A local man has come full circle with Bristol Motor Speedway: from fan to sponsor.
Donald Simms moved to Bristol in 1977 with his family when he was still in junior high school. He attended Vance Junior High and lived on Taylor Street.
He went to Tennessee High School for his freshman year in 1979. That was a significant year for him because he also attended his first race at BMS, formerly Bristol International Raceway.
"I don't remember it that well," Simms said. "I remember sitting on concrete seats along the backstretch. They were more like steps than seats. I remember it was cold that day, but I couldn't even tell you who won."
Simms has been going to races ever since.
He did a little bit of dirt track racing when he was younger, and he was a Richard Petty fan. He grew up following NASCAR because he said when you lived in East Tennessee, watching NASCAR was what you did.
Though he moved away from Bristol with his family after his freshman year, he wasn't done with Bristol yet.
After serving six years in the U.S. Air Force, Simms returned to Bristol and worked locally for the next six years. He then transferred to Pittsburgh a little more than 20 years ago.
In 1993, he and a few partners started United Mining Equipment. After buying out his partners, Simms now owns the company alone.
Simms started a sister company to UME: PittLite Inc., a global supplier of industrial and mining lights. He is the president and CEO of both companies.
PittLite is an entitlement sponsor of NASCAR's K&N Series, and the name of Saturday's series event at BMS is the PittLite 125.
There is a reason only one of his companies is sponsoring the race.
"PittLite has a broader appeal," Simms said. "It can be used for anything from hunting and fishing to underground mining."
Simms waded into the waters of NASCAR sponsorship last year. His company sponsored the No. 36 car, driven by veteran J.J. Yeley, for 10 races in 2013.
Even though Simms lives in Pennsylvania, he considers Bristol to be his home. He owns a condo across from the racetrack and attends both the March and August races every year.
He said he attends six to seven NASCAR races a year overall, and was in Las Vegas last weekend for that race.
Simms is happy to go from fan to sponsor, and hopes it continues for a long time.
"I'm really excited about the sponsorship and I hope it is the start of a long relationship with Bristol Motor Speedway," Simms said. "I can't say enough about how good they have treated us and how well they have worked with us."comments powered by Disqus