There are certain things in every town you have to do at least once, and that’s what I did yesterday in Bristol. It’s car racing weekend, one of two big events every year (as I’m told). The Food City 500 is being held. Food City is the local grocery store. You’ll be able to catch the big race this afternoon starting at 12:30 on Fox.
Hopefully it’ll go off without a hitch. Yesterday’s weather was much better than today’s. All morning, the radar at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS, the last great coliseum, the world’s fastest half-mile, etc.) has been green.
Light rain has been falling for the past few hours and I put a special weather statement from the speedway’s general manager on a special page online. Ironically, the race used to be in March but was changed to April because of the uncertainty of March weather. (Click on pictures to make them bigger.)
The first thing you notice as you approach the speedway is that no U-turns or left turns are allowed for miles on either side (kind of like New Jersey). Garry and I didn’t know any better, and still have no clue why. There was no traffic except for a little bit in front of the speedway. That’s mostly because police officers (or maintenance workers because they’re dressed the same) had to let the crowds cross the street.
I planned to dress in a Polo and jeans, since we were going to the TV station’s suite and there may be sales clients there, but it was 80 degrees out and Garry said to wear shorts. He was right. Casual is not the word to describe the attire of the crowd. It was a step or two below. I should’ve expected that. (Not in the suite, though. By the time we got there, the first race was over, and most of the excitement and people were gone.)
We saw signs about parking in makeshift lots. First $5, then $10 and $20. Again, Garry and I didn’t know any better. By the time we got past the speedway, we had to drive a few miles out of the way. Remember, no U-turns or left turns, and on Volunteer Parkway, there aren’t any alternate routes I know of because of Steele Creek Park. (Notice the red for traffic.)
There was a carnival atmosphere around the speedway. People selling everything related to NASCAR and all the foods I’d never eat. Even a “chapel on wheels.” (Remember where we are.) We drove around three times and somehow ended up parking right across the street from the speedway for free! Crowds were leaving the first race (qualifying for today’s?) and Garry asked the person who appeared to be in charge of the lot where to park. We did and they never asked for the $20. So we walked across the street to the speedway. Lots of other people walked huge distances.
We planned to go upstairs, make an appearance, watch something (I wouldn’t call it “the race” because we really don’t know car racing, and anything would’ve been nice), and then go to work. I wanted to make sure the TV station’s 7pm special “It’s Bristol, Baby” (that’s how the speedway markets itself) live streamed on the Web site. There were about a dozen people in the station’s suite. I only knew two: Joe, the assignment manager who I sit next to, and Julie, one of the anchors, with her family.
The suite was nice. Of course, it was on the far side from where we entered. First, we had to climb up a steep hill. (That’s where we saw a drunk guy scream and fall on his rear end, giggling the whole time.) Then, we were led to special elevators and given directions to the top, then told to go down a flight and walk all the way around.
Garry and I watched the second race, the Pitt Lite 125. Apparently, the earlier Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 was the bigger draw. Who knew? The best thing about being up there, besides the relaxed atmosphere, climate control, and food and drinks, was that we didn’t need earplugs.
The actual racing was lost on me. Joe pointed out which lap they were on when we arrived. There seemed to be more pacing than racing. Pacing is when all the cars (except the one in trouble), line up and follow the pacing car. I was more interested in taking pictures. I don’t see myself returning, unless any of you come visit. As they say, it’s something to do once.
In the meantime, enjoy the race. I hope your driver wins!