The emphasis at Bristol is always on the racing – the track motto is it’s the world’s fastest half-mile – but Pat Summitt took center stage Friday as NASCAR’s Nationwide Series
Summitt attended the drivers’ meeting before the race and when a downpour erupted shortly thereafter, the head coach emeritus of Tennessee and her foundation crew sought shelter in the Media Center on the infield of Bristol. Summitt dined with the media and other track officials and waited for the violent thunderstorms to pass across Bristol Motor Speedway.
When the skies finally cleared and the track was dried, Summitt was recognized as the official grand marshal with Coach Holly Warlick and her Lady Vols staff looking on from the pit area and filming the proceedings.
Summitt remained on the stage to greet the drivers in the race – Elliott Sadler removed his ball cap before speaking to Summitt – and then took the microphone at the start line to officially start the race with the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.”
Trevor Bayne won the Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of 15.833 seconds and 121.190 miles per hour. Bayne, a Knoxville native, kept the No. 60 car in the top 10 for nearly the entire race until being wrecked at the end. He ended up finishing 16th. Joey Logano, who led for 81 laps, claimed victory lane at the Food City 250.
Bayne was clearly upset after the race but after some cool-down time he graciously came out of his trailer to talk to Inside Tennessee and a local television station.
Summitt seemed to enjoy all of the festivities and signed autographs for fans as she walked through the infield. Warlick, Dean Lockwood, new coaches Kyra Elzy and Jolette Law, director of operations Michael Beaumont and the secretaries for Lady Vols basketball wore matching “We Back Pat” shirts and roamed the infield before the race. They shadowed Summitt, along with representatives of her foundation, providing the Lady Vol legend with her own pit crew, as it were.
Bayne’s crew wore special “We Back Pat” gear for Roush Fenway Racing, and the hood of the car was covered in names from people who had participated in the event as part of WeBackPatRacing.com.
The hood was about the only part of the orange car that was still intact after the race and as the vehicle was loaded onto his trailer, Bayne was clearly upset. There were nine cautions over 59 laps, and Bayne was ensnared late in the race by the No. 2 car Austin Dillon, causing the two to exchange words after the race.
“The car looked awesome and I thought it was building up to the perfect day,” said Bayne, who indicated the collision was the result of Dillon not handling his car.
Bayne did smile when asked about racing for Summitt and raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease.
“It’s huge for Pat … and getting the word out,” Bayne said. “Everybody in Tennessee supports her. It looked great on the racetrack.”
INSIDE TENNESSEE VIDEO COVERAGE
Trevor Bayne before the race
Pat Summitt introduced as grand marshal
Pat Summitt meets the drivers
Pat Summitt delivers orders to start engines
Trevor Bayne after the race