West Virginia's Susan Stafford heading to Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony as guest of BMS
Susan Stafford has always wanted to visit Las Vegas. She also has wondered what it would be like to actually attend the NASCAR™ Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony.
The West Virginia native will mark both of those items off her bucket list Dec. 2, when she attends the banquet in Las Vegas as a guest of Bristol Motor Speedway and the body of Bristol die-hards she represents.
Stafford, the Head Start/Early Head Start Director at Mountain Heart Community Services, Inc., in Oceana, W.Va., was nominated by fellow iBelong season ticket holders as the deserving recipient for this opportunity to attend the ceremony.
“I honestly don’t know what to say,” said Stafford, a longtime Bristol season ticket holder. “When I found out about it I was speechless. And even now I still can’t believe that I actually get to go to the banquet. I am so thrilled. I’m honored. I’m excited. I’m thankful… and I’m absolutely going a little crazy over all of this in case you can’t tell.”
In the spirit of Jeff Byrd, Bristol’s former President and General Manager who passed away in October 2010, BMS asked season ticket holders to nominate fellow fans who have gone the extra mile to exceed the expectations of other fans during races for the opportunity to attend the awards ceremonies. There were numerous nominations, but Stafford’s stood out due to her many acts of kindness and generosity.
Stafford, who is just one of the founding members of “Jelloville”, a large group of campers from all over the country who gather at BMS events, has spearheaded several special efforts on behalf of the group. Several years ago, Stafford heard about a fellow BMS camper from Canada who had been diagnosed with lung cancer who was making what he felt was his last trip to Bristol for the races. She helped organize a Richard Petty Driving Experience ride-along to make the trip as special as possible for him.
Stafford and the rest of the “Jellovillians” also now raise money within their camping community to support various charities, including Speedway Children’s Charities. This past July, a fellow camper was seriously injured in a fireworks accident and she and the rest of the “family” raised $1,300 to help his family with expenses while he recovered.
In advance of the 2011 IRWIN Tools Night Race, Ray and Pauline Duhig, a couple from Australia posted on the BMS website message board that they were coming to the United States and wanted to attend the Bristol races. They had never been to a NASCAR event and they selected Bristol as their “ultimate experience.”
Stafford immediately replied, telling him that he had made the right choice. She then sent an email to her fellow campers, asking for help in getting them a place in the campground. When the Duhig’s got to BMS, the campsite was set up, complete with supplies.
Duhig and his wife were completely taken aback by the hospitality.
“When I tell fellow Aussies about our trip to the United States, I always tell them that our visit to Bristol Motor Speedway was the most wonderful experience of our entire trip,” he said. “We'd always wanted to come to Bristol Motor Speedway, and thanks to our fellow fans and the people at BMS our expectations were exceeded. Thanks to Susan Stafford and the gang in the so-called "Jelloville" we received camping gear, booking at the campground, hospitality and fellowship that are beyond words.
“During our stay, everyone looked after us and it was unbelievable. Please know this lifetime experience will be appreciated in our hearts forever.”
Stafford’s trip includes a four day/three night stay in Las Vegas, two tickets to the NASCAR™ Sprint Cup Awards Ceremony, round trip air fare for two, passes to the fan pre-event reception and red carpet walk as well as $500 in cash. She is counting down the days until she gets to walk and talk among NASCAR’s superstars.
“I am so thankful to everybody who thought I should get this amazing opportunity,” she said. “And honestly, I don’t feel like I do anything all that different from a lot of other fans. We just want to come to Bristol and get together and have our family reunion.
“I really just can’t wait to get out to Vegas. I watch that banquet from beginning to end every single year and I’m always wondering what it would be like to be able to be there and be part of it. And now, it’s real – I’m actually going to the NASCAR banquet. I still can’t believe it. But it can’t get here soon enough. I’ve got a big camera and a smaller camera -- and I’m going to be ready when I see the drivers.”