BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – While the week just started, race fans are already looking ahead to the weekend to cheer on their favorite drivers in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
Even though tires don’t hit the tracks until Saturday night at 7:30, race fans from all over have already set up camp at campgrounds surrounding the speedway.
Bristol Campground is run by Bill and Ruth Gaines and happens to be just a short walk to the track. Gaines told News Channel 11 that he already has just shy of 60 campers on-site, and that’s a record for this far out from a race.
However, after the pandemic had a huge impact on race turnout last year, he’s thankful for the boom in business.
“Our numbers from last year, we had about 168 campers in here, which is like death. We lost money big time last year, and this year we’ve got well over double that number,” said Gaines.
Gaines said campers started arriving as early as last Wednesday, and he’s not the only one who’s noticed the influx of eager and early campers.
“So far this year, we’ve already got more campers in here early, a week ahead of time. It’s just great to see the crowd coming back,” said Jim Gladhill.
Gladhill said he’s been coming to Bristol Campground for 15 years, traveling each year all the way from his home in Maryland. He said camping with other race fans is what he looks forward to every year; in fact, he called it his version of the perfect vacation.
For Bill Gaines, it’s not a vacation, but something more special. “It’s just like a big family over here and they call it a family reunion,” he said.
Bryan Jude is visiting from Ohio and has also been coming out to the campground for over a decade and said everyone needs to go to a race at Bristol Motor Speedway at least once in their lifetime.
“Probably the best race track to watch a race as far as colors, the exposure, and a great group of people,” said Jude.
While everyone agrees BMS is the place to be, not everyone agrees on who should win the race, but Gladhill said that’s part of the fun.
“Everybody has their favorite driver, and they want to see their favorite driver win and do whatever it takes to get to finish lane,” Gladhill said.
Gaines is anticipating around 370 campers in total this weekend. He said having more reservations has granted him the funds to further improve the campgrounds for even more visitors to enjoy.