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Making the register ring… Spring BMS race brings hopes of increased revenue to the local economy

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com

When the flag drops on Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, the iconic half-mile bullring here in Northeast Tennessee which has been the site of some unforgettable and electrifying moments in NASCAR’s more than 70-year history, for 250 laps of racing, it’s going to be much like the 2019 year – totally out of the ordinary.

One reason for that is the running of the 2021 Food City Dirt Race which will be the first time NASCAR’s premier series has competed on dirt in the sports modern era.

The event actually marks the third time in history, but the first time in two decades, that the Last Great Colosseum has transformed itself into a state-of-the-art dirt racing venue.

The historic Food City Dirt Race will be the first time since 1970 at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, North Carolina and the winner that day was Richard Petty.

“This isn’t new to NASCAR,” said Clint Bowyer—who will call Sunday’s race from the TV booth as part of the FOX NASCAR team “This is back to where we came from. I think that’s something to stay focused on and remember as well. This isn’t just completely thrown out of nowhere. This is something our past and our history was part of.”

So the question is with the return to dirt, will the fans take advantage of the tickets available to attend the race, and what will be the exact impact on the local economy.

Executive Director of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce Joy McCray said that any time a race comes to Bristol it does have an impact on Carter County as a whole as many people choose to make the Elizabethton and Carter County area part of their time here for the races.

“We are always excited when Bristol comes to town,” said McCray. “When it’s time for racing it’s great for our economy because so many people come and stay in Carter County.

“We have several Air BnBs and cabins that people come and enjoy and enjoying some of the off-time from the track enjoying some of the amenities here.

It is difficult to really put a thumb on the amount of overall impact as 2019 completely changed the landscape for all of the NASCAR racing season as well as the locations where races are held.

However, as things start to make an uptick back to normal, McCray felt like things could begin to change starting with the spring race.

“It’s hard for us to say especially with 2019,” McCray added. “Last year was kind of a mess with COVID but this year we are hoping it has a stronger impact. It is something that we do see as an impact as tourism that comes to our community.”

The Chamber Director feels that as local businesses see the fan base coming in and hanging around over the weekend, some may elect to change up hours or whatever it takes to help add some dollars to their cash registers.

“A lot of our restaurants will stay open. They kind of play it by ear to see if they see they are having more race fans come into town. They stop into our restaurants and they will stay later,” McCray commented.

“Our Walmart and our grocery stores also try to accommodate race fans. You will see a lot of people pulling campers – those campgrounds make a lot of accommodations as well making sure their campgrounds are clean, well-stocked, and ready to go.”

Race week has become almost a family reunion for most as those who have kept coming back to Carter County to stay are seen year after year when race season rolls around.

“We always love seeing race week,” stated McCray. “The fall race is always bigger for us. We see all of our old friends that keep coming back year after year because Bristol is their favorite track.”