Stars shine for Race Night

By Marvin Birchfield

   It was an overwhelming event at the Food City Race Night in Bristol on Thursday, as it featured several well know race stars along with many other activities that took place.
   "It's been really wonderful, there's a lot of fans here, and Food City focuses on family, and that's been essential to all the events around Bristol Motor Speedway," said Rhonda Thompson, Miss Food City 2002.
   State St. was flooded with thousands of fans, anticipating on getting a glimpse and possible autograph of their favorite drivers.
   Just some of the names that headlined were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, and Terry Labonte to name a few.
   "It's good to have all the fans out here and give an autograph, it's a lot of fun for them I'm sure," said Newman.
   One of the guys thought of, when talking about who will win Bristol is veteran Texas Terry Labonte.
   "We wasn't that good in the spring, but we've come back with a different car, and hopefully we're going to be a lot better than we were then," said Labonte.
   Labonte says, it's great to see all the crowd, and the event seems to get bigger every year.
   One of the local favorites year in and year out is the Abingdon based Morgan McClure team, which features driver Mike Skinner.
   "It's pretty cool, for it gives us a chance before we go racing to sign autographs and meet our fans," said Skinner.
   Skinner said, he wished they raced more short tracks like Bristol, because you can put on a great show.
   Another local team driver Kevin Grubb, is excited about coming back to Bristol, as he was a serious contender earlier this season at world's fastest half-mile.
   There was another sport's star in the crowd, but this guy isn't noted for his driving talent, instead for his success in fishing.
   Bill Dance was another celebrity on the scene, and yes, he was wearing his Big Orange hat with pride.
   "My hats off to Food City and what they have done for the community," said Dance.
   "Their behind this event, and it's good for the economy and this whole area."
   There were several charities and nonprofit organizations involved in the race night event, and this year's recipient was the YWCA of Bristol in the building of their new facility.
   "There were a lot of charitable organizations that came out this year, and YWCA is the benefactor this year," said Food City Race Night Coordinator, J.D. Rhotten.
   Rhotten says, it's awesome to look down State St. and see just how many people were there.
   The Speedway Children's Charity, which was founded by Bruton Smith nearly 20 years ago to benefit children in different communities.
   "It started out in North Carolina, and as Bruton grew and develop new tracks, we develop new chapters, and the proceeds stay within the community," said Kenny Marion, Assistant Manager of Operations.
   Free food was also handed out from different places with one of those being the Johnsonville Big Taste Grill.
   "This is free and it goes to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank, for we supply them with help, so they give us a donation for the volunteer time," said Nicole Fleming, Community Relations Cordinator.