What you should know about Bristol Motor Speedway
by Lewis Loflin
This article is dated and as of 2014 isn't accurate. As of 2014 BMS has had to deal with half-empty stands even giving tickets away. This stands simply as history. L. Loflin
Public intoxication and inflated prices again ruined things for some visitors and residents in Bristol. Newspaper headlines carried numerous complaints on gas prices being raised due to the races, trash, drunken race fans police refuse to touch, etc. One visitor below puts this in perspective:
Greetings from Trenton, Michigan! My family and I just returned from Bristol's Family Race Night and the Sharpie race, which was held on Thursday and Friday nights. We had never been to Tennessee, much less to the Bristol Motor Speedway. I must say that we were all disgusted and we will NEVER return to Bristol or any other part of northeastern Tennessee.
That was the most disrespectful group of citizens we have ever encountered. I would estimate that approximately eight out of every ten persons had the possession of an alcoholic beverage in their hands.
We are not exactly race fans but as a family we visioned that it would be a good experience to escape to the mountains before our children began school. That was a BIG mistake. Our children are ages 7 and 11. They asked my wife and I repeatedly what certain words meant.
We witnessed your typical Bristolian (with a mullet, and rotten teeth) observe young female girls as they would pass near them, then whistle and make obscene remarks towards them. It was a horrible place to be. We also witnessed things that people did in front of police that would normally call for an arrest, but these police LAUGHED and IGNORED the actions.
Why are people so backwards there? Your website is excellent and I wish that I would have found it before we purchased our race tickets. We will NEVER come back. Best wishes for your website, it is great!
Brian J. Trenton, MI USA - Saturday, August 23, 2003
The worst incident directly involved BMS. It seems BMS prompted Bristol Tennessee to condemn the property (50 acres, six businesses) across from the Speedway so they could buy it for peanuts. Owners claim BMS never even contacted them or made an offer. Again, this deal was done in secret and has outraged residents. Read the articles from the local press and decide for yourself. BMS has halted this "land grab" due to public outrage.
Please Buy Our Overpriced Race Tickets
Update 2008: Getting race tickets to Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) has for years been frustrating to many residents, whose incomes have made affording the over-priced and scarce tickets difficult. Ticket "scalping" has been a major past time for years as Bristol, Tennessee passed laws to keep little people out of the business.
To quote the press in regards to getting a ticket, they're "easier to inherit than to buy. They are so elusive...some people have given up hope of ever obtaining them." BMS has had 53 consecutive sell outs and seats 160,000 people. That seems to have ended.
In March Bristol residents know something was wrong at Bristol Motor Speedway. Pictures in the local papers showed empty parking areas, some a sea of mud. While this could be attributed to bad weather, some merchants I spoke to said it was the economy combined with things such as new smoking restrictions at the track, etc. (The real economy has been down since late 2007.)
In August all the tickets were sold they claim, but business was still down. In years past nobody could get a motel room, this time there were some available. The number of people with signs wanting to buy tickets was also down. And some fans even advertised to sell theirs, no buyers.
The 2009 Season will offer four races on two weekends: the Scott's Turf Builder 300 and the Food City 500 in March, and the Food City 250 and the Sharpie 500 race in August. In the past BMS president Jeff Byrd claims renewals were nearly 100%. As race officials noted, corporations are the big money on tickets and there have been big cutbacks.
This race was never about the local working-class that have been shut-out of most races because of the absurd prices. Now Mr. Byrd wants to tell everyone, "So many people have tried to get them for so long, we want to tell those people who gave up that there are a few available."
To quote Michael Smith, a staff writer for the publication SportsBusiness Journal, "If it's hitting Bristol in a way that it could affect attendance, there is no greater illustration of the economic downturn's impact." Mr. Byrd might try dropping the ticket price. Tickets start at $304 and at the "Earnhardt level" cost $414.
They press claims the average is $400. In the past they resorted to a track "lottery" for what few tickets ever came available. Bristol is far too over dependant on this racetrack and needs to get some real jobs. Ref. BHC 23, 2008
One local race fan has this to say,
I have to agree with what most are saying. It is nice and easy for BMS to blame the lower attendance and the fact season ticket holders did not renew on the economy. I guess blaming their policies and changes to NASCAR both have nothing to do with it. The racing that is determined by fuel mileage not all out racing.
Racing won on pit stops not racing. Limiting the ability of the engine and car builders to only go so fast, restrictor plates to slow them down. Lets make everyone go the same speed. Sorry but that's boring and the car owner monopoly is also out of hand.
As far as BMS, making the ticket holders buy the tickets sooner without advanced notice of at least a year prior was rude. Making an outdoor racing facility with the smell of gas and rubber a "Smoke Free" area is retarded.
Many drink beer, smoke and watch the race. Now you can not. Other such policies have many saying enough is enough. BMS is another one of those that think they are to big to fail and that they will always sell out no matter what they do. Arrogance will put you in the poor house. Tough economy plus everything else.
I would rather sit home, smoke and drink and watch the race at home. NASCAR and BMS needs to remove their heads from their backsides and start catering to the fans or they too will be operating at a loss and decline even more.
On the web: Bristol Motor Speedway Homepage
Chaos in Bristol: Racing update for March 2002
Traffic was backed up from Bristol Motor Speedway, though Blountville, all the way to Kingsport as traffic snarl-ups and added security had race fans stuck for hours going and coming. Complaints from local people echoed again this year over congestion and inflated prices.
Some suggested that local people leave town, use back roads, or shop a week early if they didn't want to pay race prices. Adding to the mess was flood damage from heavy rains on March 18th. Most disappointing to race fans was the no-show of Dale Earnhardt Jr. He left his fans, some coming as far away as Virginia Beach, in the lurch as he canceled an appearance in Kingsport.
To quote the press Mar 24, 2002,
It's about people...And it's a big reason that racing is the fastest-growing sport around; even the biggest stars of Winston Cup and Busch racing know that the personal touch matters.
And that's why so many fans in Kingsport Thursday took it personally when Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had been scheduled to appear at Food City Family Race Night, bowed out at the last minute due to a "personal commitment." Many said they were fans no more: as one put it, "Why should I be loyal to somebody who isn't loyal to me?"
Bristol Race Police Crack Down on Unauthorized 'Scalpers'
Again this race season the Bristol Race Police are arresting anyone accused of selling a hot dog without city approval while local officials continue to ignore the complaints of race fans being ripped-off by some local businesses. Seems that as of March 26 business is down because race fans are getting sick of this.
The excerpts below were taken from the local press who warned of these complaints last year. This is all about money and about maintaining the proud Bristol tradition of "I Love Minimum Wage" as they protect authorized "scalpers.".
Police are planning a crackdown on those selling rides to and from Bristol Motor Speedway without the proper licenses, especially those hauling NASCAR fans in the backs of pickups.
And ticket-scalpers, those parking or camping on public property and unauthorized people directing traffic also could find themselves in trouble with the law...Those selling shuttle services must have city taxicab licenses or comparable licenses issued by Sullivan County officials. They also must have commercial driver's licenses and special tags...
Undercover officers also will be searching for those violating a city ordinance that prohibits ticket scalping and for stolen cars parked in lots surrounding the track, which has been a problem in the past...
"Inflated motel rates could cost the region" says the late Steve Phelps. "If you've been following the economics of race week in Bristol, there's an irony that likely has not been lost on you.
There were far fewer scalpers on the Twin City's Tennessee side last week than in the past, thanks to a new ordinance that forbids selling tickets at more than face value...But in Bristol and throughout the region, many hotel and motel rooms were going for double the normal rate or more during race week, and there's apparently no law against it.
What's more, innkeepers often required guests to pay for at least three nights -- even race drivers who might have needed the room for just one night...
Of the 150,000 or so people who descend on Bristol twice a year to watch some of NASCAR's finest racing, just under 100,000 are from out of town...Tourism officials tell us repeatedly that word of mouth is the kind of advertising money can't buy, and they're right. The problem is, word of mouth cuts both ways.
Will those 100,000 race fans remember Bristol as a welcoming, friendly place where they got good value for their money, or as a place where the locals were out to gouge them? (It reportedly isn't just hotels and motels, either. Race fans have complained of paying jacked-up prices for such items as hamburgers to grilling supplies.)
...does the amount they make by hyper-inflating their prices two weeks out of the year compensate for the number of people they might be driving away in the future? Or for the ultimate effect on the local economy? It's not just a question of cutting one's throat. It's a question of cutting everyone else's, too.
Letters To The Editor
To the editor:
I'm writing this letter to voice my opposition to Bristol's so-called "scalping law." This is just another way to keep all of the money in a few hands while generating only low-paying service jobs.
The safety issue is a total red herring. If it is "unsafe" to sell race tickets at race time, why is it safe for the United Way and others to panhandle in the middle of Volunteer Parkway? I know, if one is approved, they are perfectly safe.
As to scalping or gouging the public, motel rooms that went for $50 a week before go for over $200 race weekend while a 50 cent can soda goes for $3.00 from approved vendors at the race track. The speedway wants all ticket sales controlled through them, not someone trying to earn more than the minimum-wage jobs generated by BMS.
Finally, what of the $80 million this race generated? Did it create any decent, full-time jobs or affordable housing? Did it lift the 25% of our children in this community out of poverty? Did those businesses that ripped-off the public give their employees a pay raise? The answer is no and they could not care less.
This community needs to get some real jobs and stop promoting the poverty-wage tourist and retirement industries. Let's pay our community leaders $6.00 an hour and see if they do something then!
Lewis Loflin, Bristol, VA
To the editor:
I agree with Lewis Loflin's March 31 letter in regard to "ticket scalping" and high-paying jobs, affordable housing, etc. What I want to know is how a person who makes these low wages affords to purchase the tickets to begin with, in order to have them to "scalp."
Until being laid off at a federal prison job in Pennington Gap, I was paid $16.50 per hour, equaling $660 per week. I made more money than a lot of people in this area, but I still could not afford to plunk down what the racetrack owners wanted for a ticket.
I would like to see an editorial or an article on how many companies in our area are paying their employees livable, above-poverty-level wages.
I think Mr. Loflin also had a very good idea about paying our city and community leaders $6 per hour and seeing what they do. Of course, any letters dealing with low wages in our area always fall on deaf ears. The owners of these companies just care if they can keep padding their pockets using this "slave" labor. Where are all the high-paying jobs that are suppose to come here?
Lee Barry, Bristol, Tenn.
To the editor:
I appreciate Mr. Barry's April 9 letter and will answer his question why many Bristol workers can't afford race tickets. First, we must look past phony government statistics that undercount poverty and unemployment in this area.
For example, the median family income in Washington County/Bristol VA is about $15,000, less than $7.50 an hour. This means half the population lives at or below the poverty level. While the government claims a family of four can live on that, I just don't see how.
The other reality is that minimum wage in 1977 ($3.15/ hour) adjusted for inflation is almost $9.00 today, far above the "competitive wages" being paid in Bristol. That is why the 25% official poverty rate for children in Bristol is an undercount.
The unemployment rate also doesn't take into account underemployment, a massive problem in this area. Part time and under paid is the rule here and business are fighting to keep it that way. Exit Seven is typical of this mentality. We also spend millions on industrial recruitment that attracts those looking for corporate welfare and cheap labor, just what we don't need. Washington County has population growth, but how many are retired?
This is why this community needs more than old train stations and religious plaques.
Lewis Loflin, Bristol, VA
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