There's nothing like race week in Bristol!
It’s race week in Bristol! And while NASCAR visits a bunch of different tracks, I truly believe race week here is like no other.
The fact is, the excitement builds in these parts for weeks in advance of the August Night Races. When you’ve got folks coming from all over the country – as many as three weeks out from the races – it’s kinda hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm.
The Night Race, a.k.a. The IRWIN Tools Night Race and its companion events, The Food City 250, O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 and the UNOH Perfect Storm 150, draws folks from all over this country and a dozen or so countries. Trust me, when you’ve got as many people as we do coming to town, first and foremost in your mind is making sure the hospitality they’re offered is second to none.
While the fans and their Bristol experience tops= our list, we also entertain hundreds of media members, including our television broadcast partners for the races. We strive to make their stay with us an enjoyable one and for those of us who work in the Media and Public Relations Department, that’s where we spend the majority of our time—with them.
The media center in the infield is our headquarters. It’s where all the driver interviews and press conferences on a race weekend take place. There are a million and one things that can come up over a race weekend and our team’s goal is to always make sure everything goes off without a hitch. That can mean anything from ensuring driver interviews go off flawlessly, to finding someone to sew up a uniform, to finding meeting places for team sponsors, arranging transportation for drivers, getting them to a chiropractor or dentist… Trust me, there are a lot of things that can come up in a weekend and you’ve got to be prepared for all of them.
By the time the Big One, the IRWIN Tools Night Race, rolls around on Saturday though, most everything is taken care of though. For me, one of the coolest parts of our race weekend is the pre-race show before the Sprint Cup races. Obviously, I’m biased but when it comes to paying tribute to our military I don’t think anybody does it better.
We try to do something special every race with the military during pre-race ceremonies. Last March we even surprised some families who didn’t know their spouses had returned from active duty. Boy, were they shocked when they saw their parent or spouse. And yes, it brought tears to my eyes. How could it not?
One of our neatest traditions is having the flag flown into the Speedway via a parachutist. For me, the chills begin in earnest at that point. And when the national anthem is sung and we have the fly-over… well, I get tears in my eyes. Every single time.
And then the green flag drops. And the cameras start flashing in the grandstands. It’s something else seeing all those flashes going off at the same time. As the race goes on, there’s also plenty action and lots of sparks flying from underneath the cars, which is really neat to see under the lights.
For 500 laps, we get to take it all in and be part of one of the coolest events at one of the most iconic sporting venues in the world. Right here in little ol’ Bristol, Tennessee. It’s NASCAR’s finest hour - the pot of gold at the end of the racing rainbow.