Some 100,000 car-racing fans are expected to mob Sonoma Raceway next Sunday, June 23, for one of the biggest National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) events of the year.
But about 40 of those attending aren't really going there for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, the latest stop in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In fact, they don't care about race cars at all.
They just came for the train ride.
Part of a loose nationwide network of railroad enthusiasts who call themselves "Rare Milers," these restless travelers will go anywhere, as long as they can travel by train.
For them, the first-ever NASCAR Express, departing at 8 a.m. next Sunday from Sacramento and running to the Sonoma Raceway and back, with a long stopover for the car race, is too good to resist.
"If you take the section of railroad track from American Canyon to the raceway, as far as we can determine, there never has been passenger rail service on these tracks," said Steve Page, general manger of Sonoma Raceway.
"The Carneros vineyard region is one of the most spectacular, beautiful areas in the world, and the train is going right through there," he said.
Passenger train service itself has become a rarity in Sonoma County, where regular service ended in 1958.
This train has room for 500 passengers and was nearly sold out earlier this week, so the train fanatics, sometimes described as "mileage collectors," are a small minority of the riders.
But for them, the journey itself is more appealing than the destination.