BRISTOL, Tenn. (WVLT/SUBMITTED While not scheduled to meet in the infield at Bristol Motor Speedway until September 10, 2016, the coaches for two of the nation’s tradition-rich football programs get together at the start/finish line for the March 16 Food City 500.
University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones and Virginia Tech head man Frank Beamer, whose teams meet in the Battle at Bristol in two years, serve as co-Grand Marshals for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup stop in Bristol this week.
“We have been honored to host both Coach Beamer and Coach Jones as our guests at Bristol in the past,” said Food City President and CEO Steve Smith. “But the excitement that has continued to build since last October’s announcement of this game prompted us to invite them back.
“As two exceptional friends and partners of our company, they represent two great programs, two outstanding institutions and one of the most anticipated football games I can remember in my lifetime. On behalf of the more than 13,000 Food City associates, we’re thrilled to have them serve as co-grand marshals for the upcoming Food City 500.”
Beamer served as honorary starter for the 2005 Food City 500 and Jones was in Bristol last spring as grand marshal.
“People talked about this game for 17 years,” said Bristol Motor Speedway General Manager Jerry Caldwell. “It is hard to believe, but now that it has been announced, conversation and interest has just increased. People are excited, few more so than these two coaches.”
Jones’ experience at Bristol last year convinced him the speedway could host a game.
“I am honored to once again have the opportunity to travel to Bristol Motor Speedway and play a role, along with Coach Beamer, in the Food City 500,” said Jones. “We are very much looking forward to breaking the all-time college football attendance record in September 2016 at Bristol. While our game is still two years away, I had such a great time at last year’s race that I wanted to return to Bristol to witness again one of NASCAR’s most iconic and exciting events.”
A native of Carroll County, Va., less than two hours away, Beamer has been coming to Bristol for years and even drove the high banks in a 2009 charity race. He is looking forward to being back and teaming with Jones.
"As I said in my book, Let Me Be Frank, I think Butch Jones has the right "stuff.” I think he is going to have a great career at Tennessee. To be the Co-Grand Marshal with him is a pleasure as we represent the two schools that have a lot of fans in this area.
“Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most exciting sports venues that I know and like to visit, and we look forward to playing Tennessee there in 2016 before the largest crowd to ever watch a football game."
Tickets for Sunday's Food City 500 start at just $70 and weekend packages for all three races are available for as low as $89. Fans may call (855) 580-5525 or visit www.bristoltix.com to experience this spring’s battle on the high banks of the Last Great Colosseum.