Bristol Motor Speedway - Jeff Byrd 500
BMS Spring Races
Springtime is in the air and it’s Race Time in Tennessee. This year is the 50th Anniversary of Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol Tennessee, “The World’s Fastest Half Mile Oval.” This year’s premier event has a one-time name change honoring a most notable legend to NASCAR circles and former BMS President and General Manager, Jeff Byrd.
"one of this areas most praiseworthy citizens..."
It’s just been five months since the passing of one of this area’s most notable and praiseworthy citizens, yet his memory lives on and his legend will remain because of his love for racing and the generosity of his spirit. Jeff Byrd was very well known and loved by everyone that had the privilege to cross his path and his humble spirit was known and loved by many local school children as well as adults. Just last month I saw a segment on our local news channel about this lady reading stories to children at an elementary school within a quarter mile of the BMS. The thing that caught my attention was the statement that Jeff Byrd had donated his time for the last number number of years and the children looked forward to his coming to read to them about this time every year.
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the Jeff Byrd 500
Also each year the BMS dresses up for the Christmas Holidays with over a million lights calling the event Speedway in Lights just to raise money for local children’s charities in this area. They also have an Ice skating rink during the winter months and many other activities throughout the year to benefit those less fortunate and under priviledged children. All these activities were started and promoted by Jeff Byrd in addition to his normal activities at the speedway. For fifteen seasons Jeff found contentment in elevating the sponsors, drivers and fans to prominent their status during the race season. It was only fitting that this year’s main race would honor our local hero. Since 1992 the first spring race has been known as the Food City 500, this springs event is billed as the Jeff Byrd 500. "Jeff Byrd was more than a business partner, he was a true friend to our company, our associates and to me and my family personally," said Food City President and CEO Steven C. Smith. "He spent years putting his guests first and instilling that attitude in his team".
160.000 screamin' fans
Even though the race is more than ten days away the RV traffic is beginning to line up for choice sites in the campgrounds. We’ve had some delays due to heavy rains in the area and even snow just last weekend flooding this whole area and leaving the race fans main campsites under water, but that doesn’t seem to ‘dampen’ the spirits of true NASCAR fans. Twice a year the whole Tri-Cities area gears-up expecting in excess of 160,000 additional visitors from all over the world to this normally quaint and peaceful upper east Tennessee region. Jeff Byrd and BMS owner Bruton Smith together increased the spectator stands from around 70,000 to 160,000 plus. Of course with the economy being down the last couple of years BMS has not experienced a complete saleout at the race track as in years passed, and I believe one could still get tickets if interested.