There’s nothing quite like the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol when the light turns green, and the cars take off. The 10,000-horsepower motors can get to over 330 miles per hour, and you can see the flames shoot from the pipes as they rev up for the race.
Whether you want to enjoy the races from one of the premium seating areas like the Thunder Valley Club or just have a seat in the bandstands, the roar of the engines is exciting.
With the Appalachian Mountains surrounding the track, the acoustics at Bristol Dragway are second to none. One of the oldest dragstrips around, the Bristol International Dragway first opened in 1965 and has gone from 15,000 to 162,000 seats. It may be big, but it has one of the shortest tracks at only 0.533 miles. But the angle of the seating and the track makes it easy for everyone to get a good view of the race no matter where you are sitting.
The track also has five campgrounds for RVs up to 50 feet long with full hookups, showers, and 24-hour security. Some of the spots even have some pretty good views of the track. And don’t forget to bring the kids. Those under 12 usually get in free, and they will love the free activities in the Kids Zone in Nitro Alley near Tunnel Two.
If you’re camping at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, you’ll still need to purchase the 3-day combo tickets for the race. Seat prices have ranged from under $100 to about $400 in the past, depending on where you want to sit and what amenities you want. Kids under 12 are free for general admission seats so you definitely want to bring them.
Whether you are coming from I-81, TN-394, or US-421, once you reach US-11, it will lead you to the entrance to the track. With less than 20 miles from Johnson City, 21 miles to Kingsport, and about 100 miles from Knoxville, you can visit any number of awesome points of interest on your way to or from the track.
Check for road closures via Tennessee 511 and be alert for winding and sharp turns throughout the region. The view is spectacular with the Appalachian Mountains in the midst of it all, so be ready to take turns driving so everyone can have a moment to stare at the beauty along the road.
While camping at the track is your best bet for RV camping in Bristol, you can also drive to the park in another vehicle or your rig. Free parking is located on the dragway side in Lot L. However, several other parking lots are closer to the track, so you don’t have to walk as far. RVs have their own special parking areas if you are not camping. These are conveniently located off Highway 394.
The Bristol City Transit System has a bus service that can get you close to the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, but you will have to grab an alternate service to get the rest of the way, and services may only be available on weekdays. Most fans choose to use rideshare apps or call a taxi. If you plan to meet up with other party members, Knoxville, Tennesee and Roanoke, Virginia run along I-81 and may offer an easy place to make connections.
Bristol Motor Speedway boasts five different campgrounds with hundreds of campsites located on the property. The Bronze Campground has sites with electric only; Medallion has sites with full hookups and a bird’s eye view of the pits; Pro Pit has full hookups along the fence line by the pit area; the Silver area has full hookup sites overlooking the Dragway from the finish line to the top end; and Gold camping is a premium area that overlooks the quarter-mile with the closest view of the track right from your RV. All spots can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet in length.
If the track is too crowded, your rig is too big for their standards, or you just want something more private, there are more than a dozen local campgrounds to choose from, all less than 10 miles away. Many of them have full hookups, showers, playgrounds, and all sorts of other amenities while others are more primitive and secluded. There are three main campgrounds less than a mile away that are all considered premier campgrounds for RVs of all sizes.
NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway has you covered once you get into the park. In fact, there are four different tram routes, a bus, and the Dragway Campground Shuttle, depending on where you are and where you want to go. This is a big place, so you’ll want to take advantage of the rides. Check the raceway website for the different tram and shuttle services.
T-shirts, jeans, shorts, and tank tops are the typical attire. Most fans wear a shirt or hat with their favorite driver’s name as a show of support. If you don’t have one, try the vendor area or the souvenir shop. In case the temps get chilly in the evening, you may want to pack a light jacket. Remember to pack (or wear) some comfy shoes.
At the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, you’re allowed to bring regulation-sized coolers and backpacks of the same dimensions. Using a clear backpack makes it easier to get through the line quickly. Large cameras, umbrellas, and chairs are not allowed. Check the website for the complete list of items you can and cannot bring so you do not have to spend all day trying to get through the gate.
For any outdoor event, you’ll always want to bring sunblock and bug spray, especially for camping after dark. Those mosquitos get hungry after the sun goes down in Tennesee. Wearing a hat and sunglasses will also protect your face from the sun. If you didn’t bring a hat, grab one from a vendor with your favorite driver’s name or a track hat from the souvenir shop.
At the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, you’ll have access to full hookups at any of the four premium campgrounds but only electric if you stay at the Bronze campground. No matter your campground, you are covered for cooking in your motorhome. However, you may want to bring a camp stove, but make sure it can be used with a lid per the raceway regulations. If you forgot anything, there are plenty of grocers and convenience stores just a few minutes down the road in Bristol.
Even with all of the great food at the racetrack, you may have a desire for something else, or maybe you just want to have a nice meal in a restaurant. Bristol has no shortage of five-star restaurants, including options serving seafood and Italian. In less than 10 miles from the track, hungry travelers will find something to suit. You’ll also find Greek, Mexican, and Asian cuisines, a café, and several bar & grills. If you’d rather just hit the drive-thru, there are close to a dozen of those, too.
The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol has so many food vendors you would have to stay for a month to try them all. In fact, there are 10 different food vendor areas with options ranging from chili dogs to kids’ meals, chicken tenders to pizza, BBQ to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And you can wash it down with beer, soft drinks, water, or even chocolate milk.
NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals has security provided by a private security company as well as the local police department. The speedway wants to make sure all guests have a good time while staying safe. No weapons, drugs, or fighting are allowed, no exceptions. Each campground has 24-hour security as well, but it is still important to keep your belongings locked in your RV while you are gone.
Mid-June in Tennessee often brings perfect weather for travelers, warm but not hot during the day and cool at night but not cold. Average low temps vary from 59 degrees to 64 degrees. Highs can range from the mid-70s to the low 80s. Check the weather forecast before packing for your trip to the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, and you can be prepared for just about anything.
For any type of medical issue, while you are at the race, the track has the First Aid Ballad Health Fan Care Center with emergency techs, paramedics, and registered nurses. You’ll find them located on the pro pits side by the shower house. Also, less than six miles away, you can find the regional hospital closest to the track in Bristol.