Junior gave BMS the kids' seal of approval as a frequent visitor while growing up in a racing family
Long before he famously exclaimed "It's Bristol, baby!" after sweeping the August 2004 Cup and Xfinity races, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a young fella running around the pits at Bristol. Even at that such a young age, Jr. was a self-confessed, die-hard devotee of Northeast Tennessee's famed high-banked half-mile oval.
He was exposed to the extreme door-handle to door-handle racing and magical setting of The Last Great Colosseum as a youngster while watching his famous father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., wage epic battles with rivals like Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte, among others, inside Bristol's bullring.
And when he wasn't watching the thrilling racing, he explored the garage area, played with friends and met many of his stock car racing heroes in the pits. Those carefree Thunder Valley days continue to be vivid memories for Earnhardt Jr., who is set to make his final Bristol Cup start in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
"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."
These days, not much has changed. Bristol Motor Speedway remains the perfect place for kids to take in all the fun that NASCAR has to offer.
And for families who want to bring the entire clan for a weekend of 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 are only $10 for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
Once kids are inside the stadium, there are plenty of fun things for them to do. There are two highly interactive Kids Zones located under the grandstands in turns one and four, with lots of activities, including coloring stations, inflatables, and interactive games. There are also specially-designed kids' menus available 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.
As a kid attending races at Bristol, Earnhardt Jr. says he always preferred the August event, where sparks would fly and drivers' tempers would flare under the bright summer lights.
"My favorite race was the Bristol night race," Earnhardt Jr. has said. "We would park our family vans on the grass in the corners and climb up on the back and watch the race. We were literally 20, 30 yards from the cars, and they might spin and wreck and slide down onto the apron and you could feel the heat and smell the smoke. It was such a great experience. You were up on the vans with your friends pointing at this, pointing at that. There's action all the time."
Not surprisingly, he always cheered on his seven-time champion father, Dale Sr., who proved to be a master of Bristol's high banks, winning here nine times. Dale Jr. says his most memorable race during his childhood was his dad's 1985 victory when he had to literally strong-arm his Richard Childress-owned Wrangler Chevy to the checkered flag.
"He ran 440 of the 500 laps with no power steering," said Earnhardt Jr., who recalled the trophy presented to his father during the winner's circle ceremony was taller than he was. "He was wore slam out at the end of that race. He had a lot of moments in his career where he lived up to his reputation as an intimidator, a tough guy. That was one of the races where he checked that box pretty good."
And the fun at Bristol Motor Speedway isn't just for kids. In addition to the great racing action on the track, led by Earnhardt Jr., defending winner Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch, 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.
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. The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race 500-lap event concludes the weekend of racing on Saturday evening, Aug. 19.
Affordable tickets are available for the Camping World Truck Series race (starting at $30), the XFINITY Series race (starting at $35) and Pinty's Qualifying. Kids (12 and under) are free with a paid adult for Wednesday and Friday's racing action. 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.