That means the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway is less than two months away.
Following a speedway news conference Thursday, BMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell answered a few questions heading into the 2019 season — and noted that several good conversations are continuing concerning a second Battle at Bristol football game.
What are you most excited about going into the season?
Caldwell: “I like the new package for the mile-and-a-half tracks. It doesn’t pertain so much for here, but enthusiasm for the sport ties into all year long.
“I’m excited about the young guys coming into their own now. Give them a year or two to get their legs under them and it’s time for them to perform now. The Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus change is going to be interesting. You have one of the best crew chiefs in history now with William Byron, who has shown he’s fearless. I’m curious to see how that’s going to work out.”
What is a major focus for BMS this season?
Caldwell: “A big focus of (Speedway Motorsports CEO and Chairman) Marcus and Bruton (Smith) is what are we doing for the fans to enhance the fan experience. We’ve done a lot of that, and we’re working on more areas on our concourse level for the fans to see the race, but also to sit and get away from it.
“We have some new trams as people want places to hang out. We’ve focused a lot on that. They want places to gather during the day before they get inside the facility and places once they’re inside the facility.”
How do you continue to give fans the access they want?
Caldwell: “We’ve heard from fans how they want that unique experience. How do we expose them to the drivers, but do it safely? We’re a unique sport where people can be in the pit area in the drivers’ meeting.
“What other sport can you do that? You can’t be in the locker room or on the field. But in NASCAR, that’s an option. If you really focus on it hard enough, you’re going to be able to interact with a driver at some point.”
What did the online poll where the August Night Race was voted best race of the NASCAR season and the Food City 500 was also near the top mean to Bristol Motor Speedway?
Caldwell: “It not only was the best race of the season, but the best race of the last three years since he (Jeff Gluck) started the poll. It’s a testament to what we hear fans say. I love seeing the media recognize it and Jeff or anyone else do a poll that is unbiased. Let the numbers speak for themselves.
“It’s a testament to what you see on the track. Sometimes, it’s what the track used to be versus what it is. The testament to that is what it is, it’s really good. A lot of things have changed over the years — cars, tracks, drivers, all that. At the end of the day, you’re really asking, ‘Is it good entertainment?’ I think what you heard from the fans is, ‘Yes, it is.’ ”