Fans Speak: Bristol Family
Fans Speak: Bristol Family
When Ron Spence leans in and utters, "Real quick story…", brace yourself. Prep your facial muscles for the full-on assault that's soon to come, because you're gonna smile at the tale he'll tell next. Then, perk up your ears for an acoustic indulgence - you're about to hear one of the most contagious laughs that exists in the modern world.
It's impossible not to enjoy a conversation with the bespectacled gentleman from Columbus, North Carolina. Simply put, Ron is a genuinely nice guy. The type who goes out of his way to help, he’s the guy you enjoy hanging out with on the weekend and who you wonder whether has ever had a bad day. I have a feeling he’s not very good at cards, though. His entire face explodes in smile when he’s amused, so a poker face on this man seems almost an impossibility. Rarely do you see him without laughter in his eyes.
Ron can’t imagine not being part of the Bristol race week atmosphere.
"I camp down at the Dragstrip," he explains. "When I pull in there it’s 'Hi how are 'ya? What’s your year been?’ The same probably 10, 12 campers and folks are there again, and again, and again and yeah, it’s great to come and see these folks and get together with them."
That’s where so many of his 'real quick’ stories come from.
"I can tell you about one. Back, it was a number of years ago, we used to camp right along the crick right behind the main grandstands," he relays with a smile. "We drove all night to get here, I always camp here, and so it was like 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning when we finally got here. I said, 'let’s take a nap’, then 'okay, fine’. We laid down and we took a nap and we had pulled right in and parked right next to crick, it was great. We woke up later in the afternoon and we were in the middle of a sea of cars! Everybody had just migrated in there and there was just a bunch of really nice folks around there and we just had a great time - I couldn’t leave if I wanted to!"
Ron laughs and the amusement dances in his eyes. He shakes his head a bit at the memory, then says through his smile, “It was just unbelievable. I don’t know how many people I had around there. It was just great, it was really nice.”
Spence serves on Bristol Motor Speedway’s Fan Advisory Board, a group that brings thoughtful insight and candid advice to race track management’s inner circle on a regular basis. He’s also one of the selfless volunteers who will greet you in Guest Services during race time, helping answer any questions or addressing information requests you might have.
“I just enjoy interacting with the people who come here. They are enthused about being here,” he says. “Where I work, it’s not work, it’s fun. And the Fan Welcome Center, I’ve been there and just to see the folks as they come in and they just look around and say ‘this is amazing!’ Everybody is so nice and so friendly here.”
It’s just the way things are around Bristol. “We’re all here having a good time and we just come together for this experience,” he says.
You’ll see Ron’s serious side emerge if you voice an assumption this must be the way it feels at every facility. “I’ve gon e to an awful lot of the NASCAR tracks - NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks - over the years and for some reason, I don’t know what it is. We all come in here early, we all get together and talk about what’s going on,” he says.
“At other tracks, people just kind of seem more… they stay more to themselves. I mean, I’ve camped next to some folks at another track and it’s taken me two or three years to get all of us to sit down and have a brew or something like that and start talking a little bit. But here, it’s just instant,” Ron relays with a snap. “I don’t know what it is, everybody is just friendly and I think it starts from the top here. It starts from the very top, the folks when you walk in here are friendly, they do everything they can for you, and it just spills into everybody here. I mean you get over 100,000 people together and it’s like being with a group of friends. I don’t like going into big crowds, but I love this crowd here ‘cause it’s so nice. It’s just friendly and nice.”
Ron is part of the reason we hear that sentiment often at Bristol Motor Speedway. Treating first-time and long-standing fans as family is a priority.
“We’ve got so many folks here who are willing to welcome you and guide you along the way,” he explains. “Welcome Centers, we’ve got three Welcome Centers here for folks to get oriented. You’ve got a fabulous staff here in the ticket office that will help you, they’re not there to just sell tickets, they’re there to help and enrich your experience here at Bristol and they will. They will give you any information you want.”
Ron Spence is the type of ambassador any Welcome Wagon would be ecstatic to have. To him, the Bristol Experience is second-to-none.
“I have met people from all over. All over! I mean all different countries and states. All the states, of course, but all different countries, and they’ll come back to me later after the race or after they have taken a little walk around and say, ‘This place is amazing. I’ve been here, here, here and here, but this is different.’ It’s special, and that’s just what they like about this place and they’ll say, ‘You were right. This is really a nice place to come and it is a great experience to be here.’”
His smile begins to spread as he goes on, “I can’t help it. I’m enthused about this place. I’ve been coming here since the early 80’s… I just love it. I can’t express it - not only the place, the racing, the entire facility and the folks that work here. It’s great.”
When you see him, ask Ron to tell ‘ya a quick story about that.