Bristol Motor Speedway is in the final stages of preparing for the Food City 500 race weekend, while Kingsport Speedway opens its racing season this Saturday afternoon.
Jerry Caldwell, BMS Executive Vice President and General Manager, spent time recently answering a variety of questions heading into the first of NASCAR’s two big weekends at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”
Caldwell said that tickets sales for the Food City 500 are up compared to last year, and he credits a promotion titled, “Bruton Smith’s Big Bristol” for helping to spark more interest.
“There is always the excitement around the start of the season, and we’ve see seen a great uptick in interest,” Caldwell said. “A lot of people couldn’t believe we’re really giving away 10 Mustangs. People have been excited ever since we announced that promotion.
The race will be the first race for the new NASCAR Gen-6 car on a short track and the sport enjoyed increased television ratings for the Daytona 500, following Danica Patrick winning the pole.
“Danica is good for the sport,” Caldwell said. “She brings a different fan base and a new level of excitement. You can’t argue with her qualifying position and top 10
“With the new Gen 6 car and new drivers like Travis Pastrana and Danica that appeal to a younger demographic, there is just a lot of excitement around the sport.”
This will be the third season for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series at Kingsport Speedway since the track re-opened.
Saturday’s action includes a 60-lap Late Model Stock feature, as well as features for Street Stock (30 laps), Pure 4 (25 laps), Legends (20 laps), and Rookie Pure 4 (12 laps).
It is guaranteed there will be a new late model champion as Nate Monteith, the two-time defending champion is scheduled to be strictly a team owner for Sevierville driver Blake Jones.
For now, the late Gene Glover’s record of five track championships is safe.
Looking back through the history of the 3/8-mile concrete oval, Bluff City racer John A. Utsman is the only driver to win track championships when the track was paved and when it was a dirt track.
Notable champions over the years include Glover, a Kingsport driver who also won the 1979 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman National Championship, two-time Late Model National Champion L.D. Ottinger of Newport, who won three Kingsport titles and Jack Ingram of Asheville. Ingram, a member of the NMPA and International Motorsports Hall of Fames, was a three-time Late Model Sportsman champion and a two-time Busch Series champion.
Dirt track champions at Kingsport included Mooresburg’s Scott Bloomquist, who is considered by many the greatest dirt late model driver of all-time, and Johnson City’s Dale Ball, who has gone on to win five Volunteer Speedway track championships.
For this season, Monteith’s absence opens up the field to some extent.
Johnson City driver Zeke Shell, last season’s runner-up, has to be considered a championship favorite, along with Lee Tissot, Daniel Pope II and Paul Nogradi Jr. Austin Peters and Hayden Woods can’t be counted out either after both completed outstanding rookie seasons.
In the support classes, the question is whether anyone can outrun 17-year-old Daniel Boone High School student Tyler Goodwin in the Legends division. Goodwin totally dominated the class in 2012 by recording 17 feature wins in 19 starts and easily winning the championship.
Practice will begin at 11:30 a.m. Qualifying is set for 1 p.m. and racing is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m.
Adult grandstand admission $10, with kids 12-and-under admitted free.
Muddy Creek Raceway held its opener for the Thor United States Mega Series this past weekend.
Johnson City rider Adam Britt outran a field which included Illinois rider Michael Norris to win the featured 450 Pro Class.
Norris won the 250 Pro division with Ohio rider Blain Brown taking the runner-up spot.