need some “personal” transportation to move from place to place.

Be sure to bring a bike, scooter, skateboard or anything else that allows you to get from point “A” to point “B” in a hurry when it’s necessary (without exceeding the posted paddock speed limit of course.) Exercise is cool and all, but there is A LOT of walking at Tire Rack Solo Nationals. And some of that walking may need to be done in haste if you forgot something in the far reaches of your paddock just before you head out for your runs. But remember: only competition and official vehicles may be ridden/driven through an active course grid.

If you want to walk, you won’t be stopped. However, Paul Brown notes to bring "two different brands of walking shoes. Thirty-thousand steps in any one (pair of shoes) is a bad thing." And some added advice from Art Truckenbrodt is to not forget "Foot powder! I had blisters on my feet from all the walking.” Along those lines, also bring more clean, dry, fresh socks than you think you’ll ever need.

Tip #3: Nats Knapsack

Prep yourself a bag/sack that can be easily restocked and travels to the venue every single day containing at least one change of clothes (including shoes), some aspirin or acetaminophen, rain gear, wet wipes or paper towels, and sunscreen. While there are medical personnel on site at Solo Nats, having some Band-Aids, hydrogen peroxide, aloe vera, antiseptic spray and a medical kit on hand is advisable.

Tip #4: Paddock Protection

At Solo Nationals, your paddock spot is your home. So, make sure your homebase is well equipped! Comfy chairs are a must, and make sure you have dependable shade. A good, trusty cooler with lots of ice is a necessity, too!

Protecting your Solo Nats home is also something important. Expanding off the “Weatherization” tip above, consider the elements when establishing your temporary Nebraska homestead. Assume it’s going to rain, and rain a lot. When that happens, the Solo Nats encampment has been known to fill with water. SCCA Solo Nats competitor Chris Harp learned this the hard way and suggests others develop “some sort of plan to keep your stuff dry if you don't have a trailer or other dry storage. I've soaked several sets of floor mats and spare clothes.” A couple of storage totes from Target or Walmart will come in handy.

Harp added additional insight by pointing out that “the other thing is if you bring a pop-up canopy, have a plan to secure that sucker. Then think of a better plan to secure it. Those things can go flying even when lashed to spare wheels."

Supporting Harp’s advice, autocrosser Nick Dunlap added that "when it rains, there is standing water everywhere. So don't leave anything sitting on the concrete unprotected you're not OK with getting submerged."

The other item many, many Solo Nats veterans mentioned as an essential item is an umbrella. It can be useful in the paddock or on the grid as shielding from sun or rain, just remember they’re not allowed on course when walking or working. SCCA Gear has a wonderful option, a 55" Black/White Vented Umbrella, that can be found here. Need a dependable raincoat? Perhaps you’ll find that too from SCCA Gear here. And when you need SCCA clothing/accessories quick at Lincoln Airpark, SCCA Gear will be on site in Row 1 at Solo Nats to keep you outfitted.

Tip #5: Be Prepared

COVID guidelines are still a topic of conversation (and the news) around the country. At his point, we cannot predict how things may change in the next month as the pandemic remains a fluid situation. With that in mind, it'd be a good idea to tuck a face mask or two in your bag, just in case. As of today, they won't be required on site, but we can't speak for businesses around Lincoln, and we can't promise that our guidelines won't be forced to change between now and then.

Tip #6: Roll On

This is not deodorant advice — although everyone at Solo Nats appreciates if you use some daily. Instead, this note serves as an reminder from Alex Piehl.

"I think some new people get too caught up in the competition aspect, which I was one in my first year, and forget to stop and smell the roses,” Piehl offered. “You're at a giant car meet with on-site parties full of people with the same hobbies and passions as your own.”

“Socialize,” Piehl advised. “Make friends.”

And as you pack, keep this fact in mind from Sam Strano: “Whatever you bring, it won't be enough.” Jason and Hilary Frank sagely added, “The rest can be bought in Lincoln if you forget it."

With that, we’ll see you soon at the Tire Rack SCCA Solo Nationals in Nebraska!


Photo by Rio Rios