Project 2021, part 22: ‘It was like somebody just opened up the doors for us’: Cheering fans pack Bowman Gray Stadium’s return to racing

Project 2021

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — What does “normal” mean to you?

For most people, it’s getting back to their routine, particularly as that relates to the activities they enjoy so much. And, for the last ten years, that’s been summer Saturday nights for Randy and Angela Smith.

Randy is the flag man and his wife, Angela, is a scorekeeper at Bowman Gray Stadium’s Saturday night races. Bowman Gray likes to market itself as “Nascar’s first and longest weekly-running race track.”

It found a way to have a racing season every year since 1949 until the pandemic shut down its 2020 season.

“I didn’t think I missed it so much, but I really did,” Randy said.

FOX8 spoke to them before Bowman Gray decided to open back up for racing when things were still up in the air, and Randy spoke of the pent-up desire for both teams to get back on the track and for the fans to be cheering in the stands.

“They’re all over Facebook: We want to go racing. We want to go racing!” Randy said in April, and he believed they could make it happen. “If the public gets into the restaurants and gets into the businesses and puts money back into the economy then they’re going to have the money to put back into the sponsorship deals and get these teams back over here at the racetrack.”

“They’re not going to be skittish?” I asked Randy.

“I would be if it’s your money,” he responded. “Pretty much, you paid for 2020 and didn’t get anything. So everybody’s kind of looking for a ‘you owe me.'”

They got their money’s worth when the track reopened in June.

“I mean the place was packed. They were lined up, tailgating,” Angela said.

“It was like somebody just opened up the doors for us, and we got back to reality,” Randy said on opening night. “I’m a little shocked…when we were over there on the back straightaway in April, and we were talking, I didn’t think we were going to be here. I didn’t think we were going to be here this year.”

See Bowman Gray’s 2021 opening night in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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