BRISTOL, TN (WJHL) – NASCAR returns this weekend, drivers will hit the track for the 59th annual Daytona 500.
The Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway is two months away.
BMS General Manager Jerry Caldwell says fans can expect to see some changes this year.
For the first time ever, fans will be able to purchase their tickets to the Food City 500 at Food City stores.
“It’s going to be a great option for race fans. Stop by Food City, you can pick up your tickets to the Food City 500 along with everything to tailgate with,” Caldwell said.
Those tickets at Food City are $50, kids tickets are $10, and for the Xfinity race, kids get in free.
Another change fans can expect to see is a new stage format that NASCAR has put into place.
There will be three stages of the race – with a competition caution after every 125 laps.
“Still only one winner at the end of that race, at the end of those 500 laps but it gives some more incentive throughout the race for those drivers to be racing out front,” Caldwell explained.
Within the past few years, race fans have had a new option when it comes to places to stay in the Tri-Cities.
Ben Breit with Airbnb says it saw a 300 percent spike in visitors for the Bristol night race last year.
The home-sharing platform allows people to rent out rooms in their home to people.
“These are the types of events where our platform can play a huge role for cities like Bristol, Johnson City, areas that even if they have a bunch of hotels, they’re going to sell out,” Breit said.
2016 was a huge year for Bristol. In April, the track debuted ‘Colossus’ and in September was the ‘Battle at Bristol’ between the Tennessee Vols and Virginia Tech Hokies.
A recent report shows record declines in NASCAR viewership and admissions.
In 2004, 8 million people tuned in to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Last year, only 4.6 million did – a decrease of almost half.
Despite that, Caldwell says 2017 will be another big year for bristol.
“All the momentum from 2016 is just carrying over,” he said.
There will be a kickoff event for the 2017 BMS season on March 7.
Clint Bowyer and Courtney Force will be there along with other drivers.
The event will take place at the Paramount Center for the Arts in downtown Bristol – tickets are free.
For more information about the event, log on to paramountbristol.org.
The Food City 500 is Sunday, April 23rd.
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