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For NASCAR fans, lodging can be difficult to find

Kevin Castle • Aug 22, 2007 at 12:00 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Need a room?

You and 100,000 or so other race fans have the same goal, but odds are if you don’t have reservations or know somebody with a spare guest room, you’ll be driving outside the Tri-Cities for race week accommodations.

According to RaceHotels.com, a Web site that connects race teams, sponsors and fans with an accessible hotel room database, only a few rooms remain in Bristol and Kingsport.

Any other rooms currently vacant are at least 15 to 40 minutes away from Bristol Motor Speedway, and they come with price tags as high as $300 per night, some with three- to four-night minimums, the Web site reported.

The seven facilities — ranging in location from Unicoi in Tennessee to Glade Spring along Interstate 81 in Washington County, Va. — that still had vacancy listings on the Web site Tuesday had an average cost of $185 a night.

Aleeta Pearson operates RaceLodging.com, a service that specializes in serving the race fan or race team that needs more than one bed and one shower.

“We help accommodate those sponsors and race teams and race fans who are looking for a larger dwelling, and some who like a homier atmosphere when they get away from the track,” said Pearson.

“Corporations who may sponsor a car or marketing teams who display or promote a product really use us a lot, and those are for larger homes that local residents have offered for rent.

“These homes are all around the Tri-Cities region. We try to stay within a 30-mile radius. Ninety percent of the homes we use are homes that people live in every day. The remaining 10 percent are lake or vacation homes. We have everything from individual rooms in homes to six- and eight-bedroom houses.”

The underlying purpose behind giving up your own home for a week or less, for some, is the pleasure in helping those who need a place to stay while in Bristol, says Pearson.

The other reason is the almighty dollar.

“Most people do rent for the financial gain that they receive from the option, while others do enjoy meeting folks from other parts of the country or getting to know race fans. Those kind are typically the ones that get us repeat business,” said Pearson.

Both races at Bristol bring a premium audience to Pearson’s Web site each year, but the August race usually attracts the most interest because of the track’s popularity around the racing world.

The Southern comfort level is also another attraction to the Tri-Cities at race week, Pearson said.

“We have received e-mails in the past, and just from folks we served in the spring, that did note how nice people are around here and how some homeowners left gift baskets full of snacks or just something to make them feel at home. They don’t get that kind of service just anywhere,” she said.

“Thirty percent of people who rent from us go ahead and pay for next year while they are here in August because they do love this area so much, and the race keeps bringing them back.”

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