Charity opportunities aplenty during race week

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 12, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Spring race week at Bristol Motor Speedway is under way and for more than 100,000 race fans expected to converge, there are many opportunities to help the less fortunate mixed in with all that NASCAR excitement, led by a Thursday night dinner with “the king” of NASCAR Richard Petty.

— Speedway Children’s Charities benefit “Dinner with the King” featuring the seven-time NASCAR champion and 2009 inductee into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame will get under way at 7 p.m. at the track. The dinner will include a five-course meal and Petty’s favorite recollections of a storied, 30-year racing career. Tickets are $125 and like the King, going fast.

Proceeds will go to the Bristol Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities to help support the hundreds of nonprofit children’s programs in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. To reserve a seat visit bristol.speedwaycharities.org, call Betsy Holleman at 989-6975 or email betsy@bristolmotorspeedway.com.

— The Richard Petty Driving Experience Ride-Along for Speedway Children’s Charities will arrive at the track on Friday. Beginning at 9 p.m., fans will have a chance to climb aboard a Richard Petty Driving Experience machine for three laps around what continues to be one of NASCAR’s most popular tracks. The cost for the ride is $159 and pre-registration is required. Participants must be 14 years old or older, at least 4 feet tall and a minimum 80 pounds. For reservations call 1-800-237-3889 or visit www.drivepetty.com.

— Four-time NASCAR champion and five-time BMS winner Jeff Gordon is driving to end hunger among the elderly again this season and has once again teamed up with AARP to offer a Drive to End Hunger race ticket package that includes a race-day question-and-answer session with the driver of the celebrated No. 24.

The Food City 500 Race to End Hunger ticket package is $92 and includes a souvenir hat and, most importantly, a $24 donation to the AARP Foundation to help provide food to the nearly nine million older Americans who live with the risk of going hungry every day. The Jeff Gordon AARP Ticket packages are limited and fans are encouraged to secure their tickets promptly by calling the BMS ticket office at 423-BRISTOL or 1-866-415-4158. Fans who have already purchased tickets to the Food City 500 may upgrade to the special Gordon package for an additional $15. Tickets to Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 Nationwide Series race can be added to the package for a total cost of $127.

Tri-Cities-area Food City stores are joining Gordon and AARP in their Race to End Hunger and will continue their drive for donations to the Second Harvest Food Banks of Northeast Tenessee and Feeding America of Southwest Virginia through Sunday. Packages of pre-selected non-perishable food items and $1, $3 and $5 food donation vouchers for the food banks are available for purchase at 18 area Food City stores. Collection bins for food donations are located near the entrance of each participating store.

Donations will help feed people in need across the region at a time when demand for food banks’ assistance is at an all-time high. More information about the Race to End Hunger is available at www.netfoodbank.org and www.faswva.org.

— At 10:45 a.m. Sunday, five-time Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson will make a pre-race pit stop in the BMS Kids Zone for a special question-and-answer session to benefit Speedway Children’s Charities.

Admission to the Jimmie Johnson Q&A Experiences for kids and adults is $15 and includes a hat. The admission also includes a Lowe’s “Build And Grow” Race Car Kit for race fans age 15 and younger. Tickets are limited and may be reserved by calling the BMS ticket office or online at www.bristoltix.com.

— Speedway Children’s Charities’ “Ride of Lifetime” online auction will continue through today at www.bristol.speedwaycharities.org.

The auction provides a chance to take a ceremonial pre-race ride around the track with some of the sport’s most competitive drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2011 Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart and runner-up Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Gregg Biffle and others. Top bidders will also receive pit passes for a visit to the infield during final preparations for Sunday’s race.

While all bidders must be age 18 or older, winning bidders will be allowed to give their pre-race ride to any family member or friend age 12 or older.

— Qualifying rounds in the fourth annual Ford Charity Cornhole Classic at BMS will be played Friday, beginning at 2 p.m. and Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. at the track.

The top four teams from each qualifying round will face off in a Grand Champion Tournament on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m.

Prizes will include $1,000 cash, suite seats for the entire 2013 season at BMS and a free camping space for both 2013 NASCAR race weekends at BMS. The tournament entry fee is $40 per team and includes a Ford Charity Cornhole Classic T-shirt for each team member.

Teams may pre-register online at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com or www.bristol.speedwaycharities.org. Registrations on the day of the events will be allowed if space is available. All tournament proceeds will go to Speedway Children’s Charities.

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