BRISTOL, Tenn.-Va. (WJHL) State Street would normally be packed with NASCAR fans ahead of race weekend.
Friday evening would have marked the popular Food City Family Race Night. The event was canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President of communications for Bristol Motor Speedway, Becky Cox, released a statement in regards to the canceled family night:
“With NASCAR being one of the first major sporting events back during a pandemic, it’s really important that our track goes above and beyond to ensure the safety of NASCAR, competitors, our staff and those in the local community,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway. “Racing without fans and all of our special fan events, like Food City Family Race Night, is never our first choice, but these are unprecedented times. We hope the fans are as excited as we are to see live, at-track competition back on TV until we can all be reunited again when it is safe to do so.”Becky Cox
Vice President Communications
Bristol Motor Speedway & Dragway | Kentucky Speedway
Pheben Kassahun spoke with race fans and business owners who say, regardless of the change, they are going to celebrate like race fans should.
For the first time ever, Bristol Motor Speedway will have a huge void during race weekend. Business owners on State Street told Kassahun that race weekends usually cover up to three months of expenses. While that wont be the case this year, they are still preparing for a traditional race weekend celebration.
“It’s Bristol, baby! Let’s go Kyle,” NASCAR fan Jonathan Este chanted, as he prepares for race weekend.
Race fans will miss out on the smell of burning rubber and the sound of the engines fired up at BMS this weekend, but that will not deter them from watching their favorite driver race to victory lane.
“My dad brought me since middle school since I was 12 or 13. I’ve been coming twice a year: spring race, fall race. Last year, he got us into the puts so it was a lifetime experience,” camper, Christian Watson said. “We got to see the pits, and everytime they pit and victory lane. We got to see the winner of victory lane – Denny Hamlin.”
Christian Watson and his friends are continuing the tradition of camping out at Shadrack Campgrounds, just miles away from BMS.
“We had to come. It’s every year. We don’t break tradition. We’re going to go sit beside the track and listen to the cars. I mean, that’s the most we can do is listen to them so we’re going to go sit and listen,” Watson said.
Camprounds like this one were filled to the brim last year but that is not the case this year.
“It’s just like telling a football fan, ‘hey, you get to go see your favorite team. We get to go see this twice a year and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s like a rock concert,” John Estes said.
True fans like Estes says nothing will stop him from watching his favorite, Kyle Busch.
“You still get that feeling because the bars will be packed, the restaurants will be packed. That’s what I’m going to do instead.. go to my favorite one,” Jonathan Estes said.
Business owners like, Annette Estes said she will miss the boost of income.
“We definitely won’t have the extra people coming in. We’ll be fully staffed and we’ll have a full menu, but I don’t see it being like it was, of course. We won’t have the people coming in out of town,” Bristol, Tennessee Stateline Bar and Grille owner, Annette Estes said.
Owner of Cranberry Lane in Bristol, Virginia, Karent Hester, could not agree more.
“It greatly impacts our business. We’re a small business. We have folks, like I told you, we’ve been here for 20 years– we’ve had folks that come and visit us every single year they come to the race,” Karen Hester said. “We stock our inventory accordingly. We know what kind of things they’re going to buy.”
Hester said she hopes the other large upcomin events in the fall are still a go.
“We’re praying and hoping that the fall race comes off. Events like Rhythm and Roots, and the race. Hopefully, that will help boost our revenue for the revenue that we’ve lost for being closed for the past two months,” Hester said.