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Bristol Focus on Fans Should be Duplicated March 22, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Tracks, Trackside.
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Jellovillians Unite for Bristol Fan Karma!

Saturday night I went to the campground area here at Bristol Motor Speedway known as “Jelloville”. I had gotten an email from a woman named Gloria who was a listener. She was headed to Bristol and had a birthday at Bristol Saturday night. The email read (in part):

“I want to extend an invitation to meet a wonderful group of fans while at Bristol this weekend. Some other tracks have famous areas of the campground, such as Hell Hill at T-dega, but none compare with Jelloville. Jelloville is located directly behind turn 1 just over the creek in the first row of campers. Just watch for the orange and black Harley Davidson colored camper, we will not be far away. You can also call Suzie, the “Queen of Jelloville”, she started the whole ball rolling about a year ago. Her camper is right in the thick of things. She is from West Virginia and Jamie McMurray is her favorite driver.”

The Jelloville group members met each other on the Bristol Motor Speedway chat room site. They began to gather, celebrate family and life occasions, trade paint about their drivers and bond. They camp together at races, some serve on the Bristol fan advisory board, and most of them talk to each other on line daily if not weekly and the group has become a support group in good times and in bad. The track has adopted this group – so much so that when I visited the area on Saturday night to bring my new friend Gloria a birthday gift….the president of Bristol Motor Speedway, Jeff Byrd showed up.

When Byrd arrived the Jellovillian group flocked around him and many new members of the camping area could not believe that the track president was there to hang out with them. Byrd wore a special event logoed vest which he removed and gave to one of the Jelloville campers. He cracked jokes and became one of them. The crowd went nuts. What was the president of a race track doing hanging out with mere fan mortals on race weekend? Well first of all members of Byrds staff were also there. They had formed friendships with this group and treated them as special track ambassadors. It was real and it counted. The staff at Bristol motor speedway didn’t just talk about the fans – they embraced them. A group from Jelloville even visited the track at Christmas and the track made special provisions for them to hang out in Bruton Smith’s suite and enter the complex. These folks have the cell phone numbers of the staff members at Bristol including the track president in their cell phones and they keep in constant touch – not just when it’s ticket renewal time.

Why the name Jelloville? Well it seems Suzie “the queen of Jelloville” makes batches and coolers full of jello shots. Now I know what you are thinking….but Jelloville was full of real cool people having a nice, but not a raucous, time. .These folks had become very close friends and warmly invited others into their group. I enjoyed a few jello shots and met a Jelloville camper who was at Bristol because he wanted to see a race before he headed to Iraq next week to serve his country. I was so moved by his story that I invited this young man to be a part of the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio pre race show and found out that he was actually carrying the Nevada flag in the Food City 500 pre race show along with fans from each state and a number of foreign countries.

In tough times, Bristol Motor Speedway did not cut the prices of their tickets. Instead, they used some of the money they made to give the fans more for their buck. They put on a Saturday Night Special legends race and shot fireworks off at the end of the night as if there was no tomorrow. The entire weekend was full of examples of being with the fans not just talking about them. Kudos to Bristol Motor Speedway.

To the folks at Jelloville – thanks for making me feel welcome. I came over after my Saturday night “Dialed In” show and I was ready to kick back a little. Their campground was an aura of positive, good natured fun. The jello shots were spectacular buy the way. Slipped right down so smoothly.

Shots to Jelloville and to Bristol Motor Speedway. The Saturday Night Special legends race was a spectacular idea and the way Bristol embraces the fans as members of the track is down right incredible, rare, and the right thing to do. Shots to Jeff Byrd and his staff.

Jello shots from Jelloville that is!

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Comments»

1. KY1WING - March 24, 2009

Jeff Byrd is top notch in my book. A few years ago, when I heard that BMS was going to make changes to address the pit road situation (cars pitting on the backstretch used to be a distinct disadvantage with pit road procedures) I was so concerned that they were going to ruin the track by following the Martinsville model, I got up the nerve to fire off an email to Mr. Byrd. In it, I pleaded that a) he not do anything to ruin the track and b) offered an alternative plan which would require no change in the facility, except the addition of a timing loop at the end of the backstretch pit. When I pushed send I never thought I’d hear a thing back, but at least I felt better.

Much to my surprise, when I fired up my computer Saturday morning, waiting on me was a reply from Mr. Byrd . . . and it wasn’t a canned response either.

He understood my concerns and had no intentions of doing anything which would ruin the track. He thanked me for my suggestion, commented on it, and told me to just be patient they really believed they had a workable solution in process. He closed by thanking me for my attendance to Bristol and hoped I’d be there for the next race to witness the changes.

After that, how could a person not be a Bristol fan!

Byrd didn’t know me from Adam, but treated me with respect and took time out of his busy schedule to provide a personal reply. That means a lot.

I wished I could say that I still go to Bristol. Economics forced me out a few years back (rising ticket prices were only a part – difficulty in finding reasonable priced lodging was the killer). But Mr. Byrd made the difficult decison to give up my tickets even harder because he treated me as a person, as a valued fan and that’s a sight more than ISC folks have ever done. To them I’m just an annoyance who is only tolerated because I may have money they can separate from me.

And the folks in Daytona Tie Land wonder why Bristol bleachers are full while ISC tracks have gaping holes.

2. vazoomo - March 28, 2009

Claire,

My wife and I love listening to your show on Sirius/XM radio and wish you were on during afternoon drive time vice later, but still the best NASCAR show on radio. My comment (BTW – first time I have tried to participate) is to agree with a caller today about Martinsville (and also applies to Bristol). We have for several years had season tickets to all Martinsville and Bristol races and took our Motorhome from Lake Anna, VA for all of the activities usually going from one to the other without returning home. However, now that NASCAR has moved the spring dates up into March we have not renewed our season tickets, given up our reserved parking and just can not see spending the $600 to $800 or more per weekend to sit in the snow/cold rain for the spring races. We are still planning to go to Martinsville in the fall where it is back to back with Charlotte. So we totally agree with the caller that said the spring dates need to be moved back into mid to late April. At this time of year it makes a big difference in the weather in this area.

We also used to go to Atlanta in the fall when it was also back to back to back with Martinsville and Charlotte, but gave up those tickets and parking when they moved Atlanta to Labor Day. With this economy we think NASCAR needs to really take a look at what they are doing to the fans by not having races at the best time of year. The caller also mentioned Richmond (which we also have season tickets to) being in late February or early March an how that made no sense at all – it is now great in early May.

Bottom line – my wife and I have been silent NASCAR fans for a lot of years (first race was the Charlotte 600 in 1970 with the Norfolk Mustang club where we had a parade lap just before the race) but we now find that we are cutting back from 10+ races per year to about 5 (Richmond twice, Charlotte twice and Martinsville fall) because it costs too much to risk having to sit in cold, wet, or cancelled races.

If you want a real topic to discuss on your radio show how about opening up this to the listeners. I bet there are a lot that feel just like us.


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