Jerry Caldwell, BMS general manager, explained the decision to call the race the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 came down to more than a simple financial decision.
“It’s more than sponsoring a race,” Caldwell said Tuesday afternoon at the Bruton Smith Building. “It’s a deeper meaning, a cause we can get behind.”
Lilly Diabetes, a company started in 1876 in Indianapolis and a company which started mass producing insulin in 1920, is actually the title sponsor.
Their proposal to sponsor the race and bring attention to a local problem had a lot of appeal to BMS officials.
Tennessee is the fourth highest state for the prevalence of adult Type 2 diabetes. The Tri-Cities area has some of the highest concentrations in the state with Sullivan County at 13.5 percent, Carter County at 12.3 percent and Washington County at 10.5 percent.
According to 2012 figures, diabetic medical expenses in Tennessee totaled $3.6 billion with the national economic costs at $245 billion.
“It’s a great cause for this region,” Caldwell said. “Anything we can do to spread the word to try to educate folks to end the diabetes epidemic .... this is a great platform to do that.”
Unlike so many speedways and other sports venues across the country, BMS has all its primary sponsorships tied up for the season. In fact, Food City which sponsors the March 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup race and the August Nationwide race, recently announced sponsorship extensions.
“We’ve faced our challenges, but we’re in a great spot,” Caldwell said. “It goes to the team we have here at Bristol Motor Speedway. It boils down to relationships. We’ve had a team here at BMS for a long time and they’ve built great relationships. People know at Bristol, we want to learn your business and become true partners with you.”
Caldwell said there has been a recent upswing in ticket sales for the Food City 500, and that sales remain ahead of last year’s pace. The ticket office was flooded with calls on Monday, one day after NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., won the Daytona 500.
For the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300, a trio of Sprint Cup Series stars — Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth — are already scheduled to compete in the March 15 race.
Muddy Creek Raceway will host the first event of the year for the Thor United States Mega Series this Saturday and Sunday.
It is expected to be one of the largest AMA Pro-Am motocross races of the year, and kicks off a 26th season for the Mega Series.
Last year, Johnson City rider Adam Britt won the 450 Pro class, while Illinois rider Michael Norris was victorious in the 250 Pro class.
Saturday willl be a test-and-tune day, while Sunday practice begins at 8 a.m. with racing to start at 9:30 a.m.
The Blountville track had previously announced the Red Bull Tennessee National, the only AMA Lucas Oil Motorcross National event in the Southeast, will be coming back for a second year on June 28.
The Tennessee National is set be broadcast live on NBC.
Some of the other season-opening races for local tracks include the ‘Spring Thaw’ at Volunteer Speedway on March 14-15, and the DER Bracket Series opener at Bristol Dragway on April 5-6.
The Fort Henry Mall will host drivers and cars from Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway for a fan appreciation day on Saturday, March 8. The season-opening race for Kingsport is scheduled for March 29, and Lonesome Pine is set to race on April 12.