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Drivers, food souvenirs draw large crowd at Food City Race Night

Jennifer Sprouse • Mar 15, 2013 at 10:28 PM

BRISTOL — While today’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 and Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway mostly spotlight NASCAR and its drivers, Friday night was all about the fans, as loads of free food and giveaways were distributed at Food City Race Night.

From almost every angle, fans could be seen carrying bags full of souvenirs and standing in long lines to either meet some of the drivers or to snatch up free food items like Mountain Dew KickStart, Cheez-Its and Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips.

The festivities started at 4 p.m. Friday, but some fans were already lined up outside the track, waiting eagerly as drivers finishing up qualifying walked out to sign a few autographs.

Justin Lowe, of Richlands, Va., and his 3-year-old son, Sean, had an early Friday morning, showing up at the track around 7:30.

Standing toward the front of the line, almost under the cover of the grandstands, Lowe said this was his son’s first time at race night and at a Bristol race, and said he was excited to share this experience with him.

“It’s something that I got into with my father and something for me and him to bond (over),” he said. “He enjoys the ‘boom booms’ as he calls it. I’m a Tony Stewart fan and he’s a Kyle Busch fan.”

Lowe said one of the reasons he enjoys coming to the Bristol race itself is just the atmosphere it brings with it, as well as the excitement.

“It’s better than any other place in NASCAR,” he said.

Also in line for autographs was a sister duo –– Carol Griffith and Charlotte Basham, of Beckley, W.Va. –– who have been attending the races at Bristol since 2002.

“We’re here every spring and fall,” Griffith said.

Basham explained that their love for the sport started at a young age, as their parents used to bring them to the Bristol races as kids.

Basham said she was a big Dale Earnhardt Sr. fan and as Griffith started watching more of the races and getting more into the sport, the two now break off together for every Bristol race.

“Once you come, you’re hooked,” Basham said. “Once you see it in person, you’re hooked.”

Amy Cornwell, of Bristol, Va., was wandering around the race night space and said the race crowd typically brings a variety of locals, as well as out-of-towners.

“I’ve seen some people here from Quebec and ... a lot of people from Ohio and Wisconsin,” she said.

Cornwell said that she and her family from Ohio, who came down for the race, said that “as soon as we walked in people started handing me stuff and talking to me because I have my Ohio State shirt on. Everybody is nice to everybody.”

She said the whole race experience is a great way to have something fun to do with the family.

“It’s just something they’ll never forget, something you have to experience once,” Cornwell said.

Today’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 starts at 2 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2.

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