By: JENNIFER BERRY

Yep, it’s March... Food City 500 race week is here, and me and whole bunch of die-hards will celebrate St. Patrick's Day weekend with a full slate of racing and more at Bristol Motor Speedway.

But just a few weeks ago, we celebrated love on Valentine’s Day, and many of us were reminded, once again what LOVE truly is.  Webster Dictionary defines love as a warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion.  What do you love? What excites you? What is your passion? Are you a racing enthusiast? If not, I guarantee one weekend at Bristol and you will find a new love.  I speak from experience, growing up less than thirty minutes away from “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” I found my passion early on in life.  

Growing up we didn’t have cable, so my dad and I would go to my grandmother’s house every Sunday after Church just to watch the race.  Some races were boring to me; however, others grabbed my attention.  I remember having a Dale Earnhardt Sr. seat cushion and a Kodak car No. 4 t-shirt.  As a little girl, in the late 80’s, I can remember going to Bristol with my brothers and their scout troop. I recall walking up to the window and buying a ticket the day of the event, sitting in the concrete bleachers right next to the track and leaving with our faces covered in burnt rubber. I thought the experience was incredible then, little did I know several years later, as a young adult I would become a true fan.  

In school I was involved in sports, Church events, and showing horses causing racing not to be my biggest priority.  After college and once things settled down, my dad asked me if I wanted to go to a race with him. How could I not go? I had not been to a race in years.  This was the fresh start for my passion.  Sitting inside what I like to call a “Bowl” that sits 160,000 people, watching the pre-race festivities, American flag card stunts, feeling a sense of pride that I am an American and I am amongst some of the most loyal, hard working, patriotic American race fans. I had chill bumps and it wasn’t because it was cold outside. It was a feeling that is incomprehensible unless you ever experience it yourself, and to think, this was all before anyone yelled those four most anticipated words, “Gentleman, Start your engines.” 

I became a fan all over. Not just a fan, a devoted fan to Bristol Motor Speedway and the sport I love so dearly. I acquired my own season tickets, a camping spot, a camper, and before I knew it I made friends from all over the United States. Before each race I have my dad haul my camper to the race track for me from a local campground that’s only 19 miles from the track and each trip he ask the same question, “Jennifer, We’re doing all this work and it’s 19 miles away.  Can’t you just drive back and forth?” My reply, “Bristol’s not just racing. You’ll never truly understand until you take part in the complete Bristol experience, camping included.”

Writing this I have a grin on my face and I’m truly giddy thinking of all the fun memories I’ve made over the years. I know there will be more memories to be made. This is a sport I truly love with a family I adore.  From waking up in the morning smelling the camp fire smoke, seeing the haze over the track, high banks and fast speeds, acres and acres of vendors, friends and family, what’s not to LOVE about Bristol?