The sounds of RV engines and shouts of “It’s Bristol baby!” filled the air as campgrounds officially opened Sunday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway.
For campers setting up at Earhart campground beside the race track – the earlier you arrive, the more fun you can have.
“We’ve had several die-hard campers that have been waiting on the side of the road for the last couple weeks, waiting for us to open this morning for a great race week,” said Philip Earhart.
Earhart says it’s hard to tell just how many NASCAR fans set up in his family’s campground every year.
“Each year it’s a little bit different based on the complexity of the folks that come in and park,” he said. “A lot of these campers have been coming for years. They’ve watched us grow up as a family and it’s kind of great to have this reunion when everybody comes back this week.”
Superfan Randy Bird says he’s here for both race weeks every year, making the trip from his home in Honolulu, Hawaii. For about 20 years, Bird and 30 of the friends he’s made in Bristol have been setting up their campers in the same spot.
“We all met here, it’s a tradition, and this is our family here – ‘Bristol Gang Camp,'” Bird said.
The group keeps busy, enjoying the campground all week. Big group cookouts ensure they never go hungry.
“[We bring] 21 pounds of bacon, we’ve got over 30 pounds of shrimp, two and a half whole ribeyes, 15 or 20 pounds of crab legs,” Bird said.
Amidst all the food and fun – safety precautions are important, especially in the August heat. Security officers encourage campers to drink 8 ounces of water every 30 minutes.
“People are going to be up here drinking alcohol, as everybody knows,” said Al Tipton, security training supervisor for Earhart Campground. “But the main thing is, don’t get dehydrated. The weather here is going to be extremely warm this week, the sun’s going to be out. Bring plenty of sunscreen.”
Tipton says race fans should also remember to use bug spray when standing beneath bright stadium lights. People should also be extra careful when crossing Volunteer Parkway into the stadium.
“Just make sure you wait for that police officer to stop traffic,” Tipton said. “Stay on the sidewalk, don’t wander out, and everything will be fine.”
But the most important tip, according to the camping pros:
“Get here early, party hard,” Bird said.