Bristol On a $0 Budget: The Experiment
With a little bit of skill and a lot of luck, one BC student found a way to go to a race at Bristol Motor Speedway without spending a single penny.

Bristol On a $0 Budget: The Experiment

By Trey Wilson | April 13, 2011 | RSS

I had always wanted to see a NASCAR race in person at Bristol Motor Speedway. With no money and no source of income, my options were pretty slim. I had to try what I thought was impossible. On March 20, I attempted to attend a NASCAR race at Bristol without spending a single penny.


Trey Wilson with Kenny Wallace.

A college student knows how hard it can be to find entertainment on a budget. Personally, I tend to save any money I can and spend it all on a road trip to a sporting event or a concert with some friends. When the place I was working closed, I found myself without a job and all of those trips seemed no longer to be an option.


The NASCAR events at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee have been one of the toughest tickets in all of sports for a couple decades. For 28 consecutive years, the 55 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races held at Bristol sold out. And it isn’t because of limited seating. With over 160,000 seats, Bristol Motor Speedway is the eighth largest sports venue in the world. Both serious and casual fans flock to Bristol to witness the tight, temper-fueled racing that Bristol creates.


As an avid sports fan, I have had this event on my sports bucket list for a long time, along with catching a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, watching The Masters at Augusta, and seeing a basketball game at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Being a student at Bluefield College, for me the track is conveniently less than two hours down the road. However, the cheapest of these highly demanded tickets are around $100. Even if I could somehow find the money for tickets, I would have to find money for gas, food, drinks, and parking.


After adding up the costs, I knew the only way I could justify this trip would be to do it completely for free. 


Challenge accepted.

The first task to tackle was finding a way into the race, with or without a ticket. I knew the college sent several members of some sports teams to work as ushers to raise money. I would be willing to work for a free ride and entry to Bristol. I checked into it, but I was told only athletes could go.


Strike one.

I figured the local radio stations would have some tickets to give away. I called around, but with no luck.

Strike two.

As the week of the race came, I was running out of options and time. I had to try my last resort: The girlfriend. I knew she had a few connections with prominent members of the local community that probably had tickets that would not be used. I broke down and asked her to check, but she did not come up with any.


Strike three.

It was Thursday and the race was three days away. I had given up. It seemed like this would not be the year I would knock Bristol off of my list. 


I came into my dorm room and opened my Twitter account to check on the running commentary from college basketball writers about the games that were on television. Buried within the hoops talk there was a tweet from former NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace.


It read, "My sponsor UNOH 'University Of Northwestern Ohio' and myself, are giving away 8 tickets to Sundays Bristol Cup Race! 2 per person!"


This was my chance. I sent a response and waited.

He posted the first winner. Not me. The second and third winner. Still not me. Then, the fourth and final winner.


Not me.

I was disappointed, but I knew winning a pair would be a long shot.

I sat on my bed and started watching some basketball. Just as I dozed off my phone buzzed. It was a notification from my Twitter application from Wallace. It read, "@treywilson757 You Win!..Final 2 tickets."


As it turned out, the final winner could not actually attend the race, and I was the next in line.

Now that I had the tickets, I had to look for a way to fund the gas. I drive an old Chevrolet Silverado that gets around 8 or 10 miles per gallon. That is definitely not ideal with gas prices on a steady rise. But I found another student at the college who wanted to go, and he agreed to cover gas prices in exchange for a ticket.


Ticket: check. Gas: check.

Parking was the next issue. I talked to one local Bluefield resident that goes to every race at Bristol. He told me that there is limited free parking, but it fills up very fast. The rest of the parking around the track cost anywhere from $25 to $100. The only option was to leave Bluefield by 4 a.m. to get a spot in a free lot.


We departed early and made the drive through the mountain roads of southwest Virginia and arrived at the track around 6:00 a.m. The sun was not even up yet, but just as the man had said, the spots in the free lot were filling up quickly. We crammed the truck into the space we were directed to and used the free time to catch up on some sleep.


Naturally, we got pretty hungry as lunchtime rolled around. We scouted out a few vendors before finding people passing out free samples of Tonados, a brand of microwavable taquitos. They were glad to give us as many samples as we wanted. After numerous trips to mooch food, we found some kids handing out free sample cans of Pepsi Max to wash it down.


 Free samples and promotional giveaways ended up being necessities. I got free sunscreen from the Nationwide Insurance display. When the heartburn from all of the Tornados hit, I headed over to the Tums display for more free samples.


We settled into our seats as the race was starting. I had been to NASCAR races before, but nothing compared to what I experienced at Bristol. As the engines roared to life, the sound seemed to be magnified by the surrounding mountains. I could feel the raw horsepower in my chest as the cars flew by fighting for position.


As the race went on, I started getting hungry again. As good as the Tornados were, they were not very filling. I figured I had to break my experiment and get some food. I headed to the only concession stand I could find that took debit cards and ordered two hot dogs. Luckily for me, the machine quit working when they tried to swipe my card and they let me keep the hot dogs for free.


After the race we grabbed a quick nap while traffic cleared and headed back to campus. I made it through the day without spending any money. With a little bit of mooching and a lot of luck, my experiment was a success.