The “Battle at Bristol” college football game between Tennessee and Virginia Tech is nearly three years away.
The whining has already begun.
As soon as the news leaked last Wednesday, fans of other schools took to the internet to lampoon the idea and talk about how those supporting the Vols and Hokies would be wasting their money to see a college football game at a NASCAR track.
They commented how the players would be so far away, it would be like watching dots on the field. Many of them admitted to never being anywhere near Bristol Motor Speedway.
They have no idea the emphasis track owner Bruton Smith places on the fan experience. Speaking after Monday’s press conference, Speedway Motorsports chief operating officer Marcus Smith promised the venue will be well suited for the event.
“We will have all the big screens you need and there will be fantastic seating,” Smith said. “While it’s much larger than the biggest football stadium, it’s not too big. We have excellent seating angles. One thing we’re passionate about with our company when we build our speedways is perfect sightlines for our fans. Even the fans at the top of the grandstands will have excellent viewing.”
The Michigan fans had to point out how they would still hold the “true” record for attendance since their 115,109 on Sept. 7 watched the Wolverines beat Notre Dame at an actual football stadium.
The Alabama fans, yes, those supporters of the big, bad Crimson Tide who have won the past two national championships, made fun of rival Tennessee resorting to a “gimmick” to set an attendance record. One said, ‘The Vols can’t sell out 105,000 seats at Neyland Stadium. How can they hope to fill 150,000 at Bristol?’
Other fans from other regions of the country simply took the low road, making the derogatory references to the South, how rednecks love their college football and stock car racing.
Some of the more high-brow SEC football fans responded with how they hate NASCAR.
I’m not a fan of hockey, but it’s easy to understand how those who grew up in places like New England, Detroit and Minnesota would have such great affection for the sport.
For that matter, I liked the novelty of the NHL Winter Classic and appreciated the fact the league was doing something out of the box to attract new fans. Coincidentally, Michigan fans seem awfully proud of their school’s attempt to break the all-time hockey attendance record, playing on the football field at Michigan Stadium.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen basketball games on aircraft carriers and football games at legendary baseball parks with varying degrees of success.
Accuse me of viewing the “Battle at Bristol” through rose-colored glasses or in this case, orange or maroon-tinted glasses, but I think the Vols-Hokies game is a great thing for college football and for Bristol Motor Speedway.
It has been pointed out how it’s not the first football game held at BMS, that the defending NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles beat the Washington Redskins in a 1961 preseason game in front of an estimated 8,500 fans.
It’s certainly not the first time football and auto racing have shared the same venue.
Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, hosted auto races from 1935-68, with NASCAR great Fred Lorenzen the track champion in 1956.
Fireball Roberts won the track’s lone Cup Series race that same year and another racing legend, Curtis Turner, won a race there in the old NASCAR Convertible Series.
The famed Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, N.C., is called NASCAR’s longest-running weekly race track. It doubled as the home of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons from 1956-67, and still serves as the home field for the NCAA Division II Winston Salem State Rams.
To the critics of the Bristol game, some of it is pure jealously of their programs not being involved in an historic event.
Make no mistake, the recruiting benefits are enormous.
As great a program as Alabama is, with a record nine Associated Press national championships, Nick Saban can’t truthfully guarantee any single recruit he will play for a title during his time in Tuscaloosa.
On the other hand, Tennessee’s Butch Jones or Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer can go into any living room in the country, play the video from Monday’s press conference and show recruits over the next three seasons how they have the opportunity to play in front of the largest crowd in history, in a game promoted as “The Biggest College Football Game Ever.”
That doesn’t sit well for many around the country, enough for them to whine about it three years in advance.
One of the nation’s premier amateur motcross events, the 26th annual Suzuki Top Gun Showdown, is scheduled for Muddy Creek Raceway this weekend.
A total of 42 class champions will be crowned at the end of the races on Sunday with a $1,000 bonus to be paid to the winner of the Pro 450 division.
Gates open at 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday with racing to start at 9 a.m.
The season finale for Kingsport Speedway is set for this Saturday night.
The “Friends of Coal 125” is an invitational race for Late Model Stock drivers who haven’t won a NASCAR-sanctioned race over the past five years.
Drivers from multiple tracks around the region are scheduled to compete with the winner to take home a grandfather clock as well as a $2,000 purse.
The Pure 4 and Legends divisions will also be in action.Qualifying starts at 5:15 with racing to begin at 7 p.m.
Jason Welshan of Maryville passed Mark Martin of Baxter on lap 26 to win this past Saturday’s Steel Head Late Model “Clash at the Gap” at Volunteer Speedway.
After contact between the two, Welshan pulled away over the rest of the 50-lap race. Martin fell to fourth behind Trevor Sise and Cory Hedgecock. The running order stayed that way to the end, with Josh Collins rounding out the top five.
Gary Blanken of Russellville won the Modified Hobby race, holding off Warren McMahan of Dandridge at the end.