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'Family' reunion: Bristol campgrounds filling up as race looms

August 19th, 2014 9:55 pm by Staff Report

'Family' reunion: Bristol campgrounds filling up as race looms

Campgrounds around the Bristol Motor Speedway have already begun to fill before Saturday's race. (Carter Giegerich/Johnson City Press)

BRISTOL — The Irwin Tools Night Race isn’t until Saturday night, but Bristol Motor Speedway’s campgrounds are already starting to fill up.

The campgrounds come alive for race week, with friends and family gathering to catch up, relax and enjoy the week’s activities. Many groups come a full week ahead of time and use the week prior to the race as their annual vacation.

“They become family,” said Ryan Rogers, a longtime NASCAR fan, in Bristol for his 24th camping experience. “Throughout the year they contact you. ... You just stay in touch. It’s an extended family.”

Other campers arrive early to stake their claim to prized real estate, as many groups of campers claim the same section of campground every year.

“You get the best spots when you come early,” said Greg Ruddell, another camper at the speedway.

For Ruddell, Bristol is a chance to see friends he only gets to spend time with once a year.

“We camp with our neighbors every year,” he says.

According to Lynsey Wilson, one of the many speedway employees who make the camping experience possible, staying at the track is a huge part of what makes Bristol so special for many people.

“I think you miss part of the experience if you’re not camping right here on property,” said Wilson. “It’s such a community feel, and we strive every weekend, every event that we have, to exceed the expectations of our race fans.”

Staying by the track means early access to events and activities that take place before the race, Wilson said. There are family games, opportunities to see the cars up close, giveaways and live performances before the race, and campers have easy access to all of these and more.

Wilson says that the campground crowd is extremely diverse. There’s a place for everyone, from families to the late-night crowd and everything in between. She says that “Jelloville,” a campsite that sprung out of an online message board group, is a popular destination for all sorts of folks.

“People come out for the party, but they’ve also added on a donations piece,” says Wilson. “They put a tip jar out, and they will raise funds for certain causes or charities. Their first year they did that, they raised money for Speedway Children’s Charities here at Bristol Motor Speedway, and they’ve donated to other causes locally, here in the community, with a focus on the military and children.”

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