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Football coaches revved up for bristol battle

March 16, 2014, David Caraviello,

Virginia Tech, Tennessee will play football at BMS in 2016

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BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Frank Beamer is well familiar with the walls around the World's Most Famous Half-Mile.

The Virginia Tech football coach was trying not to hit them during his appearance in a 2009 charity celebrity race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Beamer made about 15 laps around the track, keeping as low on the high-banked concrete surface as he could.

I was just trying not to hit the wall. That’s all," he remembered. "I was trying to get around that race track and not hit the wall. I saw a policeman friend afterward, and he said, 'I swear, I've seen you go faster on Interstate 81 than you went out there.' Probably true, too."

Beamer will be back at Bristol in the fall of 2016, but in a much more familiar environment. That's when Virginia Tech is slated to play Tennessee in a college football game inside the 160,000-seat race track that could set a record for attendance.

Beamer and Volunteers coach Butch Jones were at Bristol on Sunday to give the command to start engines for the Food City 500, the start of which was delayed by rain.

The coaches' focus, though, was the "Battle of Bristol" set for Sept. 10, 2016, in the race track only a short drive from the Tennessee-Virginia line.

General manager Jerry Caldwell called the game 17 years in the making, and the hope is to break the NCAA attendance mark of 115,109 set last season when Notre Dame visited Michigan.

Beamer called Bristol his second-favorite sports venue behind Lane Stadium, the facility 132 miles away in Blacksburg, Va., where the Hokies play their home games. Tennessee's home field, Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, is 110 miles away and holds 102,854 -- but Jones believes playing in Bristol will be a completely different experience.

"I think it will be a whole different ballgame in terms of the anticipation, anticipating it for a few years," Jones said. "I think knowing that you're going to break the world record is pretty exciting. I believe in Tennessee fashion, we've already sold our ticket allotment so far. That’s another illustration of the excitement and the passion that surround Tennessee football."

Both schools were allotted 40,000 tickets, and seats will be sold to the general public beginning in early 2016.

"It's going to be a fantastic game, a fantastic setting, a part of history. And this area is one that’s going to benefit from it," Beamer said. "I know people for a long time wanted us to schedule a game with Tennessee or Tennessee to schedule a game with us, and we did it right here in the middle between us. So I think it's a fantastic situation."

And this time, Beamer will be on the sideline rather then behind the wheel. For the record, Jones has never taken a spin in a race car," the Tennessee coach said. "I would be the same as Coach Beamer illustrated -- just don’t bang into the wall."


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