Big money pours in during racing weekend

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HAMBLEN COUNTY (WVLT) Basketball fans aren't the only ones gearing up for a big weekend.

Nascar fans are pouring into East Tennessee by the thousands for race weekend in Bristol.

Volunteer TV's Rob Pratt has more on why the economic impact reaches far beyond the race track.

More than 160,000 fans will take a seat at the world's fastest half-mile on Sunday.

Hotel rooms in the Tri-Cities can't handle that much business.

That means people are spending their time, and their money, in places like Morristown.

People from Vancouver, British Columbia don't normally check in at the Morristown Ramada Inn, but this is not a normal weekend.

After traveling all the way from Western Canada, 75 miles is close enough for Frank Bourke.

"I was just excited to come. I didn't care where I was going to stay. I just wanted to be able to get to the track."

Brenda Hazelwood, Ramada Inn General Manager says, "it's one of the best weekends we have during the entire year."

During her three decades as a hotel manager in Morristown, Brenda Hazelwood has seen Bristol's impact increase.

The track has nearly doubled its seating capacity in the last 15 years. Now, even those who want a room in Morristown have to plan ahead.

Hazelwood says, "we fill up from one year to the next. We have repeat customers that come back every year."

People who stay here have to eat.

Smoky's Steak and Barbecue has the welcome sign out.

With two race weekends every year, the owner here hopes to become a destination of choice.

Frank Casentino says, "these people will come back. They'll come back for the other races and that sort of thing if they like it here."

While they are here, the money spending won't end at the hotel and the restaurant.

There are souvenir to be bought, and as Frank can tell you, people back home want a piece of the action too.

Bourke says, "when I told them I was coming to this race, they just couldn't believe it. They said it's not fair. They were all wanting me to bring pictures and stuff home from the track. So I told them I'd see what I could do."

The Morristown hotel managers we talked to say they've had to send
people as far away as Knoxville to find rooms.

They say there are a few rooms left for the August races.

But by the end of this weekend they expect those to be booked too.