BRISTOL, Tenn. — On July 30, 1961, Jack Smith won the first NASCAR race ever held at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Nearly 50 years after the Atlanta native outdueled the likes of David Pearson and Fred Lorenzen to win the Volunteer 500, the folks at BMS are preparing to host their 100th Sprint Cup race this August.
As the years have passed, the enthusiasm of the fans has allowed BMS to morph into a towering coliseum of steel and glass.
Back in 1961, there was just enough room on a pair of concrete grandstands for 18,000 fans. But after five decades of exciting racing, the seating capacity has swelled to 160,000 by popular demand.
So it seems fitting that BMS is counting down the final 100 days to its 100th Cup race by giving back to the people who have been there every step of the way — the race fans.
On Saturday, Irwin Tools and BMS began awarding daily prizes to race fans, including tickets and autographed items from Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth.
A prize will be given away every day until Aug. 21, the day of the Irwin Tools Night Race.
“Bristol Motor Speedway has long held a special place in race fans’ hearts and they are the folks who are responsible for making us the most popular track on the circuit,” said Jerry Caldwell, vice president of the racetrack’s Corporate Sales division. “The 100 days of giveaways is simply our way to saying thank you for their loyalty and support.”
Among the other daily prizes are race tickets, parking passes, weekend getaways, camping passes, Food City gift certificates, suite packages and numerous sponsor gifts.
Irwin Tools, which will take over sponsorship of this year’s night race, jump-started the celebration Friday by giving away 100 tickets.
“Irwin Tools certainly knows how to make a splash,” Caldwell said. “The night race has long been NASCAR’s most popular race and we couldn’t be more excited about having them as part of our team.”
To have a shot a winning prizes, fans must register daily online. Go to bristolmotorspeedway.com and click on the “BMS 100” banner under the photo of the day.
Fans can track the 100 days of giveaways on the speedway’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: After winning the Modified race at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., last Saturday night, Burt Myers spent Thursday participating in a tire test at BMS.
Mike Stefanik and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour points leader James Civali were on hand as well, but Myers was clearly the star attraction after being featured on the History Channel series “Madhouse.”
“It seems like any time we go out to eat, or to the mall or Target or somewhere, there will be one or two people recognize me,” Myers said. “I’ll stop and chat with people and they will ask me about the show, about other drivers. I’m just trying to have a good time with it.”
There has been some question about the fate of “Madhouse” after the first season finished its run, but the History Channel and SPEED are both in negotiations to pick up a second season.
On the track Thursday, Civali turned the fastest unofficial lap at 14.700 seconds. Myers got around the half-mile layout in 14.900.
All three drivers seemed happy after testing the tire Hoosier is planning on using for this August’s UNOH Perfect Storm 150.
“I think we learned a lot today and I think it will only help us come back better prepared as a team and put on a great show for the fans who come out to our race in August,” Myers said.
COME ONE, COME ALL: For the first time in two decades, BMS is making single- event tickets available for the Irwin Tools Night Race.
A limited number of tickets for the event will be available for $109 and will be renewable. The three-day package, which includes the Whelen Modified, Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Cup series races, will still be available starting at $170.
A two-day package including the Nationwide and Cup races will start at $126, and both of these packages are also renewable.
For more information or to order tickets, contact the BMS ticket office via its toll-free number, (866) 415-4158, or its local number (423) BRISTOL (274-7865).
Tickets may also be purchased online at bristoltix.com.