Bristol Motor Speedway is all about tradition.
There’s the black No. 3 Chevrolet of rugged Dale Earnhardt, the southern anthems of arch-conservative Charlie Daniels, and the campfire tales of crazy crashes and feuding drivers in the Night Race.
The Bristol experience will feature a twist this weekend, and it’s exactly what the sport needs.
Can you say animated college-age kids?
Following Friday night’s Food City 300 Xfinity race, a party will be held at the Trackside Live stage in the BMS Fan Zone.
Instead of country music, this will be a rave complete with a DJ, glow-in-the dark beach balls, strobe lights and multiple foam machines designed to create gallons upon gallons of foam.
From noon until 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, track officials will offer a college tailgate vibe with a parking lot party. Attractions will include cornhole games, a mechanical bull, a life-size beer pong and a life-size Jenga.
Yes, that’s Jenga and not Junior Johnson or Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jenga is a British-inspired board game where players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. The goal is to create a taller structure.
For too many years, the average age of a NASCAR fan has been around 58. While many of those old-schoolers have turned away in the face of rule changes, race date alterations and driver retirements, older fans are the norm.
From rock concerts and snazzy television commercials to trackside tweet-ups, marketing types have employed various efforts to lure young fans off their computers and into the stands.
In this generation of smart phones, dumb reality shows and 140-character conversations, it’s a challenge to convince younger people to focus for just three minutes. Try keeping them engaged for a three-hour sporting event that includes multiple stoppages.
That’s what makes the Bristol Night Race stand out. It’s the ultimate shiny object distraction.
With its Thunderdome-like setting and video game on steroids action, the drama is on a cinematic scale.
There’s many reasons why this stock car version of Saturday Night Live has played such a large role in the growth of NASCAR, but tradition can only go so far.
Fans of all sports have become more discerning. In addition to faster paced games, they want more amenities in terms of broader menus, expanding seating and more diverse attractions.
Credit Bristol Motor Speedway officials for keeping up with the times this year with the Fan Zone fun, introduction of new concession items and renovations to the Petty Terrace, which include drink rails at each seat.
It’s a new era at BMS. The drivers are younger, the style of racing is nuanced and the soundtrack is more inclusive.
The big question is how many those younger fans will stick around for the show?