Red, White and Bristol: It's America's Night Race
As the children's choir belts the note "and the rockets' red glare" of the National Anthem and fireworks shoot out from all corners of The Last Great Colosseum on a beautiful August night prior to America's Night Race, there's a true sense of patriotism in the air.
These fans are here to celebrate their heroes on the track, legendary names like Earnhardt, Gordon, Waltrip and Yarborough, as well as the names of today, like Larson, Elliott, Johnson, Busch and Blaney, but also to celebrate the true heroes, the men and women in uniform who give their all to protect this great nation. They are proud of their country. They are proud of their military. They are proud of their drivers. That is the real essence of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
Bristol's partnership with Bass Pro Shops and the National Rifle Association is a perfect fit for one of America's national pastimes. It honors hunters, sporting men and women, as well as American outdoorsmen traditions. It's a call to a large contingent of NASCAR fans who are dedicated to the lifestyle of fast cars and freedom.
When August arrives, the electricity of the Tri-Cities region is at full force. Fans from 50 states and more than 20 countries will gather at America's Night Race. They sit around the campfire and talk of the legendary Earnhardt-Labonte battles and look up at the stars while they pop the top on a Johnson City original Mountain Dew or a crisp Busch beer. Whether a welder, salesman, farmer, accountant, soldier or first responder, here everyone is the same: a race fan.
Bristol has been the host to some of the most patriotic pre-race shows in sports, whether its military personnel repelling from Colossus, drivers waving to fans as they are driven around the track in Chevy Silverados adorned with American flags, a gaggle of school children belting the National Anthem or a 100,000 plus card stunt celebrating the good ole USA. It's not only races where BMS pulls out all the stops to celebrate this great nation. The Pilot Flying J Battle at Bristol pre-game received worldwide acclaim and major social media buzz after country sensation Jennifer Nettles belted one of the most praised anthems in recent memory, complete with a Hercules C-31 flyover and one of the most impressive red, white and blue grandstand card stunts in sports history.
When the command to start the engines is given, the noise is deafening. The sounds of 40 stock cars coming to life combines with the roar of a crowd that's ready to see 500 laps of beating and banging action plus pure, unadulterated speed.
There are other NASCAR races, but this place is special. It's half-mile mayhem and a place that has been likened to flying fighter jets in a gymnasium. As the sun goes down, the sparks fly. Paint schemes shine under the bright lights and tempers begin to show. From the legendary Dale Earnhardt Sr.-Terry Labonte battles of 1995 and 1999 to Tony Stewart's legendary helmet throw after crashing while battling for the lead in 2012, Bristol is THE place where emotions run high.
"The Night Race is the toughest race on the circuit, ever," said Darrell Waltrip, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and a 12-time Bristol winner. "It's a long race, 500 laps and always close quarters. Someone is always breathing down your back. The level of intensity is like no place we go."
"It's written on the walls, The Last Great Colosseum," said former NASCAR competitor Carl Edwards, whose name lives in Bristol lore following his bump-n-run on Kyle Busch to win the 2008 Night Race. "This place is insane, it's a battle."
For Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 2017 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will be his final Cup race at the Northeastern Tennessee facility. A popular Bristol winner immortalized by his heroic sweep here in 2004, Earnhardt Jr. has always advocated that Bristol is a must see for the ultimate NASCAR fan, even from a young age.
"I always loved going there as a kid," Earnhardt Jr. has said. "It's one of the more exciting racetracks to be at as a fan. I used to go watch my father race (and) being able to run around the pits and garage area all weekend long. There's not a bad seat in the house at Bristol."
As he makes his final entrance into Thunder Valley during Bristol's popular pre-race driver introductions, fans and families from all over will have a chance to salute one of their heroes for the final time.
And for families who want to bring the entire clan for a day or weekend of American fun, Bristol Motor Speedway officials are making it easier than ever for kids to have an awesome experience. Kids' tickets are free for the Wednesday, Aug. 16 UNOH 200 Camping World Truck Series race and the Bush's Beans 150 Whelen Modified Series race, as well as Friday night's (Aug. 18) Food City 300 XFINITY Series event. On Saturday night (Aug. 19), kids' tickets for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race are only $10.
Once kids are inside the stadium, there's even more for them to do. There are two highly interactive Kids Zones located under the grandstands in turns one and three, with lots of activities, including coloring stations, inflatables, and interactive games. There are also specially-designed kids' menus at several concession stands featuring PB&J, hot dogs, fruit cups and veggie sticks, among other items. Heck, kids might even run into Bristol's rambunctious brother and sister raccoon mascots, Bump and Run, who are known to roam around the property and make appearances at the Kids Zones.
And the fun at Bristol Motor Speedway isn't just for kids. In addition to the great racing action on the track, there's so many cool options for the entire family, including great video entertainment provided by Colossus, the world's largest center-hung video screen, lots of party zones, premium VIP experiences, tailgating, on-site camping, concerts, great food and beverages in the concession stands throughout the property, and so much more.
A block party for adults 21 and older has arrived as the Bristol Lawn Party sets up shop with its rowdy entertainment during the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race week. Located in the BMS Fan Zone by the iconic Bristol Tower in Turn 2, the Bristol Lawn Party is your one-stop destination for wacky, wild games and tailgate-style backyard fun. Highlights include giant beer pong, American Ninja Warrior-style inflatables, a mechanical bull and the racing themed pit crew challenge. Guests will also want to be sure to participate in human billiards and take a home a commemorative photo from the Bristol photo booth.
The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race week kicks off with the Bush's Beans 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Series Race and the UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday, Aug. 16. The racing action continues on Friday night, Aug. 18 with the Food City 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race and Pinty's Qualifying for MENCS and NXS. The 500-lap Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race concludes the weekend of racing on Saturday evening, Aug. 19.
Tickets are just $30 for Wednesday's doubleheader, while tickets begin at just $35 for the XFINITY Series race and Pinty's Qualifying. Kids (12 and under) are free with a paid adult for those two days of racing. Bass Pro Shops/NRA Night Race tickets for adults start at $69, while kids' tickets for Saturday night are only $10. For all races, each child must have a physical ticket in hand to enter the gates. The Bristol Motor Speedway ticket office and www.BristolTix.com are the only two authorized locations that can produce the free kids tickets.
To purchase tickets to the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, please call 423-BRISTOL or buy them online at www.BRISTOLTIX.com. Tickets can also be purchased directly from any neighborhood Food City store.