Battle at Bristol: College Football Takes Over NASCAR’s Bristol Motor Speedway
Infield parking is turned into a turf field for Sept. 10 kickoffby Mark McNabb, on
It doesn’t get more American than NASCAR and college football. Now the two are combining for the first time – at least in manner of speaking. The Bristol Motor Speedway’s infield is being transformed from a parking lot to a college regulation football field. Bristol’s 160,000-seat stadium will host a sold-out crowd to watch the University of Tennessee take on Virginia Tech on Saturday, September 10.
Bristol is a surprisingly great place to hold such an event. Its half-mile oval track and high grandstands are compact enough to provide a good vantage point for all spectators. What’s more, Bristol’s massive video screen hung over the infield will offer close-in views of the action. Named Colossus, the four-sided screen weights roughly 700 tons and is hung by cables attached to towers outside the track. Each screen is 68 feet wide by 30 feet high.
Creating the football field is no small task. A rain delay last week pushed the Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race from Saturday to Sunday, allowing for one less day for construction of the field. Only two and a half weeks were allotted for construct, so setbacks aren’t welcomed.
The idea of hosting a football game at Bristol isn’t new. In fact, both Tennessee and Virginia Tech fans had been clambering about the idea for nearly a decade. The proposal was accepted in 2013 and set into motion. The Knoxville-based truck stop franchise, Pilot Flying J, is the title sponsor.
With roughly 160,000 fans in the stadium, the UT verses VT game will be the largest college football game in history.
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Why It Matters
It’s amazing to see one of the largest sports arena temporality repurposed like this. If fact, Bristol is the fourth largest racing stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity. Only the Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway outrank Bristol in the U.S.
While the game between the Volunteers and Hokies is the main event, September 17 will host another football game between the East Tennessee State University and Western Carolina University. Knoxville native and country music star Kenny Chesney is also performing the night before the Vols play.
And in the spirit of transparency, yours truly – an alumnus of UT, will be rooting hard for the Volunteers. GO VOLS!
Photo: WATE’s live webcam